31 May 2011
A committee meeting of the Knesset – the Israeli parliament – looking into the Iran dealings of Israeli firm Ofer Brothers Group, was suddenly shut down today after just fifteen minutes. Ofer Brothers group is alleged by the United States to have engaged in transactions with Iranian agencies involved in Iran’s alleged nuclear proliferation activities.
According to a Hebrew-language report published by The Marker, the online business supplement of Haaretz, the Economics Committee of the Knesset was looking into the matter when Carmel Shama-Hacohen, the chair of the committee was handed a note ordering him to bring the meeting to a halt.
The note was given to him by a deputy who had received a telephone call – presumably from Israeli security services – ordering that the meeting be shut down.
It is to be recalled that on 24 May, the United States Department of State imposed sanctions on seven companies under the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) of 1996 including Ofer Brothers Group of Israel. The State Department claimed that Ofer Brothers Group was one of several companies:
sanctioned for their respective roles in a September 2010 transaction that provided a tanker valued at $8.65 million to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), an entity that has been designated by the United States, and the European Union for its role in supporting Iran’s [nuclear] proliferation activities.
On 29 May, Haaretz reported that:
At least 13 Tanker Pacific ships, owned by the Israeli Ofer Brothers Group, have docked in Iran over the past decade, according to information released by Equasis, a major shipping information database.
Israel’s decision to suppress any public discussion about this matter can only increase speculation about Israel’s dealings with Iran.
Israel and Iran had warm relations prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but have been bitter enemies since then, with Israel constantly inciting against Iran and either threatening or calling for military attacks on it.
Nonetheless there have been some connections between the countries, notably the Iran-Contra Affair in the mid-1980s, when Israel supplied Iran (then at war with Iraq) with high-tech weapons including thousands of missiles.