Iranian Trade Ministry Throws Fit Over Israeli Fruit

For the second time in a week, the Iranian Trade Ministry has had to dispel rumors that it conducts business with Israel.

A senior Iranian exporter claimed that Israeli produce – specifically apples and oranges – have been entering Iran via a third party importer based elsewhere in the Arab World.  On Sunday, Deputy Trade Minister Hamid Safdel denied those allegations, stating that “any kind of trade with the Zionists is forbidden.  Since the inception of the Islamic Republic in 1979, no Zionist goods have been granted an import permit, even if they arrive through a third party.”

Safdel also called the reports “unrealistic”, insisted that the claim was based on external data and no one can prove the Islamic Republic conducts any business with Israel with such information.

The accusation apparently stemmed from an important Teherani exporter’s complaints that the Iranian government does not support local farmers.  According to that exporter’s complaint, the imported produce comes from Israel and “is laced with carcinogens disguised as preservatives”.   Israel is one of the world’s major exporters of apples and oranges.

In addition, Mustafa Zulqadar, a member of the Iranian Parliament and the Economics Committee, blamed Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt last week for allowing Israeli produce into the country by selling “Zionist Produce” under a different name.  Zulqadar also alleged that the reason for third party sales is because those countries to do produce enough oranges to sustain exports to Iran.”

The Trade Ministry’s statement follows a tumultuous week in which the US State department revealed that the Ofer Brothers Group had ships anchoring in Iranian ports over the last 9 years, in the face of UN sanctions meant to isolate the country.  Most countries adhere to the sanctions, including Israel and the US, although the US has stricter laws than Israel regarding trade.  The company in question denied the allegations as did the Iranian government.  Mohammad Nahavandian, the Chairman of the Economic Committee, echoed Zulqadar’s statement, insisting on Friday that “any type of trade or economic transaction with the Zionist regime is against the law.”

The Israeli government, however, has been ambiguous in its response since there have been several different reactions from Knesset members ranging from demands for jail time to no action until an investigation gives good reason for such action.