Greenpeace Israel released a statement on Thursday dismissing Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel's recent claim that Iranian "eco-terrorism" was the cause of Israel's recent ecological disaster, claiming that it is irresponsible, lacks concrete evidence and "reeks of election propaganda."
While Greenpeace said that the Libyan oil tanker Emerald could very well be responsible for the spill, and that it could even be an act of terror, the organization said that not enough evidence has been gathered to determine either, adding that making such a determination at this point without having sufficient evidence is irresponsible.
"Gamliel's accusation that the tar crime on the shores of Israel is an 'act of terrorism by Iran' is scandalous and lacks a factual basis at this stage." The statement said.
The environmental activist group added that her accusation takes focus away from a more pressing environmental problem, saying that "the minister underestimates the well-known and widespread phenomenon of destructive sea pollution from oil spills by ships.
"The minister's conduct on the issue reeks of election propaganda and an attempt to amass political capital at the expense of this severe ecological disaster, while harming Israel's credibility on the international stage and in particular the credibility of the Ministry of Environmental Protection," Greenpeace said.
Greenpeace Israel, in collaboration with the investigation unit of Greenpeace Germany and the Greenpeace International Mapping Unit, began an independent investigation into the ecological crime, after the Environmental Protection Ministry made a request at the beginning of the investigation into the "tar disaster" to impose an embargo on its details.
Greenpeace did so in order to prevent a potential government cover-up of the case and to make sure that there is reliable public information on the subject being published on behalf of an independent body with extensive experience in such events.
According to the organization, while the Emerald's guilt was reportedly determined by a process of elimination, the only surefire way to know if it was indeed the offending tanker is through chemical tests comparing tar samples from Israel's beaches with oil samples from the tanker.The environmental group said that for obvious reasons, Israeli state officials were not allowed to go to Iran and obtain samples from the tanker. However, Greenpeace said that it agreed with Gamliel's allegation, adding that the evidence it has acquired, though circumstantial, is still solid.
IN ADDITION, Greenpeace explained that Iranian oil tankers routinely violate trade embargoes on Iran and Syria to smuggle oil into Syria through the Suez Canal. The organization said that the practice of turning off tracking systems is also commonly done such vessels, to avoid detection for violating the embargo.
The practice is so common in fact, that between August of 2018 and July of 2019, Syria received around 17 million barrels of crude oil from Iran this way.
Greenpeace's independent investigation revealed that besides the Emerald, another suspicious oil tanker was spotted in the Mediterranean on February 5, having also turned off its tracking system after crossing the Suez Canal in early January.
The Romina, which carries the flag of Iran and is run by a Lebanon-based company, has been flagged before by US authorities for violating the trade embargo with Syria. It was spotted near Israel's shores in November of last year. It is not known where the Romina sailed between January 9 and February 4.
Oil spills at sea are more common than they seem, since most oil dumped at sea doesn't make it to the shores. Experts have theorized that the ecological disaster was likely made significantly worse due to a powerful storm that hit Israel, during which tar began showing up along the country's coastline.
Greenpeace said that the ecological disaster is criminal, whether it was due to international conflicts or to a technical issue, since even if it was the latter, the lack of reporting prevented authorities from trying to minimize the damage beforehand.
The statement said that Gamliel wasn't focusing on the actual issues, adding that "the real problem here is the dire lack of regulation in the field of production and transportation of fossil fuels – and the Mediterranean is quickly becoming the garbage can of the oil and gas industry."
Both the Mossad and the IDF said on Thursday that they were blindsided by Gamliel's accusation, adding that they could not confirm the veracity of her claims and that neither the IDF nor the Mossad had been part of the investigation upon which the minister based her allegations.