The Israeli branch of environmental organization Greenpeace, in collaboration with the investigative unit of Greenpeace Germany and the organization international mapping unit have opened an independent investigation into the environmental crime that resulted in Israel's beaches being covered in tar deposits.
Greenpeace does not deny that the Emerald, a ship reported as Libyan by Israel's Ministry of Environmental Protection but which turns out to be carrying the Marshall Islands flag, which the ministry has blamed for the pollution, may have been responsible, but it says that Minister of Environmental Protection Gila Gamliel's statement that the disaster was "an Iranian act of terror" has no basis in fact, is irresponsible, and actually diverts attention from the widespread phenomenon of oil discharges by vessels at sea.
"The minister's conduct over this matter smells of election propaganda and an attempt to make political capital at the expense of this severe ecological disaster, harming Israel's credibility in the international arena, particularly the credibility of the Ministry of Environmental Protection.," Greenpeace said.
Greenpeace points out that the evidence of the source of the pollution is circumstantial. It says the only way of verifying the source of pollution in cases like this is by checking chemical analysis of the oil or, as in this case, tar against samples of the substances carried by the ship. It says that the investigation is not reported to have included such checks, and that it consisted of a process of elimination only, and calls for an immediate international investigation of the matter.
Furthermore, oil spills by tankers at sea are a matter of routine, although they mostly take place on the high seas with much less effect on coastlines than occurred in Israel. Greenpeace says that the tar disaster is undoubtedly an environmental crime, because even if it was caused by a technical fault, the ship should have given warning to enable the damage to be minimized.
At any rate, the organization says that there is no factual basis for calling the incident an act of terror. "The lawlessness that runs wild in fossil fuel extraction and transportation, with deficient regulation of companies and tankers, means that the Mediterranean Sea has turned into a garbage dump for the oil and gas industry," it states.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection said in response: "The Ministry of Environmental Protection agrees with the assessment by Greenpeace that the tanker the Emerald is responsible for the pollution. In the nature f things and for understandable reasons, neither the ministry not any other official body has gone to Iran to take samples of the crude oil in the tanker or to carry out in-depth inquiries there. The ministry therefore said it had solid evidence, even if it was circumstantial."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 4, 2021
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