The secret life of the Ultra-Orthodox: selling arms to Iran

March 12, 2014
Sarah Benton

Avichai Weinstein and Eli Cohen under investigation

Israel Detains Sanctions-Busting Ultra-Orthodox Arms Dealers

By Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam
February 20, 2014

UPDATE: Haaretz reports that Weinstein and Cohen were not arrested, but questioned.

After reporting here that Israeli serial sanctions-busters and arms dealers, Avichai Weinstein and Eli Cohen were being investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Greek security services for attempting to send spare parts for F-4 fighter jets to Iran, yesterday the Daily Telegraph followed up with its own report which quoted Tikun Olam.

This induced Israeli police to arrest Weinstein and Cohen a few hours ago. My Israeli source conveyed this message from the security services:

“We realized that keeping the gag only gives this bastard Silverstein more traffic and more publicity, and now he was even quoted by The Daily Telegraph! This is certainly not what we want, and so we decided it would be better to allow the Israeli public to read the arms dealers’ names in the local media, and not in Tikun Olam.”

It’s most unfortunate that it should take my exposure of such unnecessarily secret information to get Israeli law enforcement to do its job. However, we must remember that the arms dealers have been investigated before, but never charged, convicted or imprisoned for their flaunting of international sanctions. The question remains whether they engaged in this trade at the behest of the security services. If so, what was the purpose? If there was no collusion, why didn’t the Israelis intervene before the material got to Greece, where it could easily have been forwarded to Iran without DHS intervention.

Weinstein and Cohen have operated under a number of different corporate names. Their current iteration is Rebuilt Spare Parts (RSP). Ironically, RSP has procured federal government contracts! Given that the corporate owners have been serial violators of Iran sanctions, why would the government even allow them to bid? Thanks to reader, Oui, for pointing that out.

After attempting to elicit a comment from the Department of Homeland Security, the best I could muster was this e-mailed statement from Brian Montgomery of ICE:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) does not confirm or deny any possible active investigation.

Considering that everybody and their brother (and sister) knows there is such an investigation, the statement doesn’t go very far.

Yeshivaworld reveals that Weinstein and Cohen are members of the Permishlan Chassidic sect. Which raises the question about the relationship between these particular ultra-Orthodox Jews and the State itself. There are such sects which are anti-Zionist and refuse to recognize Israeli sovereignty. As such, it would be easier for these arms dealers to traffic in contraband, since they would see the State as an evil entity which usurps divine will (some ultra-Orthodox believe only God and the coming of the messiah will cause the rebuilding of the Temple and revival of the Jewish State). This may serve as part of the reasoning behind the refusal to prosecute them as well. Presumably, doing so would arouse the ire of a massive voting bloc of Haredi constituents.

Haaretz has been pretty much asleep at the switch in reporting this story. Today, in the first story in which they named the arms dealers (linked above) they called them “Avichai Cohen” & “Eli Weinstein.” None of the Israeli media reports I’ve read have credited Tikun Olam with breaking the gag and exposing the identity of these arms smugglers. If you’d like to consider giving your own personal credit for this effort, give a donation via WePay or Paypal links in the sidebar. See original page

Police mum on reported arrest of 2 Israelis suspected of trade with Iran

By Ben Hartman; JPost
February 20, 2014

Israel Police said Thursday, they are not involved in a case involving two Israeli men who are suspected of trying to sell spare parts from F-4 Phantom fighter jets to Iran.

“At this point LAHAV 433 has not made any arrests in this case. We are familiar with the case and will not give details about the role of Israel Police in cases handled by law enforcement authorities abroad,” the National Police Headquarters said.

Attempts to receive further details from police were rebuffed.

A Greek newspaper reported this week that two Israeli men, Eli Cohen and his brother-in-law Avichai Weinstein, both Haredi men from Bnei Brak, tried to sell parts to the Islamic Republic through their company R.S.P. (Rebuilt Spare Parts).

The Greek press reported that the American and Greek investigators had discovered the brothers’ operation and found shipping containers with parts that had been sent from Binyamina to Iran, by way of a Greek company.

The two brothers were the subjects of a previous investigation over a decade ago when, in 2002, a shipment of parts for armored personnel carriers was seized in the Hamburg port – with its final destination listed as Thailand.

Authorities later determined that the shipment was destined for Iran, and that the owners of the company, Cohen and Weinstein, had arranged the shipment.

In 2004, police raided a warehouse belonging to the two men that contained military equipment, which was also believed to be intended for shipment to Iran.

Gag Order Lifted: Two Israelis Arrested for Smuggling Arms to Iran

How did smugglers of arms to Iran escape the law for 10 years. How could Israeli Jews even think of helping the enemy?

By Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu, Jewish Press
February 20, 2014

Two Israels have been named for allegedly trying to ship parts for fighter jets and missiles to Iran.
The military censor has released for publication that two Israel’s are being interrogated on suspicion of trying to ship spare parts to Iran for its fighter jets and anti-aircraft missiles.

Both suspects, brothers-in-law Avichai Weinstein and Eli Cohen, have been interrogated in the past in several countries, but they always managed to escape indictments. Cohen has been investigated six times in the past 12 years and previously has been slapped with fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars by the United States.

A Greek newspaper reported earlier this week that two Israelis had been arrested on suspicion of trying to smuggle arms to Iran, but their identities were not released for publication until Thursday.

Cohen previously has tried to smuggle arms via the United States, Germany, Thailand and Portugal, sending spare parts for the Iranian Air Force and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Israel has questioned Cohen in the past but never has been able to prove he intended to trade with Iran, an enemy country and embargoed by the United States. After every investigation, Israeli authorities released him and gave him back his license as a trader.

This time around, he was caught in Greece when officials inspected two containers of parts for Phantom F-4 jets and missiles last April and in December 2012.

Greek officials said the containers arrived from Binyamina-Givat Ada, southeast of Haifa, and were destined for a straw company named Tassos Karras, listed as having offices in Athens.

A contact number was listed for a British citizen living in Sicily, but police have not been yet found him.

The current investigation began in 2012, and a Greek court stopped the shipments, ordering them to turn over to American authorities on suspicion of violations of American sanctions against Iran.

Cohen also has probed in 2000 for smuggling parts for armored tanks. In a separate case, Weinstein was the key suspect when Germany discovered that one of his shipments contained Israeli equipment destined for Iran via Hamburg. He denied all allegations.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate of George Washington University. He wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.

US investigates illegal military equipment shipments from Israel to Iran, The Telegraph, 19th February 2014.

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