Israel Can’t Quit Its Love Affair With Iranian Marble

The Wall Street Journal added itself to the list of publications publicly calling attention to Israel’s inability to cut all trade with Iran, the very country which the Journal’s Charles Levinson warns “may be bent on the Jewish state’s destruction.”

Levinson writes:

Iranian marble, it turns out, is featuring prominently in some of this country’s most prominent buildings, despite a near-total ban on trade with Iran.

Back in August, Didi Remez translated an article from the Maariv‘s Friday Business supplement which described how Israel, despite orders banning trade with enemies such as Lebanon, Syria and Iran, continues to purchase Iranian marble imported through Turkey, where its point of origin is relabeled. (I blogged about it at the time.)

Levinson speaks with Oded Tira, a retired IDF brigadier general and proponent of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear program, who told him:

“When you build with Iranian stone, you are funding the military machine, the nuclear machine.”

Tira added:

It’s like committing suicide.

Levinson writes:

“[Iranian marble] has a coffee color that you can’t find anywhere else,” effuses Avi Yerushalmi, owner of Israeli Marble, one of the country’s largest stone wholesalers. “Unlike other beige-colored marbles that tend to be very soft, Gohara is strong,” he adds.

With the United States and the EU having recently imposed tough new economic sanctions against Iran—and hawks in the United States are always calling for stricter enforcement of sanctions—there is a certain hypocrisy to Israel continuing its $22.6 million a year trade in Iranian marble.

Levinson, pointing to the potential embarrassment that this trade causes for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, queries an Israeli official about the ongoing trade.

“The Americans are boycotting Iran, and we’re buying,” says Gabby Bar, director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Israel’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor. “It doesn’t look good.”

The story of the Israeli demand for Iranian marble is not a story of conniving Iranian exporters, Turkish middle men or hypocritical Israeli consumers.  Instead, as I have emphasized before, it is an allegory for the realities the globalized economic system in which Iran actively participates. It should serve as a warning for those who claim that sanctions can starve Iran’s government into cooperation with international demands.  Instead, sanctions increase corruption and push Iran to explore alternative trading partnerships. And Israel still gets its marble.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. I remember when you wrote about this previously. Too bad it never gets any play elsewhere.

  2. to embrace a stereotype. If Iranian sanctions really work, it will depress prices for Iranian goods, can the Jewish state resist such savings? Can a leopard change his spots?

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