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IRAN: Fake Israeli oranges stir debate in Tehran

April 27, 2009 | 11:40 am

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Iranian officials probably did not imagine that an Israeli “infiltration” of their territory would happen this way. They were taken by surprise when oranges with the label “Jaffa Sweetie Israel PO” were found ready to be unpacked in fruit markets throughout Tehran last week.

The “suspicious” oranges spurred the Iranian government to launch an investigation for the Islamic Republic to impose a strict ban on all goods produced by its sworn enemy, Israel.

According to local media reports, the oranges were apparently packaged in boxes bearing a “made in China” sign and shipped to the Islamic Republic via neighboring Dubai.

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But, as with many matters between Jews and Muslims,things became more complicated. The Israelis are now claiming that the fruit was not an authentic product in the first place.  

Tal Amit, the general general manager of Israel's Citrus Marketing Board, told the BBC that the origin of the oranges might have been faked in China.

"First of all, it's a bit annoying that somebody is using our brand name and registered trademark without our permission. ... Apart from this I would like very much the Iranian people to eat Israeli fruit straight from the origin and not via China. ... But the politics is not allowing us to do any commercial relations with Tehran at the moment, while back 30 to 40 years ago, Tehran was a superb market for our fruit.

In Iran, authorities were angered by the news. They were quick to deny that Israeli-produced oranges have been imported via official channels.

The deputy head of Iranian customs, Mohammad Reza Naderi, said the oranges might have been smuggled into the country, according to the official FARS News Agency.

Other officials were embarrassed by the news. The head of the Fruit and Vegetable Distribution Organization, Hossein Safaei, described the finding of the oranges as bothersome," according to the news agency.

He said that his organization “will fight against those who ignore the Iranian’s religious and revolutionary values to make profit.”

Jaffa oranges, grown in the Israeli city of Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv, are known to be very sweet and almost seedless. Not, apparently, if you're Iranian.

-- Raed Rafei in Beirut

Top photo: The orange labeled as the Israeli Sweetie fruit as it appeared in the market in Israel. Lower photo: The box in which the oranges were packed labeled as "made in China." Credit: Mehr News Agency

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