Mobil Official Denies That Firm Has World-wide Boycott of Israeli Products

The chief executive of the Mobil Oil Corp. has vigorously denied a report that appeared in Time magazine on Feb. 1 implying that Mobil Oil was complying with a “world-wide boycott of Israeli products.” Rawleigh Warner Jr., chairman of the board of the giant oil company, made the denial in a letter to Hedley Donovan, editor-in-chief of Time. A copy of the letter was delivered to the offices of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today. A spokesman for Time told the JTA that they could not say if or when Time would publish Warner’s letter or whether Donovan would reply to the Mobil chairman. The Times article in question said: “Part of the price of doing business with the Arab world is that many oil companies for more than two decades have quietly complied with a world-wide boycott of Israeli products.” The Time report stemmed from a letter by the Mobil Shipping Co., of London, a British subsidiary of Mobil Oil, advising British ship chandlers not to supply its tankers bound for Libyan ports with products the Libyans might deem to be “of Israeli or Jewish origin.” Time reported that some of the ships’ stores involved included Swedish matches and Trinidad beer whose trade-mark resembled a Star of David.

Warner wrote to Time: “Mobil observes only those boycotts which are the expressed policy of the U.S. government; we do not comply with a world-wide boycott of Israeli goods, and never have.” He said this policy of Mobil was repeatedly stated to the Time researcher who contacted Mobil spokesmen. Warner’s letter went on to note that “Mobil and many other oil companies have been fined repeatedly for carrying items, even as ships’ stores, which Libya considered of Israeli origin.” He said that to avoid the penalties, the Mobil marine subsidiary in London sent the letter to ship chandlers. “The wording of the letter was unfortunate. As a result, it has been subjected to interpretations which do not conform with Mobil’s intent. When the letter came to our attention in New York, it was immediately superseded,” the Mobil board chairman wrote.

(Mobil in London apologized for the letter which aroused the ire of Jewish and pro-Israel circles. A spokesman for Mobil Oil and Mobil Shipping explained to the JTA in London that the offending letter had been issued by a junior employee of Mobil Marine Services, one of their subsidiaries headquartered in Bermuda. He said Mobil considered it “ill advised and unnecessary” and withdrew it. He said a revised letter was subsequently sent to ship chandlers advising them of the necessity of ships to obey the rules and regulations prevailing at their ports of call in foreign countries.) Warner made the same point in his letter to Time. He said it must be understood that Libya and every other country “has the sovereign right to prohibit entry of any product.” According to Warner, the controversy generated by the Time article raised a broader issue. “That is, when a company does business in a particular country it either must conform to the laws of that country or it must cease doing business in that country.” The Mobil board chairman said that if U.S. and British firms withdrew from doing business in Libya, their act would have severe repercussions not only in the Middle East, but throughout the West and the less-developed countries of the Third World…Aside from the potentially disastrous economic consequences to the free world, it would massively increase Soviet power in the Middle East itself,” Warner wrote.

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