Merrakech, Morocco

Ignazio Castellucci first real­ized some­thing was amiss at 8:15 AM when he arrived at the hotel con­fer­ence room in which the International Olive Council’s (IOC) 109th ses­sion of the Council of Members meet­ing was set to take place.
See more: Israel Accuses IOC of Blocking Access to Key Meeting, Sources Say
After quickly scan­ning the room, he noticed there was no Israeli flag. This was highly unusual since a let­ter from Adi Naali, the head of Israel’s del­e­ga­tion to the IOC, had been sent to the Executive Secretariat the pre­vi­ous day, con­firm­ing Castellucci’s appoint­ment as a proxy. The bi-annual meet­ing was set to begin at about 10:30.

Castellucci, an Italian lawyer and adjunct pro­fes­sor at the University of Teramo, had been asked by Naali to attend the meet­ing as he was unable to do so. The meet­ing took place in Marrakech, Morocco, which has no for­mal diplo­matic ties with Israel and does not rec­og­nize the coun­try as a sov­er­eign state. As a result, Naali said that he was unable to get a visa.

Dear Minister, dear Sirs, I am out­side the meet­ing hall and the secu­rity per­son­nel don’t let me in. I showed them the email from the embassy and the let­ter attached, to no result.- Ignazio Castellucci, lawyer and Israeli proxy to the Council of Members meet­ing

The fol­low­ing events have been con­structed using doc­u­ments reviewed by Olive Oil Times and cor­rob­o­rated in inter­views. In a state­ment made to Olive Oil Times, the IOC nei­ther con­firmed nor denied the account­ing of events detailed here.

A spokesper­son from the orga­ni­za­tion said that the Executive Secretariat “regrets this set­back, which pre­vented Israel from par­tic­i­pat­ing” and plans to inves­ti­gate Naali’s claims before mak­ing a for­mal report to the Council of Members.

After fail­ing to see the Israeli flag in the con­fer­ence room, at 8:30 Castellucci went over to the Executive Secretariat work­ing room, in which the IOC’s cre­den­tial com­mit­tee had also been oper­at­ing. After wait­ing to be seen for 22 min­utes, an IOC lawyer finally approached him and informed him that his nom­i­na­tion was not valid and as a result, he would be unable to attend the meet­ing.

See more: IOC News

“A let­ter from Dr. Adi Naali inform­ing of the appoint­ment for the 109th meet­ing of Mr Ignazio Castellucci, from a per­sonal email… was received by the Executive Secretariat. This com­mu­ni­ca­tion was not signed by a com­pe­tent accred­i­ta­tion author­ity of Israel (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development),” a report from the IOC’s cre­den­tials com­mit­tee, which was obtained by Olive Oil Times, said.

“This Committee can not con­sider [Naali] accred­ited for this ses­sion as he was not appointed by the rel­e­vant author­ity of Israel,” the report con­tin­ued. “Additionally, Dr. Naali can not accredit another per­son as head of del­e­ga­tion as he is not accred­ited by Israel for the cur­rent ses­sion.”

Naali dis­putes this claim, say­ing that he has been the accred­ited head of Israel’s del­e­ga­tion for the past eight years and stat­ing that he had pre­vi­ously autho­rized the Turkish del­e­gate to serve as Israel’s proxy at an IOC meet­ing in 2013.

Naali had used the same email address back in 2013 to inform the Executive Secretariat of this and the Turkish del­e­gate was able to attend on Israel’s behalf with­out any issues aris­ing.

“It is com­mon pro­ce­dure for IOC mem­bers that if you won’t be able to attend the meet­ing, you try to autho­rize some­one else to do so,” Naali told Olive Oil Times.

Normally some­one from the embassy would go to attend the meet­ing, but since there is no Israeli embassy in Morocco, Naali needed to ask some­one else. He approached the rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the European Union, but he was already rep­re­sent­ing Montenegro at the meet­ing. Several other IOC mem­ber coun­tries were also unsure that they would be able to rep­re­sent Israel.

“So I moved to the other option, which is to autho­rize another pro­fes­sional to be there as Israel’s del­e­gate, which is what I had done,” Naali said.

In its state­ment to Olive Oil Times, the IOC said that a 2012 Council of Members meet­ing was held in Morocco and the Israeli rep­re­sen­ta­tive that year, Shimon Lavee, was able to attend. The IOC also stated that it had a very strict set of rules “regard­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion and del­e­ga­tion of author­ity.”

At 9:06, Castellucci called Naali on the phone to inform him that he had been barred from attend­ing the meet­ing due to a lack of proper accred­i­ta­tion from Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

By 9:37, Naali had for­warded an email writ­ten on offi­cial gov­ern­ment let­ter­head by Yakov Poleg, the direc­tor of the for­eign rela­tions depart­ment at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, to the Executive Secretariat stat­ing that Castellucci would replace Naali.

The email had also been sent directly from Poleg to the Executive Secretariat the pre­vi­ous day and received no response.

“Dear Mr. Abdellatif Ghedira [the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the IOC], kindly be informed that Dr. Adi Naali, direc­tor of the olive depart­ment in Israel’s Plants Board is Israel’s head of del­e­ga­tion, but due to the fact that he wouldn’t be able to arrive to Marrakech, our rep­re­sen­ta­tive and del­e­gate… is Mr. Ignazio Castellucci,” Poleg wrote in his email.

Once Castellucci had been informed that Poleg’s email was for­warded to the Executive Secretariat, he returned to the room in which the cre­den­tial com­mit­tee was set up to tell the offi­cials that an email from Poleg had arrived. He was once again informed by IOC offi­cials that he would be unable to attend the meet­ing.

At around 10:30, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the cre­den­tial com­mit­tee left the office in which they had been work­ing and entered the con­fer­ence room. Castellucci attempted to fol­low but was told that he did not have the proper accred­i­ta­tion to attend and turned away from the door.

At 10:33, the lawyer from the Executive Secretariat came out of the con­fer­ence room and told Castellucci that he would be unable to attend. The meet­ing began at 10:34.

Castellucci pro­ceeded to call and email Naali, say­ing that the meet­ing had started and he had not been allowed to enter. Naali then con­tacted the Israeli embassy in Madrid and at 10:53 the embassy sent an email to the IOC with another let­ter autho­riz­ing Castellucci to serve as Israel’s proxy.

At 11:04, Castellucci again tried to enter the meet­ing but was again told he lacked the proper accred­i­ta­tion. He pro­ceeded to write an email to every­one included in the Israeli embassy’s prior email (to which he had been cc’d):

It is com­mon pro­ce­dure for IOC mem­bers that if you won’t be able to attend the meet­ing, you try to autho­rize some­one else to do so.- Adi Naali, head of Israel’s del­e­ga­tion to the IOC

“Dear Minister, dear Sirs,” he wrote. “I am out­side the meet­ing hall and the secu­rity per­son­nel don’t let me in. I showed them the email from the embassy and the let­ter attached, to no result.”

It remains unclear whether the secu­rity staff to whom Castellucci referred in his email were staff mem­bers of the IOC or the Moroccan gov­ern­ment.

At 11:12, Castellucci spot­ted two IOC staff mem­bers and asked them to try and print the email from Poleg. The two staff mem­bers said they will try to do so and went off to another part of the hotel.

Seventeen min­utes later, the two staff mem­bers returned and informed Castellucci that they were unable to print the let­ter. They returned to the meet­ing and said they would ask the IOC lawyer to come out and see the emails on Castellucci’s phone. The lawyer did not come out.

At 11:41, one of the IOC staff mem­bers came out of the meet­ing and handed Castellucci the printed Poleg email and embassy autho­riza­tion. Castellucci approached the secu­rity staff and asked them to take the doc­u­ments to the lawyer. A staff mem­ber agreed to do so, but returned shortly after­ward and informed him that the lawyer was unable to read the doc­u­ments at the moment.

Castellucci pro­ceeded to write a sec­ond email to all of the recip­i­ents of his pre­vi­ous email.

“I just asked one of the per­sons at the door to get in and bring copies of the embassy’s email and attached let­ter to the IOC lawyer inside the hall, it seems that he refused to read it, ‘being too busy’,” Castellucci wrote.

At 11:50, the Council of Members meet­ing broke for a cof­fee break. Castellucci approached the staff at the door and asked if they could take the papers to the lawyer now. They refused and said when he came out, Castellucci could give them to him him­self.

By 11:58 the lawyer had not come out and Castellucci approached a mem­ber of the IOC sup­port office and asked her to bring the papers to the lawyer. She responded that she was not autho­rized to do so.

Two min­utes later, the lawyer emerged from the room and headed in the oppo­site direc­tion from Castellucci. He tried to get the lawyer’s atten­tion but failed to do so.

At 12:20, Castellucci spot­ted Miguel Garcia Navarro, the head of the European Union del­e­ga­tion, and asked him for assis­tance. Garcia Navarro responded that he was not in a posi­tion to help Castellucci out and returned to the meet­ing.

Israel is a found­ing coun­try that has always par­tic­i­pated in the activ­i­ties of the orga­ni­za­tion and Dr. Naali, who offi­cially rep­re­sents his coun­try at the IOC since 2012, is a very active mem­ber who has always enriched the meet­ings of the Council with his exten­sive knowl­edge in the field.- Spokesperson for the IOC

At this point, Castellucci left the hotel after try­ing to gain access to the meet­ing for the past four hours.

During the meet­ing Ghedira, Deputy Director Jaime Lillo and Mustafa Sepetçi, the direc­tor of the IOC’s tech­ni­cal, eco­nomic and pro­mo­tional units, were all re-elected to four-year terms.

According to Naali, these three posi­tions are gen­er­ally cho­sen by con­sen­sus and while he did not say that Israel would have blocked any of these appoint­ments, he did empha­size that he thought Israel should have par­tic­i­pated in the dis­cus­sion.

“I would think an issue of this impor­tance needed to be dis­cussed in detail at the ses­sion with­out the exclu­sion of some of the mem­ber coun­tries,” Naali said. “We could debate the issues for a very long time, but usu­ally we find a con­sen­sus.”

On Friday, Naali wrote a let­ter to the IOC to make his dis­con­tent­ment known. He said that as a result of Israel’s exclu­sion, the coun­try would not con­sider any of the busi­ness done in the meet­ing legit­i­mate.

“It is clear that this maneu­ver of block­ing the entrance of the Israeli del­e­gate, mak­ing incor­rect state­ments and omit­ting doc­u­ments to the Council, had the objec­tive of imped­ing Israel’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the meet­ing,” Naali wrote.

“Due to these cir­cum­stances, Israel does not con­sider the ren­o­va­tion of the senior Directors of the IOC to be legit­i­mate, and does not trust in its man­age­ment for the future,” he added.

The spokesper­son from the IOC denied that Israel’s del­e­gate had been inten­tion­ally excluded from the event and praised Naali for his con­tri­bu­tions to the inter­na­tional olive oil sec­tor.

“Israel is a found­ing coun­try that has always par­tic­i­pated in the activ­i­ties of the orga­ni­za­tion and Dr. Naali, who offi­cially rep­re­sents his coun­try at the IOC since 2012, is a very active mem­ber who has always enriched the meet­ings of the Council with his exten­sive knowl­edge in the field,” the spokesper­son said.

The report from the IOC’s inves­ti­ga­tion into the mat­ter is expected next month.

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