On the afternoon of February 26, 2021, the cargo ship “Helios Ray” was moving in the waters of the Arabian Gulf on its way to Singapore, carrying dozens of cars on board. The ship safely crossed the Strait of Hormuz and began entering the Gulf of Oman hours later, around midnight. Off the Omani coast, without warning, it was attacked by an explosion that caused damage that forced it to reduce its speed. It returned to the nearest port where it was located, then it docked for repairs in the port of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
None of the ship’s crew was injured, and the ship quickly returned to continue its voyage after repairs within days. However, the finger of blame was directed at Iran at that time, not at the possibility of technical malfunctions (1). Although the ship sails under the flag of the State of Bahamas, like many cargo ships that move under the flags of small Central American countries, its owner was none other than the Israeli businessman “Abraham Ungar,” known as “Rami,” and his shipping company, “Ray.” Ray Shipping.
Pictures of the ship that were later published by more than one source revealed the nature of the explosion, which appeared to be coming from inside the ship in some pictures, as internal parts appeared protruding outward, while an Israeli minister said that it was most likely the result of a mine placed on the outside deck of the ship, while It appears to have been an operation carried out by Iranian naval special forces during the previous night, as described (1). However, the Iranian government immediately denied the accusations, and the account affiliated with the Al-Mayadeen channel, which is close to Tehran, even published a tweet on Twitter (currently x) on March 7, 2021, containing a video recording taken by an Iranian drone that flew over the ship and showed that its outer structure was not harmed. This is a clear indication that the explosion was not from outside, and therefore that Iran had no hand in what happened to the ship.
Scenes captured by Iranian drones of the Israeli ship at sea #OmanIt confirms that the holes in it did not result from an external attack, and that elements inside it caused the explosion.
An Iranian official, who requested to remain anonymous, confirms to Al-Mayadeen that there is no reason to carry out an operation against an Israeli cargo ship. pic.twitter.com/RZfxespDu4
– Al-Mayadeen Channel (@AlMayadeenNews) March 7, 2021
It was not more than two months before another ship from Unger and his companies fell under fire believed to be Iranian. This time, Tehran did not deny or confirm its involvement and remained silent, especially after the targeting this time came from outside the ship, and only two days after an explosion occurred on the ship. A nuclear site inside Iran that Tehran accused the Israeli occupation state of masterminding, and thus it was widely believed that targeting the ship was an act of Iranian revenge. On April 13, missiles were launched from boats believed to be Iranian towards the cargo ship “Hyperion Ray” while it was sailing in the Arabian Gulf at that time, also under the flag of the State of Bahamas, but without causing it serious damage (2).
As for the recent event, on the evening of Sunday, November 19, the strike was carried out by the Houthi forces in Yemen, which decided to align themselves militarily with the Gaza Strip, with an escalation that went beyond launching missiles and drones that… Some of them arrived From northern Yemen to the south of the occupying state. The Houthis seized one bulk cargo ship on its way from Turkey to India, and they did not limit themselves to targeting it from afar, as in previous operations. The Houthis officially adopted the operation He said The military spokesman for the Houthi group, Yahya Saree, said on the group’s channel on the Telegram application that “the group will target all ships owned or managed by Israeli companies,” and called on other countries to refrain from sending their employees to work on board those ships.
Despite the occupying state’s denial of its official relationship with the ship, as it stated that it does not belong to it and none of its citizens work on board; The ship sailing under the Bahamas flag turned out to be owned by a British company known as “Ray” on the Isle of Man, which is under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. Once again, and unfortunately for him, the operation fell to Unger, as another cargo ship from his fleet, the “Galaxy Leader,” took the turn, despite some American press sources indicating that he was no longer an official owner of it (3).
Abraham Unger.. the Likud man and bribery
These successive events lead us to try to explore the character of Unger himself and the truth of the role he plays. Abraham Unger was born in 1946 to a wealthy Jewish family in Tel Aviv (Jaffa), then his family sent him to Britain to attend a private school, before returning to the occupying state and studying law at Tel Aviv University. After graduating in 1971, Abraham served in the Israeli occupation army, where he participated in an intelligence unit. Abraham did not wait long to enter the world of trade and business. At the end of the sixties, before completing his university studies, he began establishing a company to import air conditioning systems, then entered the car import market in the seventies (4).
During that period, Unger got to know Ezer Weizman, the Israeli general and member of the Likud Party, who became Minister of Defense in 1977 and later President of the occupying state between 1993-2000. From that moment, unbroken connections with the Likud world began, which helped Abraham expand his economic and political activities. Through Weizmann, Abraham was introduced to David Kaulitz, who worked as an advisor to the Israeli Ministry of Defense, and owned the Alol company that had commercial activities with Iran during the reign of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Thanks to these connections, Abraham succeeded in launching the activity of exporting air conditioners to Iran until it was halted due to the Iranian Revolution in 1979 (5).
In the 1980s, the business partnership between Unger and Weizmann solidified, and the man entered the real estate market and shipping companies, in addition to expanding the car import business. At the same time, Weizmann founded the Yachad party, and Unger handled its finances, while owning the Ray shipping company. Unger’s first scandal came to light in 2000, when he was accused of paying $27,000 in small payments to Weizmann while he held a ministerial position in the mid-1980s, a story that contributed to Weizmann’s resignation from the presidency in the same year, even though his second presidential term was to extend to a year. 2003 (6).
During that period, and in the midst of the steady increase in the use of maritime transport globally, Unger achieved a major shift in which he became one of the most important businessmen in Israel, and in the same period he became one of the largest importers of cars in the Israeli market (7). However, Unger’s name returned to controversy again in 2008, when his company obtained the rights to import Korean Kia cars to the occupying state at the expense of its former importer, Michael Levy. A legal battle began between the two men in which Yossi Cohen, the director of intelligence, intervened. The Israeli Mossad, in favor of Unger in 2013. It was said at the time that the settlement of the “Kia” file in favor of the latter included his donation of approximately $340,000 for the synagogue that Cohen owned in front of his house, which some considered a bribe to the director of the Mossad (8).
Unger has not stopped being mentioned from time to time over the past decade. His name appeared in the famous case of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during his trial, where investigations revealed that Abraham pledged to pay ten thousand dollars a month to Shula Zaken, a former employee in Olmert’s office, on the condition that she would not submit the audio recordings in her possession to the court. The Holy Land case trials were among the largest corruption cases that shook Israeli public opinion, and eight officials and businessmen were convicted in 2014, led by Olmert himself (9).
Abraham’s name appeared again in 2017 during the trial of businessman Nokhi Dankenman on charges of financial manipulation and inducing his friends to buy shares in a company he owns in order to increase its valuation and recover from losses amounting to millions of dollars (10). In February 2019, Abraham was mentioned this time through his sister, Sarah Unger, who contributed to financing the establishment of the Hossein Lisrael Party, which was founded by Benny Gantz, Minister of Defense between 2020-2021 and a member of the current government. Abraham currently has extensive connections with most of the right-wing leaders and the Likud Party, led by Yoav Galant, the current Defense Minister, for whom Abraham bought tickets to attend the World Cup finals held in Russia in 2018 (11). Finally, Unger was mentioned in the “Paradise” documents leak, which revealed lists of owners and companies operating in tax havens, as Abraham’s connection to dozens of commercial entities established in tax havens was proven (12).
Despite his close association with the Israeli extreme right over the past years, and the bribery scandals that have affected his name from time to time, Abraham seems to know how to promote his business activities well, and how to use them to burnish Israel’s reputation in countries that are relatively small or far from the spotlight. In 2013, he received an award from the Korean government for his role in promoting automobile trade between South Korea and the occupying state, and the Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy presented him with the “Industrial Service Medal.” Abraham spoke while being honored in Seoul, saying: “The award came to me twenty years after I started my business here. I am touched, happy and honored to receive it at this age. I have always felt that Korea is similar to my country, that it has developed into an industrial country from a war-torn people. “I found something here that I did not find in China and Japan, and I felt that we were partners. The most difficult part was gaining the trust of the Korean government and its citizens that Israel is not a dangerous country” (13).
Moreover, Unger has a special relationship with the Nikola Vaptsarov Maritime Academy in the Bulgarian city of Varna, where the RAI shipping company employs more than a thousand Bulgarian captains and engineers, most of whom are its graduates. According to a short biography of the man on the academy’s website, he has contributed to the development of maritime education in Bulgaria, providing support for the training and employment of captains and the development of the academy’s maritime facilities over the past 20 years. Abraham received an honorary doctorate from the Academy in 2014 as a result of his efforts (14).
- Sanya Burgess. Limpet Mines and Drone Attacks: Tracking Israel’s Maritime War with Iran.
- Ship owned by Israeli firm attacked off UAE coast.
- Yemen’s Houthis Hijacked a Ship in the Red Sea.
- Short biography of Abraham Unger on the website of the Nikolai Vaptsarov Naval Academy in Bulgaria.
- Rami Unger: The Business Mogul of Israel.
- The Top 30 Richest People in 2019 Israel, and Where They Get Their Money.
- “G Magazine”: Rami Ungar owns shipping business worth $500m.
- AG ends probe into ex-Mossad chief over $20,000 gift from Australian billionaire.
- Olmert associates behind loan guarantees for Gantz Knesset run.
- Israeli Businessman Nochi Dankner Convicted of Securities Fraud.
- The Top 30 Richest People in 2019 Israel.
- Ungar –Abraham.
- Israeli awarded for boosting car trade.
- Short biography of Abraham Unger on the website of the Nikolai Vaptsarov Naval Academy in Bulgaria
- Rami Ungar – Board Member.
- Ray Car Carriers ship reported hijacked in Red Sea.