Israel: Canada ruling on labeling settlement wines ‘encouraging’ BDS

Israel: Canada ruling on labeling settlement wines ‘encouraging’ BDS

Foreign Ministry vows to challenge Ontario court’s decision that products manufactured by Israelis in West Bank can no longer be marked ‘Made in Israel’

Wine barrels age at Psagot Winery, located in a settlement of the same name in the hills of the central West Bank. (Psagot Winery/JTA)
Wine barrels age at Psagot Winery, located in a settlement of the same name in the hills of the central West Bank. (Psagot Winery/JTA)

Israel on Tuesday lambasted a Canadian Federal Court ruling that wines produced in Israeli settlements can no longer be labeled as “Made in Israel,” saying the decision will embolden the pro-Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement.

“The Canadian court’s decision concerning labeling of Israeli products encourages and lends support to boycotts and the BDS movement. Israel objects to this,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israeli embassy in Canada will continue to act against discriminatory treatment and the singling out of Israel in the matter of product labeling in Canada,” it said.

Challenging a previous decision by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Judge Anne L. Mactavish determined on Monday that labels describing wines made in the settlements as Israeli products are “false, misleading and deceptive.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, outside Paris on November 30, 2015. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

In her ruling, she did not take a position on how exactly such wines should be labeled, saying that was for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to decide.

Mactavish also noted that settlements are not considered part of the State of Israel, as Canada does not recognize Israeli sovereignty beyond the pre-1967 borders.

While the judge’s decision is legal and not political in nature, it could potentially strain otherwise strong ties between Jerusalem and Ottawa.

In 2015, the European Union said goods produced in the settlements must not be labeled as made in Israel. Many senior officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, denounced the EU for the move, suggesting that it was comparable to the Nazi boycott of Jewish goods before World War II.

The Canadian case started in early 2017, when David Kattenburg, a Winnipeg-based university lecturer and self-declared “wine lover,” filed a complaint with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency about the fact that wines made in Israeli settlements were labeled as “Products of Israel.”

Kattenburg, who is Jewish, reasoned that since Canada does not recognize the settlements as part of sovereign Israel, labeling wines produced there as Israeli violated consumer protection laws.

View of the fields at the Psagot vineyard in the West Bank, near the city of Ramallah, on December 13, 2012. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)

The Food Inspection Agency initially agreed and removed wines produced by the Shiloh and Psagot companies from store shelves. But after pressure from B’nai Brith Canada, which was recognized by the court as an “intervener” on behalf of the settlements, the decision was rescinded and the wines were made available again. One of the arguments from the decision underlined that the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement applies in “the territory where the customs laws of Israel are applied,” including the West Bank.

Kattenburg appealed the agency’s decision, and the case was brought to the Federal Court in Ottawa.

“While there is profound disagreement between those involved in this matter as to the legal status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, I do not need to resolve that question in this case,” the judge wrote in her decision Monday. “Whatever the status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank may be, all of the parties and interveners agree that the settlements in issue in this case are not part of the State of Israel. Consequently, labeling the settlement wines as ‘Products of Israel’ is both inaccurate and misleading.”

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