An Israeli brewery has apologized after angering Indians by placing the face of legendary leader Mahatma Gandhi, who championed alcohol prohibition, on one of its beer bottles.
The picture of Gandhi appeared along with photos of famous Israeli leaders on beer produced earlier this year by Malka Beer, a boutique brewery in northern Israel, the India Today news website reported Wednesday.
The image nearly set off a diplomatic tiff between Delhi and Jerusalem.
“Malka Beer offers its heartfelt apologies to the people and the Government of India for hurting their sentiments. We highly respect and value Mahatma Gandhi and regret our action of putting his image on our bottles,” Malka’s brand manager, Gilad Dror, said in a statement.
The picture of Gandhi enraged Indian immigrants in Israel, who brought the matter to the attention of the Indian embassy in Tel Aviv, Ynet news reported.
Malka officials said they wanted to honor world leaders and were embarrassed to learn that Gandhi favored banning alcohol sales in India.
The company said the beer bottles in question were produced in a special line for Israel’s Independence Day and were mostly gone from the shelves.
Members of India’s upper house of parliament, the Rajya Sabha, raised the issue on Tuesday and Indian Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu directed External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to take immediate action, India Today reported.
The head of the Mahatma Gandhi National Foundation in India heard of the incident and fired off an angry letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The act of labeling the liquor bottle on his name and image was downright despicable and deplorable,” foundation chairman Eby Jose said. “The world leader was also an individual who took a tough stand against the consumption and promotion of alcohol.”
Jose asked Netanyahu to take immediate steps to “remove Gandhi’s derogatory images” from the bottles, calling for action before it “snowballs into a bigger controversy” and negatively affects diplomatic relations.
Dror said the company stopped using the Gandhi label soon after the Indian embassy contacted it and was “making efforts to withdraw the product from the market.”
Dror said the use of Gandhi’s face on the bottles “had in fact been to honor” him.