Canada bans Israeli wines produced in ‘occupied territory’

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, a government body, has banned wines from Judea and Samaria because, it says, the label – Product of Israel – is “unacceptable” for wines produced in “occupied territory.”

By: Atara Beck, Senior Editor, World Israel News 

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has ordered the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) to prohibit vendors from selling wines produced in Judea and Samaria because they are labelled as products of Israel.

In a letter dated July 11, 2017, Vincent Caron, the LCBO’s senior policy adviser, informed vendors that the CFIA had instructed them on July 6 that “Product of Israel” – as these wines are labelled – “would not be an accepting country of origin declaration for wine products that have been made from grapes that are grown fermented, processed, blended and finished in the West Bank occupied territory.”

According to the letter, “the government of Canada does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied in 1967 (the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip). As such, wine products from these regions that are labelled as ‘Products of Israel’ would not be acceptable and would be considered misleading… LCBO is currently working with CFIA on an action plan to ensure compliance with the notification going forward.”

The letter specifically named the award-winning Psagot and Shiloh wineries.

“I am requesting that all vendors discontinue any importation of sales or products labelled as ‘Product of Israel’ from the wineries named above (or other located in the same regions), until further notice. We are currently seeking clarifications from the CFIA on how such wine should be labelled in order to comply with the Food and Drugs Act,” the letter concluded.

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A ‘hostile attack’ on the State of Israel

Christine Williams, Public Affairs and Media consultant with the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem-Canada and past adviser to the former Office of Religious Freedom (Canada), was outraged by the CFIA decision. Williams, who is on the Board of Advisers for the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow and author of The Challenge of Modernizing Islam, told World Israel News (WIN):

“I am appalled by this official, written order to boycott Israeli wine by signatory Vincent Caron on behalf of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The CFIA has openly attempted to delegitimize the State of Israel. Its statement that the ‘Government of Canada does not recognize Israel sovereignty over the territories occupied in 1967’ is shocking. It fails to recognize Israel’s need to defend itself, its obligatory actions stemming from an ongoing defensive war and it further emboldens the historic jihadist agenda to obliterate the Jewish state.

“The letter also contravenes the Ottawa Protocol, an action plan developed in 2010 under the Harper government at the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism attended by 50 nations,” she added. “This letter requires urgent correction or retraction by the Government of Canada to distance itself from this overtly hostile attack against the democratic State of Israel.”

Yaakov Berg, owner and founder of Psagot Winery, said in conversation with WIN, “We have returned home to our homeland, the place where our ancestors made wine continuing in the same place this ancient tradition. Amazing that this is said by the Canadian government as illegal. We live here in Judea and Samaria under historical rights. Specifically Canada, a country founded and expanded as it conquered and destroyed the homeland of another people, a country with no roots or historical validity of its existence there, questions the right of Jews to live and grow vineyards in the land of our forefathers.”

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What Inspired this Decision?

WIN contacted CFIA Wednesday morning, asking why they took such a harsh measure rather than discussing new labelling.

Also, how did this issue come to the fore? Were there complaints from customers?

The agency’s media relations immediately acknowledged the query, initially responding, “I have passed on your questions and we will get back to you as soon as possible.”

By the end of the day, CFIA sent another email, saying, “We are currently working on responding to your questions and will hopefully get back to you in the next few hours.”

By the next day, there was still no clarification.

The LCBO, also questioned, reiterated what was written in their letter, saying that it “received notification from CFIA that ‘Product of Israel’ would not be an acceptable country of origin declaration for two wine products.  While seeking clarification from CFIA on how these wines should be labelled to meet the Federal requirements, LCBO promptly notified stakeholders who might be affected by this direction. Questions regarding this decision or compliance with Federal labelling requirements should be directed to CFIA.”

‘Why is this a focus of the CFIA?’

Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, Senior Rabbi of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto congregation, one of the largest orthodox synagogues in North American, told WIN:

“It seems to me overly punitive to ban the sales of these wines. What would have been more reasonable is to institute a standard policy for all products sold from Judea-Samaria as far as how Canada wants the items to be labeled. Also, why is this a focus of the CFIA when there are so many other issues revolving around imported foods that are troublesome?”

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Indeed, as revealed on CFIA’s website and often publicized in the media, the agency constantly contends with dangerous health issues, such as the recalling of products due to possible salmonella or listeria contamination.

‘Very sinister, dangerously developing iceberg’

Rabbi Mendel Kaplan, spiritual leader of Chabad Flamingo in Thornhill, just north of Toronto, commented on Facebook: “Does this sound like the start of boycotting Jewish businesses in Germany in the early 1930’s to you? It does to me. This may be the tip of a very sinister, dangerously developing iceberg. Not a joking matter at all.”

In a statement to the media, Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of the Toronto-based Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, issued a media statement, saying the organization was “contesting this apparent policy change with LCBO and the CFIA, which is seemingly initiating this action.

“We have already contacted the CFIA directly to register our protest as well as the LCBO. We consider any action which promotes the so-called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel as antisemitic. This would be out of step with the existing government policy which has vigorously condemned the BDS campaign,” the statement concluded.

“We are expecting this disturbing decision to be corrected in short order,”  Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, stated.