Last week, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), a crown corporation with monopoly rights to the sale of alcohol in Ontario, sent a letter to all of its vendors forbidding them to sell wines from two leading Israeli vintners, the Psagot and Shilo Wineries. The reason: their labels say “Product of Israel.” And being located in the ancient biblical territories of Judea and Samaria, Canada will not allow them to write that.
According to Vincent Caron, the senior adviser at the LCBO who penned the letter, the decision came from higher up in the Canadian government and originated from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The agency had decided that for a wine produced in a disputed territory of the West Bank to claim to be Israeli would “be considered misleading.” This despite the fact that the West Bank represents lands where the Israelite nation was born, where Jews have lived continuously for 3,000 years, and which Israel captured in a defensive war with Jordan, in which it begged the latter not to attack.
After the Israeli government pointed out that it violated a bilateral trade agreement, Canada rescinded the ban. Since that time, some have tried to frame this event as just another case of bureaucratic red-tape complications. I have to disagree. This was, rather, a classic and unfortunate case of anti-Israel bias on the part of a government that is usually a strong Israel ally.
First, it’s odd enough that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency would appoint itself the enforcer of international boundaries, especially since its official aim is, according to its website, to “mitigate risks to public health associated with diseases and other health hazards in the food supply system.”
But worse than being odd, the agency’s decision is clearly based less on a desire to enforce Canadian law than on a blatant bias against Israel.
After all, it bears the two tell-tale trademarks of what might normally pass as antisemitic: namely, the enforcement of a double standard against the Jewish state and, of course, blatant hypocrisy.
With regard to the double standard, it’s fairly clear: Israel is singled out while other blatant offenders walk free. One need only skim some Canadian retailer websites to see just how true this is.
Zatoun Fair-Trade Olive Oil is sold at nearly 100 stores throughout Canada, and comes, as its label indicates, “from the hills of Palestine.” Which is interesting, because Canada only supports a “Palestinian state as part of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace settlement.” Until that peace settlement is reached, however, there is no Canadian-recognized state of Palestine, and Zatoun’s label should be considered at least as misleading as those of Israeli wineries.
Nor does the Canadian government seem to care to clarify the labels coming from Tibet, which has been occupied and brutalized by China for 67 years.
In Canada, you can buy Earth Circle Organics’ Tibetan Plateau Goji Berries, which – though hailing from “The Tibetan Plateau” – are clearly marked as a product of China.
By the way, with regard to Tibet, Canada doesn’t just ignore China’s brutal occupation – it actually exploits it.
And therein lies the appalling hypocrisy.
China has abused the occupied lands of Tibet in the worst way that an occupying power can – namely, by mining. Mining in Tibet has not only robbed the Tibetan people of their very resources, but it has polluted their water sources, destroyed their local grasslands, brought a severe risk of landslides, and irreversibly changed Tibet’s historic landscape.
Yet, when it comes to mining Tibet, Canada is the undisputed world leader.
Following China’s 2007 announcement of vast deposits of copper, iron, lead, silver, lithium and zinc throughout Tibet, a staggering seven Canadian companies jumped to develop mines in the territory, with most already actively mining by 2011. To be clear, they paid China, not Tibet, for the mining rights.
While some Canadian mining companies would sell the rights to their newly-opened Tibetan mines back to Chinese companies, they did so only after they’d already made phenomenal sums off of Tibetans’ backs.
For example, Canadian mining giant Hunter Dickinson sold Continental Mineral Processing, and with it the rights to its Tibetan mine, for almost half a billion dollars – the largest asset sale in its 30 years of operation.
Far worse than being complicit in theft from the Tibetan people, Canadian mining companies caused irreversible, often deadly, damage.
In 2011, the Chinese minister of land and resources warned that the ecology of the Tibetan plateau is “extremely fragile.” His warnings, however, were ignored by Canadian and Chinese companies alike, with tragic consequences. In March of 2013, a landslide at the Jiama copper and gold mine killed 83 miners. That mine was controlled by China Gold International Resources, another Canadian-based company.
This mine, it should also be mentioned, is in the Gyama valley – which the Tibetan people revere as one of their most sacred sites. They have tried, in the past, to protest the desecration and devastation caused to these sacred lands by Canadian mining companies, with similarly tragic consequences.
In 2010, four Tibetans were murdered and 30 others hurt when Chinese mining officials opened fire on crowds protesting the expansion of mine operations in their sacred homeland. In 2013, further protests saw another Tibetan activist shot to death by police.
And that’s not the end of Canadian involvement in the exploitation of Tibet; the creation of these mines was only made possible in 2006 with the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet Rail Line, which allowed for the import of mining materials and machinery into Tibet. That rail line was made possible largely through the Bombardier Sifang Power Transportation company, a joint venture of three entities – two of which are Canadian.
Canadian companies seem knee-deep in some pretty serious exploitation of an occupied territory in the world today.
Yet, Canada didn’t seem nearly as worried about that as with checking the labels on Israeli wine.
While they might have failed this time around, those behind this bizarre action are likely to be back.The author, “America’s rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is founder of The World Values Network and is the international best-selling author of 30 books, including Kosher Sex and Kosher Lust.
Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.