Negative labeling

The wines in question were produced by Israelis in territory under sole Israeli control, based on the 1995 Oslo II Agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

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August 6, 2019 21:42
3 minute read.
Wine (Illustrative)

Wine (Illustrative). (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

B’nai Brith Canada is calling on the country’s Attorney-General David Lametti to appeal the Federal Court’s decision last week to ban the labeling of settler wines as “Products of Israel.” 
 
As reported by The Jerusalem Post’s Tovah Lazaroff, on July 29, the Federal Court ruled that labeling settler wines “Products of Israel” was inaccurate and misleading since the settlements are not part of sovereign Israel. Canada’s B’nai Brith, which is a party to the case, said: “In our view, it is reasonable and not at all misleading to label wines produced by Israeli citizens in Israeli-controlled territory as ‘Products of Israel.’ 
 
“We note that the decision explicitly did not find that there is anything illegal about Israeli settlements east of the Green Line or wines produced there, despite the applicant attempting to argue this point,” the organization added, pointing out that the court had not ruled as to how these wines should be labeled.
 
As Lazaroff noted last week, Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, director of the International Law Department at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, also criticized the court’s decision. “The ruling is wrong as a matter of international law and hopefully the Canadian government will challenge it. The Canadian free trade agreement clearly makes products from Judea and Samaria part of Israeli customs territory. And Canada labels wines from occupied Nagorno-Karabakh ‘Made in Armenia’ – so this looks like another special rule just for the Jewish state,” he said.
 
“The sole basis of the ruling was that ‘Made in Israel’ labeling confuses consumers. But the court [provided] absolutely no evidence that any substantial number of consumers, who might care one way or another about a product’s origin in Judea and Samaria, are unaware of that fact,” Kontorovich said.
 
B’nai Brith Canada’s senior counsel David Matas similarly said that the Federal Court had erred in its decision. Stating the wines were a “Product of Israel” was not the same as claiming they were made in Israel, Matas said.
 
The wines in question were produced by Israelis in territory under sole Israeli control, based on the 1995 Oslo II Agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Matas explained.
 
Canadian statutes “forbid discrimination in business” based on a number of factors, including “geographical location of the person, such as the location of an Israeli vintner in Shiloh or Psagot,” Matas wrote. The Canadian Human Rights Act also forbids discrimination “based on race, national or ethnic origin,” he added.
 
As Matas pointed out in his letter to the attorney-general, this interpretation of the law could be seen as facilitating a consumer boycott against Jews. 
 
Defenders of the idea say it offers consumers the means of making an informed choice about the products they are buying. However, in the Canadian case, it would be even more misleading. The court rejected the request of Jewish Winnipeg resident David Kattenburg that the “settler wines” be labeled products of the “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” an area that is not defined in international law and might suggest that the wine is being produced by Palestinian Muslims instead of Israeli Jews.
 
No one has to purchase Israeli products, no matter what they are labeled, just as nobody is forced to buy produce labeled “Made in Spain” even if it comes from a region seeking independence. Products marked “Made in China” can be found all over the world, but none is labeled “Made in Occupied Tibet” despite what some foreign consumers might prefer.
 
This week’s tension between India and Pakistan over Kashmir is a pertinent reminder that many countries in the world, including some of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, are involved in some kind of territorial dispute. 
 
The question of how to label Israeli products, as opposed to the products of all other countries, furthers the delegitimization of Israel. The BDS movement rarely stops at the pre-1967 line.
 
Singling out Jewish businesses does nothing to fight antisemitism, the oft-stated goal of Western countries witnessing a deadly rise in hate crimes. Nor does it do anything to bring about a real peace with the Palestinians. On the contrary. Peace is more likely to grow from economic security. 
 
We urge Canada’s attorney-general to do the right thing and appeal a court decision that is discriminatory, singles out Jews and does nothing to benefit the cause of peace or fighting hatred.


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