“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,” Michael Mostyn, B’nai Brith Canada CEO, told United with Israel.
By Atara Beck
In the case involving a complaint filed by Dr. David Kattenburg, a Winnipeg-based science professor, with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the Federal Court of Canada on Monday ruled in his favor, stating that ‘product of Israel’ labels on wines made in Judea and Samaria are “false, misleading and deceptive.”
Kattenburg, a self-described “wine lover and activist,” told the court that his objective is to “help ensure respect for Canada’s consumer protection and product-labeling laws, to help ensure that I and other Canadian wine consumers be provided truthful and accurate information about the wine products that they purchase and consume, and to ensure both Canada’s and Israel’s respect for international human rights and humanitarian law.”
According to Federal Court Justice Anne Mactavish, “One peaceful way in which people can express their political views is through their purchasing decisions. To be able to express their views in this manner, however, consumers have to be provided with accurate information as to the source of the products in question.”
‘A Landmark Defeat for Israel’
Anti-Israel activists are celebrating the decision. The Electronic Intifada, reporting on what it describes as “a landmark defeat for Israel,” noted that “the ruling comes on the heels of a June opinion by a senior European Union legal official that settlement products labeled ‘Made in Israel’ may mislead consumers and stop them from making ethical buying choices.”
“The advocate general of the Court of Justice of the European Union likened objections to purchasing Israeli settlement products to the refusal of consumers to purchase goods from apartheid-era South Africa,” it added.
“The ruling is wrong as a matter of international law, and hopefully the Canadian government will challenge it,” said Professor Eugene Kontorovich, director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum.
‘Another Special Rule for Just the Jewish State’
“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 for just the Jewish State,” he added.
“The sole basis of the ruling was that ‘Made in Israel’ labelling confuses consumers. But the court cited absolutely no evidence that any substantial number of consumers who might care one way or another about a product’s origin in Judea & Samaria are unaware of that fact.”
B’nai Brith Canada had been given intervener status in the case.
“B’nai Brith is disappointed by yesterday’s decision in the case regarding wines produced by the Shiloh and Psagot wineries, which the Court has said cannot be labelled ‘Product of Israel’. 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,” Michael Mostyn, the organization’s CEO, told United with Israel.
“We will be asking the Attorney-General to appeal this decision, since we cannot do so as interveners. If the decision is appealed, we look forward to continuing to make arguments as interveners.”
“The Court’s decision does not give any instruction as to how these wines should be labelled, and B’nai Brith will be making submissions to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in that regard,” he added.
‘A Silver Lining’
Furthermore, Mostyn said, “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. B’nai Brith intervened in the case to argue that there is nothing illegal about these Israeli communities in the Jewish homeland, so we see that part of the decision as a silver lining.”
Canadian pro-Israel activist Larry Zeifman offered an original suggestion.
“Much as I resent the Federal Court’s decision on Israeli wine labeling and the disgusting pursuit of this case by Kattenburg, rather than appeal this case I would urge Israel to use this case as an opportunity to follow France and label its wines by region.
“As a kosher wine lover and the owner of a very small vineyard in the Shilo region of Samaria, I am always interested in which region of Israel the wine I am drinking originated from,” he explained. “Israel’s wine industry has developed unbelievably in recent years, and such information would enhance the knowledge of its very fine wines.
“As well as a put-down to the disgraceful BDS movement, I believe this will increase sales of Israeli wines, especially those produced in Judea and Samaria.”
Zeifman owns a small vineyard in Samaria called Kerem Sarah (Sarah’s Vineyard) in memory of his late mother.
A 2nd Disappointment for the Jewish Community
The Canadian Jewish community suffered yet another disappointment this week. The Canadian federal election will be held this coming October 21, coinciding with the Jewish festival of Shemini Atzeret, despite the community’s victory in court.
B’nai Brith was fighting that battle as well.
“It goes without saying that the rights to vote and run for office – on an equal footing with all other Canadians – are among the most fundamental rights,” the organization said in a statement Monday.
“That is why, many months ago, we made the decision not to sit silently while Elections Canada planned the upcoming federal election for the High Holy Day of Shemini Azteret. Despite what some naysayers predicted, we won in Federal Court, alongside applicants Chani Aryeh-Bain and Ira Walfish.” But on Monday, “the Chief Electoral Officer dashed any hope of changing Election Day by refusing to do so.”
According to B’nai Brith, the Chief Electoral Officer “says that changing the date at this point would be a logistical headache, requiring the re-booking of polling stations just 85 days before Election Day. In reality, Elections Canada is required, at all times, to be able to organize a snap election on just 36 days’ notice.
“The Chief Electoral Officer admits that observant Jewish candidates like Chani Aryeh-Bain in Eglinton-Lawrence and David Tordjman in Mount Royal will not be able to compete on equal terms with non-observant candidates,” B’nai Brith continues. “The problem now is that Elections Canada has ‘run out the clock’ on us. We have no practical way of appealing the second decision and having it heard before the August 1 election date deadline.”
United with Israel asked Mostyn whether he sees cause for concern, considering the fact that two decisions negatively impacting the Jewish community came one after the other.
“I don’t think it makes sense to describe the Israeli wines and Election Day cases as part of a ‘trend,’ as we actually won the Election Day lawsuit in court, but were then hamstrung by an almost last-minute re-decision of the Chief Electoral Officer that is now too late to appeal,” Mostyn said.
“In any event, the two court decisions were made by two different judges of the Federal Court, examining two totally different sets of issues.”