As I previously reported, Canada’s Federal Court ruled in July 2019 that “product of Israel” labels on wines produced in Israel’s West Bank settlements are “false, misleading and deceptive.”
The basis of the Court’s ruling was simple and unassailable: the international community – including Canada’s own government – agrees that the West Bank is not part of Israel. As the Court was advised, the West Bank is not part of Israel even under Israel’s own domestic laws.
As a high contracting party of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Canada has an obligation to ensure Israel’s respect for the Convention. By allowing settlement producers to misrepresent that their wines are “product of Israel,” the Trudeau government has facilitated Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and has flouted its obligations under international law.
Now, in a remarkable and perverse turn of events, Canadian authorities are using the Federal Court’s decision to victimize oppressed Palestinians.
Earlier this year, Palestine Just Trade Incorporated (PJTI), a Canadian corporation for which I am legal counsel, arranged for delivery into Canada of certain wines and beers produced in the West Bank by Taybeh Brewing Company. Taybeh is based in Ramallah in the West Bank, which is formally under the control of the Palestinian Authority. None of Taybeh’s products are produced in Israel’s illegal settlements. Its products are labelled as “Product of Palestine.”
Virtually the entire international community – including Canada’s government – regards the West Bank as occupied Palestinian territory. Moreover, the vast majority of states representing the vast majority of the human population have recognized Palestine as a state. Canada’s government has not yet done so, but by repeatedly endorsing the two-state solution, Canada’s government has purported for decades to support the eventual creation of a Palestinian state.
Earlier this year, with the approval of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), PJTI imported into Canada Taybeh products bearing “Product of Palestine” labels for sale in LCBO stores and through private orders, but before the LCBO began offering the Taybeh products for sale, and before PJTI began delivery of Taybeh products to those who had made private orders, two LCBO official’s informed Taybeh that the products had been placed on hold due to the Federal’s Court’s decision:
The LCBO’s hold on Taybeh products is indefensible for at least three reasons.
First, before the Federal Court rendered its decision in July 2019, the LCBO approved the “Product of Palestine” labels affixed to the imported Taybeh products, as is clear from this LCBO certificate. The LCBO delivered this certificate to PJTI prior to the Federal Court’s decision. Section 3 of the certificate states “Country of Origin Declaration: No problem identified,” while section 7 of the certificate states “Label Review Results – Result: No problem identified.”
Second, the Federal Court’s decision concerned settlement products produced in the occupied West Bank and labelled as “Product of Israel,” but the Taybeh products that have been placed on hold were not produced in any Israeli settlement and are not labelled as “Product of Israel.” The court’s decision thus provides no basis whatsoever for questioning the accuracy of the “Product of Palestine” labels affixed to the Taybeh products.
Third, despite the Federal Court’s ruling, the CFIA continues to allow dozens of wines produced in Israeli-occupied territory to be sold in Canada with fraudulent “Product of Israel” labels. I identified those settlement wines in a letter to the CFIA’s president, Siddika Mithani, dated August 28, 2019.
How in good conscience can the CFIA continue to allow settlement wines to be sold in Canada with false country-of-origin labels while it impedes the sale in Canada of Palestinian products that are accurately labelled as “Product of Palestine”?
As the Canadian Jewish News reported on August 30, the Federal Court’s decision “is already seeing consequences, though not the kind pro-Palestinian activists had hoped for.”
If anything, the Federal Court’s decision is a vindication of international law whereas the CFIA’s response to it is an affront to international law. The logical response to the Federal Court’s decision would be to bar the sale of settlement products bearing false “Product of Israel” labels. Instead, the CFIA is impeding the sale in Canada of accurately labelled products that have been made by oppressed Palestinians.
In my view, the CFIA’s response to the Federal Court’s decision is plainly discriminatory, as I explained in my August 28 letter to the CFIA’s President.
As we await the CFIA’s response (so far we have received none), you can help. Please let the CFIA and LCBO know how you feel about this matter. You can contact them at the following email addresses:
Dr. Siddika Mithani, President, Canadian Food Inspection Agency: [email protected]
Jennifer Bell Vice-President | Communications & Corporate Affairs (Liquor Control Board of Ontario): [email protected]