Canada: wine distributor erases Palestine from label

A wine seller covered the word 'Palestine' on the label with a version saying 'West Bank' in Canada 11 January 2021 (MEMO)

Middle East Monitor  /  January 11, 2021

The labelling of products originating on Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory has sparked further controversy in Canada after a government run wine seller was found distributing bottles of Palestinian-made wine after covering up the word “Palestine” on the label with a version saying “West Bank”.

An image of the bottle of Palestinian wine, Nadim 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reserve, was shared yesterday on social media comparing the original labelling and the doctored version. The wine is produced by Ramallah’s Taybeh Winery, a family-owned business founded in 2013 by the Khoury brothers.

The bottle is said to have been purchased from a government-run corporation that retails and distributes alcoholic beverages throughout the Canadian province of Ontario, the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario).

The image has revived an ongoing row in Canada over the labelling of products from the occupied territories. For a number of years, human rights activists have been in a legal tussle with the Justin Trudeau government over “Made in Israel” produce. They have been insisting that the government in Ottawa should make it mandatory for the truthful labelling of imported products that are produced on illegally occupied Palestinian land.

In one of the many campaigns, Winnipeg human rights activist David Kattenburg filed a legal case against the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) urging it to restore and enforce its 6 July 2017 ruling concerning wine products produced in settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Such settlements are not only illegal under Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, but also a “war crime” under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Products originating in these Jewish resident-only colonies must be labelled truthfully as such, rather than “Product of Israel”, as is currently the case, in order for them to be sold in Canada.

The Federal Court ruled in 2019 that wine originating from Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements must not be labelled “Product of Israel” and that such labelling was also “false, misleading and deceptive”. The Canadian government officially does not recognise “permanent Israeli control” over the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza or the Syrian Golan Heights, and describes settlements as “a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.”

The CFIA agreed initially that the wines should be taken off the shelves, on the basis that they were made in Psagot and Shiloh settlements. However, twenty-four hours later, the body had “changed its mind.”

“Allowing settlement wines to be imported into Canada tariff free – extending tariff privileges to settlement wines – constitutes endorsement and acknowledgement and aid and support for Israel’s settlement enterprise, which is illegal,” explained Kattenburg during the case.

The Trudeau government disputed the verdict, which prompted Amnesty International Canada and Professor Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur for the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territory, to review and remove the provisions in the Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement which permit the admission of goods and services from Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements.

Last year the Dutch government said it would impose a fine on stores selling wine from the occupied West Bank city of Hebron that is labelled as “Made in Israel”.