Canada Palestine Association
Mondoweiss / February 25, 2023
The import and sale of Israeli wines across Canada is a microcosm of how apartheid maintains “business as usual.”
Editor’s Note: The following is a statement from the Canada Palestine Association issued on February 19, 2023. Mondoweiss occasionally publishes press releases and statements from organizations in an effort to draw attention to overlooked issues.
The import and sale of Israeli wines in provincial liquor stores across Canada is a microcosm of how apartheid maintains “business as usual”, despite changing political conditions. The war crimes profiteering from the sale of Israeli products has been tracked for many years in BC by #BoycottIsraeliWine campaigners.
Much of the focus has been on the illegal Israeli settlements, be they in the occupied West Bank or annexed Golan, and on the successive provincial and federal governments complicit in legitimizing this plunder of stolen Palestinian natural resources. However, there is also corporate complicity involving the wine distributors that bring the fruits of colonization to local liquor store shelves.
Most Israeli wine distributed to all of Canada’s four western provinces comes through one Vancouver-based company, International Cellars Inc.
They promote wines from the Golan Heights Winery and its joint venture, Galil Mountain Winery, as well as the Teperberg 1870 Winery (which openly shows its vineyards in occupied Palestinian territory on its website). In 2007, they launched several Israeli wines in BC government liquor stores under the condition that there would be a separate “Israeli” section; principal director, Norman Gladstone, stated at the time that the BC Liquor Distribution Board (BCLDB) approached him about the project and were very “supportive”. “Normally, it is up to a company like International Cellars to go into each and every liquor store to get them to sell their wines, but, because the BCLDB is so supportive of this venture, ‘the liquor board is doing an initial introduction to 23 stores and our [International Cellars’] sales staff are going out to get it into more stores as well,’ said Gladstone.”
A look at International Cellars wines from other countries brought forth this gem: one of their partner Chilean wineries is owned by the founder of the Golan Heights Winery, Shimshon Welner. Welner Wines website in its “our story” section, proudly shows photos of Welner with former Israeli leaders including Ariel Sharon, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin.
After seeing the hypocrisy of the BC NDP government last year in rushing to pull Russian liquor products off store shelves in just 2 days, while refusing for 14 years to deal with Israeli apartheid wines, it is clear the BC government always was, and is, a full partner in this travesty. A travesty that spans multiple provincial governments, from the Liberals in 2007 to the Horgan NDP government to the current one under Premier David Eby, all promoting the same policy of enabling Israeli war crimes. And anyone who thought that the NDP would take a different stance once in power was sorely disappointed, even though their official party policy is now committed to end “all trade and economic cooperation with illegal settlements in Israel-Palestine”.
Palestinian activists will continue to highlight and hold accountable all those involved in this infamous chain of war crimes profiteering, who play a part in the dispossession and usurpation of Palestine, its natural resources, and its people. Palestinian blood is on all their hands.
Canada Palestine Association is an activist organization that has been doing Palestine solidarity work in BC for over 40 years