Israeli Lobby Pressures Canadian Government Over ‘Made In Israel’ Label – Mintpress News (blog)

For a brief period, wines made in Israeli settlements built illegally in the occupied West Bank could not be sold in Ontario with the label Product of Israel.

The rulingwas short-lived, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency abruptly reversed its decision late last week.

But Canada and the United Nations both state that the occupied Palestinian territories do not fall within Israels internationally recognized borders, and that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, said Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), a Canadian lobby group working for Palestinian justice.

CFIA further advised that the Government of Canada does not recognize Israels sovereignty over the territories occupied in 1967 (the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip).

What I find astonishing and really shocking is that a legitimate complaint by a concerned Canadian citizen essentially gets ignored, while the interests of the Israeli lobby in Canada get pandered to, he toldThe New Arab.

Both stem from the fact that though they are labeled Product of Israel on Canadian shelves, both wines were made from grapes grown and harvested in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Its a change of direction that activists working in support of Palestinian human rights say puts Canada at odds with international law, and goes against its own obligations to ensure that Canadian consumers are aware of where products are made.

Its also one they have vowed to continue to fight in Canadian courts.

This is such an affront to our sense of justice. Not only have we thrown the Palestinian people under the bus again, but in addition, we are undermining the interests of Canadian consumers, said Dimitri Lascaris, an Ontario-based lawyer and human rights activist.

Settlements constitute a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and when people are buying these wines, they are enabling people to profit from a war crime, Lascaris toldThe New Arabon Monday.

Lascaris is representing David Kattenburg, a Winnipeg-based activist who lodged his first complaint against the wines in January with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), the body that regulates alcohol sales in Canadas most populous province.

Kattenburg filed a subsequent complaint with the CFIA in March.

Both are considered to be occupied Palestinian territory under international law.Psagot Winery Ltd operates in the Jewish-only settlement of the same name, located on a West Bank hilltop near Ramallah, while Shiloh Winery Ltd operates in the northern West Bank.

Related:Amnesty International Urges UK To Ban Imports From Israeli Settlements

Psagot Winery Ltd operates in the Jewish-only settlement of the same name, located on a West Bank hilltop near Ramallah, while Shiloh Winery Ltd operates in the northern West Bank.

Kattenburg, who is Jewish and the son of Holocaust survivors, said getting mislabelled Israeli settlement wines off the shelves was a really concrete, tangible issue he felt he could get involved with.

While he rejoiced at the LCBOs original decision, he said he realised it was going to be short-lived, and in fact, within 12 hours, the decision had been quashed.

But neither the LCBO nor the CFIA communicated with him directly, he added.

In a July 11 letter sent to vendors that was shared online by pro-Israel lobby group BNai Brith Canada, the LCBO said it received a notice from the CFIA that two wines could not be labeled Product of Israel.

The label was not acceptable for wines produced by Psagot Winery Ltd and Shiloh Winery Ltd, which have been made from grapes that are grown, fermented, processed, blended and finished in the West Bank occupied territory, the letter reads.

As such, wine products from these regions that are labeled as Product of Israel would not be acceptable and would be considered misleading, according to a subsection of CanadasFood and Drugs Act,the letter continued.

But ina brief statementposted on its website on July 13, the CFIA said it regrets the outcome of the wine labeling assessment, which it said, did not fully consider the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement.

The CFIA said the wines did adhere to that agreement, which states under Article 1.4 that Israel is to be defined as the territory where its customs laws are applied, and thus the wines can be sold as currently labeled.

But Lascaris was adamant that argument doesnt stand up to legal scrutiny.

The free tradeagreement deals primarily with the elimination of trade barriers, not issues of consumer protection, such as the requirement under Section 5 of the Canadian Food and Drugs Act that product labeling must be accurate, Lascaris said.

Theres nothing in the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement which exempts Israels settlement lines from the requirement that the products be accurate and that Canadian consumers understand where theyre buying the product from, Lascaris said.

This argument does not hold any water, but the Canadian government, of course, doesnt want to simply admit that its capitulating to pressure from the Israeli embassy and its lobby groups here in Canada and so its offered up this pretext.

The Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement first came into force in 1997. It eliminated tariffs on industrial products made in both countries, and on some agricultural and fishery products.

In 2014, under then-Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a staunch Israel supporter, Canada and Israel entered into negotiations to expand and update the deal.

Two-way trade between the two countries totaled$1.6 billion in 2014, according to the Canadian government.

Therefore, under CFIA country-of-origin labelling guidelines, these two wine products must be labelled accurately to reflect that the wines were produced in occupied Palestinian territory, the CJPME said ina recent statement.On its website, Global Affairs Canada makes it clear that Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories occupied in 1967, and that Canada considers the settlements to be in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Amnesty Internationalhas urgedgovernments to ban the import of Israeli settlement products outright in order to put an end to the multimillion dollar profits that have fuelled mass human rights violations against Palestinians.

The United Church of Canada, which supports a boycott of Israeli settlement products, also accused Ottawa of putting trade ahead of human rights and the law with its decision.

We believe that inaccurate and misleading labeling prevents Canadians from making ethical choices about their purchases, the church said in a statement.

CJPME, Lascaris, Kattenburg and others have accused Israel lobby groups like BNai Brith Canada of being behind a campaign to pressure authorities to rescind their original decision.

Ina statement, BNai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn thanked Ottawa for reversing its decision on the wines.

Wewill continue to make inquiries about the origin of this travesty,to ensure that nothing like ever happens again, Mostyn said.

The group also thanked federal parliament member Michael Levitt, a member of Justin Trudeaus governing Liberal party who represents a riding in North York, just north of Toronto, for helping have the decision overturned.

This action was completely at odds with both the governments long-standing close relationship with the State of Israel and our focus on broadening the Canada-Israel trade relationship, such as the upcoming ratification of an expanded Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, Levitt said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Lascaris and Kattenburg said they intend to file legal proceedings to challenge the most recent labeling decision.

By allowing Israel to label West Bank settlement products made in Israel is essentially Canada totally turning its back in the most dishonest of ways on a well established, fundamental policy, Kattenburg said.

Canada, to be saying one thing on the international stage and then acting completely differently this is unacceptable and Canadians should be angry about this.

Stories published in our Hot Topics section are chosen based on the interest of our readers. They are republished from a number of sources, and are not produced by MintPress News. The views expressed in these articles are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect Mint Press News editorial policy.

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Israeli Lobby Pressures Canadian Government Over ‘Made In Israel’ Label – Mintpress News (blog)

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July 19, 2017   Posted in: Israeli Lobby |

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