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BDS in Canada

A recent ruling by the Federal Court of Canada declaring ‘Product of Israel’ labels on West Bank settlement wines to be “false, misleading and deceptive” has thrown Canada’s pro-Israel community into a tizzy. In full court press-mode, Canadian Zionist groups are arguing that the ruling bolsters the “anti-Semitic” Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and are demanding that Canada’s Attorney General file an appeal. He has until the end of September to do so.

“Refusing to buy goods made by Jews is patent discrimination,” fumed David Matas (“undoubtedly one of the leading human rights scholars and advocates in the world”),in a letter to government lawyers. Matas represented B’Nai Brith Canada as intervenor in the wine labeling case, that I initiated [link to one of my previous CounterPunch pieces]. “Refusing to buy goods by Israeli Jews is also discrimination,” Matas continued. “Refusing to buy goods by Israeli Jews working out of a particular location is yet another form of discrimination against Jews.”

In a letter to Ottawa’s Hill Times, Honest Reporting Canada researcher Noah Lewis wrote: “The Federal Court’s decision on the labeling of “West Bank” wines was discriminatory, and it was marred by lending support to the anti-Semitic BDS movement.”

Truly over the top, in a full-page New York Times ad citing Madam Justice Anne Mactavish by name, Zionist zealot Shmuley Boteach lambasted the “Canadian judiciary” for “prejudice” in “singling out the Jewish State,” and – in extra large font and caps – for its “Jew-shaming double-standards.”

These cries of outrage are disingenuous.

The only reason why someone would avoid a wine product labeled as being produced in a West Bank settlement, as opposed to a truly Israeli wine, is because Israel’s settlements are flagrantly illegal. To be precise, they violate Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention (a ‘grave breach’ under article 85(4) of the Convention’s 1977 Additional Protocol), and are also a presumptive war crime under Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Nuanced BDSers – those inclined to cut Israel some slack, including Jewish people of conscience – would avoid settlement wines, but buy truly Israeli products.

Strict adherents of BDS (a fundamentally anti-racist, pro-human rights movement) would avoid both. So would real racists, including people who hate Jews, Jewish people and Judaism.

Christian Zionists, among the most rabid Jew-haters, would likely be overjoyed to buy settlement wines, knowing that ‘Judea’ and ‘Samaria’ are being reclaimed by the Jewish people, true to prophesy, prior to their incineration.

Let’s get real. What infuriates Israel and its Canadian agents the most about Justice Mactavish’s July 29 ruling is her proposition that the West Bank does not belong to Israel. All parties to the case (including David Matas) agree on this point, Justice Mactavish pointed out. Ergo, West Bank settlement wines cannot truthfully be labeled ‘Product of Israel’. Plain and simple.

Trouble is, Canadian Zionists believe that all lands from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean were gifted to the Jewish people by God. Palestinians don’t exist, they argue. ‘Arabs’ who happen to find themselves in the Land of Israel may reside in whatever enclave the State of Israel provides them, at Israel’s pleasure. Like Benjamin Netanyahu, his Likud followers and a broad swath of Israeli society, Canadian Zionists who oppose the Federal Court of Canada’s wine labeling decision – folks like B’Nai Brith, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (Canada’s AIPAC), the Jewish Defense League (of course) and neocons like Linda Frum – oppose the creation of a truly sovereign Palestinian state. They may say they support a ‘Two-State Solution’, but they really don’t. The Land of Israel belongs to the Jews, and only the Jews, they firmly believe.

So, denying settlement wine producers the right to label their vino ‘Product of Israel’ is an affront of the deepest sort. Not because it’s discriminatory (it isn’t; all food and beverage products sold in Canada must be truthfully labeled, Canadian ones included), or because it deprives them of a lucrative market, at preferential tariff rates (truthfully labeled settlement wines can still be sold in Canada), or because settlement labels would expose Canadian Jews to attack (an absurd notion), but because this would deny Israel the right to stake sovereign claim over settlements, over all of “Judea” and “Samaria,” on Canadian store shelves.

How sharply this affront sticks in Zionist craws is most honestly articulated by settlement wine producers themselves – the ones named in my wine labeling case. “Canada, a country founded and expanded as it conquered and destroyed the homeland of another people, a country with no roots or historical validity of its existence there, questions the right of Jews to live and grow vineyards in the land of our forefathers,” Psagot Winery owner Yaakov Berg told the CBC in the summer of 2017, following the launch of my court case.

“I will not take out the words ‘Made in Israel’, under no circumstances,” said Amichai Lourie, owner of Shilo Winery, located in the heart of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. “Even if I lose the market, I’ll lose the market. No big deal … Making wine in Israel, it’s not just about money. You’re connecting to the land. There are things that we won’t compromise.”

If only Canadian Zionists were as honest in their condemnation of the Federal Court of Canada’s July 29 ruling. What counts for them, more than anything else, is Israel’s right to do as it pleases, free of censure. They believe, as do Benjamin Netanyahu and a wide swath of Israeli society, that all the ‘Land of Israel’ belongs to the Jews, and that Canadian consumers should have no say in the matter.

If the Canadian government opts to appeal the Federal Court’s July 29 ruling, it will be endorsing these notions, in breach of its obligation to uphold international law and Canadian consumer rights. Not something the Trudeau government – outspoken defender of the “rule of law” – wants to fess up to. Certainly not before this coming October’s federal elections.

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David Kattenburg is a Winnipeg-based educator, journalist, activist and child of holocaust survivors. He has traveled to Israel and Palestine on a host of occasions, reporting for his Green Planet Monitor web magazine (www.greenplanetmonitor.net). Kattenburg is Applicant in a truthful wine labeling case to be heard by the Federal Court of Canada in late May 2019.

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