Ontario Vendors Ordered to Stop Selling West Bank Wines Labeled ‘Product of Israel’

The liquor board is 'currently seeking clarifications ... on how such wines should be labeled'

Wine bottles made in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank on display at a supermarket in Jerusalem, November 11, 2015.
AP

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario, Canada has ordered wine vendors to stop selling wines labeled as “Product of Israel” if they are manufactured in the West Bank.

A letter sent on Tuesday from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario to liquor vendors singles out the Psagot and Shiloh wineries, located in the Ramallah area of the West Bank. The vendors are asked to remove the wine from their shelves and to discontinue importing them.

The board in its letter cites a July 6 ruling  by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, or CFIA, which said that  “‘Product of Israel’ would not be an acceptable country of origin declaration for wine products that have been made from grapes that are grown, fermented, processed, blended and finished in the West Bank occupied territory.”

The board said it was working with CFIA to ensure compliance with the ruling. The letter added that: “We are currently seeking clarifications from the CFIA on how such wines should be labeled in order to comply with the Food and Drugs Act.”

The government of Canada does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank.

The Jewish advocacy group B’nai Brith Canada said in a statement issued Wednesday that it expects the CFIA “will soon rescind its recent decision to order the removal of certain Israeli wines from store shelves.”

The statement also said: “B’nai Brith has received a lot of information on this matter from multiple sources and officials during the past 24 hours as we were advocating on behalf of the community,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “We can say now that we are expecting this disturbing decision to be corrected in short order.”

Settlement wineries have boomed in the West Bank in the past decade or so. According to a 2011 report, settlements in the territory are home to 29 of the more than 150 wineries in Israel and its territories, compared to 14 in the famed Golan Heights wine country.

Several West Bank settlement winery owners reported exponential increases in production since the early 2000s – however, most of their wines are sold in Israel.