Canada reverses ban on labelling West Bank products as ‘Made in Israel’

Vered Saadon toasts with an Israeli tour group in Rahelim, West Bank, June 21. (Andrew Tobin)

Vered Saadon toasts with an Israeli tour group in Rahelim, West Bank, June 21. (Andrew Tobin)

(JTA) – Federal government authorities withdrew a guideline that prevented goods produced in the West Bank from being labelled “Made in Israel.”

In a statement released July 13, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said that two wines that had fallen under the labelling ban did in fact “adhere” to the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement and could be sold as labeled.

The two wines, both produced in the West Bank, were temporarily withdrawn from store shelves in Ontario.

Jewish organizations that lobbied heavily against the labelling restriction welcomed the news.

“We are excited and relieved to hear that through the actions of CIJA and the response of the Government of Canada, CFIA has revoked this directive and affirmed that these products can be sold without re-labelling,” read a statement from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the advocacy arm of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and other Jewish federations in Canada. “We commend the Government of Canada for moving quickly to rescind the decision.”

On July 11, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) instructed vendors to remove from their shelves and stop importing wines imported from the West Bank that were labelled as products of Israel. LCBO cited a previously unreported July 6 ruling from CFIA that wine products made from grapes “grown, fermented, blended and finished in the West Bank occupied territory” could not be labeled “Product of Israel.”

That directive stated that the government of Canada “does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied in 1967 (the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip)” and “as such wine products from these regions that are labelled as a Product of Israel would not be acceptable.”

Israel and Canada signed a free trade agreement in 1996.

“We did not fully consider the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement,” the subsequent Canadian Food and Inspection Agency statement reads. “These wines adhere to the Agreement and therefore we can confirm that the products in question can be sold as currently labelled.”

An official for B’nai Brith Canada, speaking to the National Post, said he was told by a “high-ranking official” in the government that a “low-level person” at CFIA made the initial labelling decision without seeking authority from the federal government.


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