By Hanna Kawas
Last week, Canada became a focus for the issue of labelling products from the illegal Israeli settlements. The lightning rod was a complaint to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) about 2 specific wines carried in Ontario liquor stores that were from West Bank settlements, made by Dr. David Kattenburg from Winnipeg, the child of holocaust survivors. After taking 7 months to deliberate, on July 6, CFIA issued a directive to the Ontario Liquor Board LCBO to deshelve such products until the “Product of Israel” labels were either changed or corrected. On July 11, the LCBO sent a directive to its wine vendors saying that:
“The CFIA clarified that ‘Product of Israel’ would not be a suitable country of origin declaration for wine products made from grapes grown… in the West Bank Occupied Territories” and added that CFIA further advised:
“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). As such, wine products from these regions that are labelled as “Product of Israel” would not be acceptable…”
Pro-Israel advocacy groups across Canada immediately jumped on the issue, and within 24 hours, the position had been reversed. Completely. The government didn’t even put up the pretense of needing to consider the issue or of taking a few days or a week to research the situation. No, the decision was swiftly changed based on articles in the Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement. The original decision was based on long-standing (but always ignored) Canadian foreign policy that does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the territories occupied in 1967.
Why is the Israeli government so afraid of correct labeling on their settlement products? And why is the Canadian government shielding them, openly misinforming Canadian consumers and thereby making them complicit in this blatant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention?
In the following open letter to the CFIA President and the relevant Federal Minister, the Canada Palestine Association in Vancouver details both the implications of the wine labeling decision and its illegality.
“Thank you for clarifying the Canadian government position on the Palestinian occupied territories. And thank you for clarifying that according to the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, Israeli territory includes the Palestinian occupied territories.
Thank you for stating categorically that Canada is engaged in selling illegal goods produced on stolen lands in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention and all internationally recognized laws.
We understand from your most recent statement that the provisions of the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA) supersede those in the “Canadian Policy on Key Issues in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” and specifically those relating to the “Occupied Territories and Settlements” which clearly state: “The Fourth Geneva Convention applies in the occupied territories and establishes Israel’s obligations as an occupying power, … As referred to in UN Security Council Resolutions 446 and 465, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
You quote the CIFTA (Article 1.4.1b) as a reason for the reversal of your original ruling, which states in defining territory: “with respect to Israel the territory where its customs laws are applied”. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and accordingly the Canadian Government, in accepting and enforcing that definition of Israeli territory, have explicitly recognized Israel sovereignty over these occupied territories.
Your statement exposes the true Canadian government position regarding the occupied territories. It also shows how Canada is empowering Israel to continue with its violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention and its flaunting of UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions.
Israeli Violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention
The Israeli government is in violation of many articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention including article 49: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Israel has already planted almost 13% of its population in colonies in the Palestinian occupied territories. Israel is also in violation of article 33 which says: “Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.” The massive transfer of its citizens to the occupied territories has resulted in enormous pillaging of Palestinian lands and its natural resources, including water.
Israeli Violations of the UN Resolutions
The Israeli government has also contravened numerous UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, including 242 which says in its preamble “Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”, and then called for the “Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict”.
Resolution 338, another Security Council resolution passed in 1973, “Calls upon the parties concerned to start immediately after the cease-fire the implementation of Security Council resolution 242 (1967) in all of its parts”. FIFTY years and the world is still waiting.
It is clear to all peace-loving people the world over that Canada and the Western countries, led by the US, are empowering Israeli occupation and war crimes. These countries respect UN resolutions only when it serves their (and their client) states’ interests.
It is also clear now, with this new Canadian ruling, that Canada pays lip service only in its declared support to the Fourth Geneva Convention, while empowering and encouraging Israel to violate it.
This explains the voting record of the Canadian government (under different administrations) at the UN general Assembly for at least the past four years. In regards to resolutions on the occupied Palestinian and Arab territories (check our analysis of the Canadian vote for the year 2013), Canada has voted against the following resolutions, amongst 17 in total:
- The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination
- Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities
- The applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories.
- Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources
It is abundantly clear that the Canadian government is an active accomplice in Israeli violations of international humanitarian law. Now more than ever, with this explicit acceptance of Israeli sovereignty on Occupied Palestinian and Arab land, the Canadian government is in violation of all international norms and decency.
We will make the Canadian position known to the ICRC and to all contracting parties to the Fourth Geneva convention. And above all, we will make it known to Canadian and international public opinion.”
– Hanna Kawas is Chairperson of the Canada Palestine Association and co-host of Voice of Palestine. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: http://www.cpavancouver.org.