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Israeli winery seeks status in court appeal

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One of the West Bank wineries at the centre of a Canadian court battle over labelling has asked to join the case.

The Psagot Winery, located north of Jerusalem, has filed documents seeking to be included in the appeal of a Federal Court ruling, which found that labelling wines made in West Bank Jewish settlements as a “Product of Israel” was “false, misleading and deceptive,” because the territory is not internationally recognized as part of the Jewish state.

The court sent the matter back to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for further consideration. But the federal government announced last month that it is appealing the ruling.

Psagot wants to be added as a party to the action, because its wines and labelling practices “were explicitly referenced in, and formed the core” of, the court’s judgment, says the 26-page application submitted to the Federal Court of Appeal and the attorney general. The winery’s “rights were affected, obligations were imposed upon it and it was prejudicially affected by the judgment,” according to the application.

Alternatively, Psagot seeks to be an intervener in the appeal, as it “brings necessary knowledge, skills and experience to the questions at issue.”

The winery’s motion was brought forward by the Lawfare Project, an American organization that fights for the legal and civil rights of Jews worldwide, and by the Toronto law firm RE-LAW. In a statement, the two organizations said the original complaint over the labelling of West Bank wines was “politically motivated.”

READ: ISRAELI WINERIES PUSH BACK AGAINST CANADIAN COURT RULING

Brooke Goldstein, the Toronto-born executive director of the Lawfare Project, said the Federal Court’s July 29 ruling “singles out a Jewish-owned business for discriminatory treatment.”

In the same written statement, David Elmaleh of RE-LAW said: “Fairness dictates that Psagot Winery be added as a party or intervener to the appeal of this troubling ruling so that its position can be clearly heard: Psagot Winery produces Israeli wines.”

Yaakov Berg, the founder and CEO of Psagot Winery, stated that his business is located in territory “controlled, administered, governed and secured by the State of Israel, in the Land of Israel. Put simply, Psagot Winery proudly produces wines that are products of Israel.”

In its court filing, Psagot noted that it “is subject to Israeli domestic law, Israeli taxation laws and Israeli customs laws (when exporting). Under constant threat of deadly violence, the Psagot community is protected by Israel’s military, the Israel Defence Forces.”

Psagot stated that it understands “that there are competing Israeli and Palestinian Arab claims of sovereignty to the West Bank.… This is disputed territory, some areas of which are more vigorously disputed than others – not unusual in a region marked by conflict.”

The court’s ruling, it went on, has had “immediate, negative impacts” on the winery’s Canadian operations. Psagot has incurred “financial loss” and “has not exported a single bottle of wine to Canada” since the release of the judgment.

It believes its “international reputation and brand have also been damaged,” resulting from media coverage of the court’s bluntly worded ruling.

The complainant in the case, David Kattenburg, launched his case after he found two West Bank wines at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO).

Following the court’s ruling, The CJN learned that products from Psagot and the other winery named in the case, Shiloh, had not been available at LCBO stores for quite some time.

According to the LCBO, both wines were part of the board’s Vintages collection, which are purchased in limited quantities and not replenished once sold out. The last release date for Psagot wines in Ontario was in February 2017.

In a case of unexpected blowback, the ruling on West Bank wines has delayed the release of products from the Taybeh winery and brewery in the Palestinian West Bank town of Ramallah, pending a decision on whether they can labelled “Product of Palestine.”

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