An appeals court judge invited the wineries of Psagot and Shiloh, both located in the Binyamin region of Samaria, to be added as a full party to a proceeding on whether they should be permitted to market their wines in Canada as a product of Israel under Canadian law. The ruling was handed down last week by Ottawa, Ontario Federal Court of Appeal Judge David Stratas, The Globe And Mail reported (West Bank winery wins say on ‘Product of Israel’ case; judge slams other judges).
This was the first time since the beginning of the brouhaha in 2017 that the Israeli wineries have been invited to speak on their own behalf. The Psagot winery argued that its wines are made by Israelis in an area that was Jewish since the early minus 1000s.
Judge Stratas, who has served on the Federal Court of Appeal since 2009 and the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada since 2012, rebuked fellow judges who express their opinions publicly before deciding cases.
“We are only a court of law, not a policy forum, and still less a department of foreign affairs pronouncing on controversial international issues,” Stratas said. “We are suited to law, not free-standing policy or ideology. We are just lawyers who happen to hold a judicial commission.”
Back in the summer of 2017, Canadian food inspectors banned liquor stores from selling wine from Judea and Samaria which use the “Made in Israel” label, arguing that Canada does not recognize the area as part of Israel.
Later, in July 2019, Federal Court Judge Anne Mactavish went on to suggest that using the “Made in Israel” label infringes on consumers’ political rights to boycott products they associate with political positions they reject.
Mactavish sent the case back to the food inspection agency with an instruction to inform Canadian consumers exactly where the wine they buy comes from. The federal government appealed. Judge Stratas sided with the government.
Judge Stratas was furious at these and many other such opinions, writing in his ruling: “A number of these moving parties seek to intervene to speak to the issue of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including the status of the West Bank, the territorial sovereignty of Israel, human rights and humanitarian concerns, issues of international law, and other related issues,” adding, “Many of them appear to want this court to rule on the merits of these issues.”
But the appeal, Stratas wrote, does not depend on such considerations. The judge rejected opinions from the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada, Centre for Free Expression, Amnesty International, academics, and the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967. He also rejected media reports that were biased in favor of government banning the wines for political reasons.
“Alas, I fear that in part, some courts and some judges may be to blame,” Stratas wrote. “Some give the impression that they decide cases based on their own personal preferences, politics and ideologies. … They should not act in this way. They should stay in their proper place.”