Since it’s summer… let’s talk about wines



These two kosher wines are both sold by the Ontario liquor stores (LCBO). But buying or drinking the Ricanati Chardonnay on the left would be unacceptable to those who support the worldwide movement to boycott Israel, called the BDS movement. The Tzafona Riesling on the right, would be perfectly acceptable, however. What’s the difference? Read more.

The movement to boycott the State of Israel (known as BDS) is 12 years old this week. Over that time, it has grown substantially from a tiny fringe movement to one which Israel is very concerned about.

However, misconceptions about the movement still abound. One of the arguments commonly used against BDS is that it is anti-Semitic because it allegedly discriminates against Jews, and Jewish owned businesses.

But these two bottles, both kosher wines produced under rabbinical approval, both prepared by firms owned by Jews, demonstrate the falsity of that argument. Based on their own descriptions on their websites, both wines are as Jewish as a wine can be. But only one of them is subject to the BDS boycott. Why is that?

Is BDS a boycott against Israel, or a boycott against Jews?

According to its website “The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law”. It is focussed on the State of Israel. It is not directed against Jews or Jewish businesses in Canada. Jewish wines or Kosher wines produced in Canada are therefore not targeted by the BDS movement.

What are the BDS movement’s 3 demands?

  1. An end to the illegal occupation and blockade of Gaza

  2. Equality for the Palestinian citizens who live inside Israel

  3. Justice for the Palestinian refugees and their children who were expelled when Israel was created in 1948.

The wine above on the left is produced in Israel. It is an Israeli Chardonnay from Recanati winery which established itself in the Galilee in Northern Israel in 2000. Because it is an Israeli product, it is subject to the BDS boycott. According to one article on the Recanati website: “This is the wine that Jesus and King David drank“.

The wine on the right is produced in Canada by Tzafona Cellars. It is just as Jewish, but is Canadian and not subject to the BDS boycott.

According to its website, Tzafona Cellars uses techniques and procedures that have made it one of Ontario’s top wineries. The Niagara Peninsula where Tzafona wine is produced is world renowned, with exceptional conditions and quality of grapes.

“Rabbi Avraham and I were drinking good kosher wine produced in other places and wanted to support our local community,” said Toby Berkel, co-founder of Tzafona Cellars.  “We went on to research Ontario kosher wines and saw that there was a serious lack in the market. We decided to fill that void, with our own kosher wine produced in Niagara.”

All of Tzafona Cellars wines are produced under the supervision of the Kosher Certification Agency (COR).

BDS supporters in Ontario can look forward to trying some Tzafona Cellar wine sometime this summer. They might not want to drink any Recanati wines in the near future however.


In a related development, it appears that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has just sent a directive to LCBO insisting that wines produced in the Occupied Palestinian Territories not be labelled as Israeli wines. The move has been denounced by B’nai Brith Canada which is frantically trying to have it reversed.  However, that will be hard to do. The CFIA decision follows a binding resolution of the UN Security Council which calls on all nations (including Canada) to “differentiate” between products from Israel and those from the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

AND EVEN MORE BREAKING NEWS!! It now (July 13th) appears that CFIA has reversed its decision, and will accept wines made in the Occupied Territories as “Israeli” wines, in direct contravention of that UN Security Council resolution.

However, none of this affects BDS. From the point of view of the BDS call however, all Israeli wines should be boycotted whether they are produced in Israel or in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. 


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue. If you support our educational mission, why not join? Or make a donation? Or learn more about what we do?  Contact us at




  1. The claim that BDS is antisemitic rests on its discriminatory treatment of the world’s one and only Jewish state, not on whether or not it advocates boycotts all Jewish businesses. This can be seen when Israel is held to blame for behaviour that is ignored or justified when it is engaged in by other states. For example, Israel’s wars of self-defense against the Hamas regime in Gaza have elicited shrill denunciation and UN commission’s of inquiry, while much more atrocious behavior by the regime forces in Syria escapes UN criticism and behaviour similar to Israel’s engaged in by Iraqi, Kurdish and international forces fighting to retake Mosul and Raqqa is recognized as regrettable but unavoidable.

    That said, given the many ties that connect Jews to Israel, it is hard, in practice, to boycott Israel without boycotting Jews. The fact that this line is hard to maintain in practice is evident whenever anti-Israel activists cross the line into attacking Jews and the organized Jewish community in ways that would be unnacceptable when such behaviour is directed against other minority groups. For example, a recent Jewish Voice for Peace video purporting to criticize Israeli training of American police has drawn criticism for its use of antisemitic tropes from critics on the political left.

    Of course individual consumers can choose to buy the wines that they prefer, but if the LCBO takes wines off the shelves, they don’t have that choice. Pretending that the question of whether a particular Jewish town is in Israel or Palestine is a matter of consumer protection, rather than a matter for peace negotiations between the parties, is a tactic for bringing in enforcement of BDS through the back door. If the LCBO is concerned that its customers should have more information on the origin of any of its wines, they can certainly offer that information where the wines are sold. Someone at the CFIA is overstepping his or her authority in my view.

    1. Dictionary entry\

      anti-Semite |ˌan(t)ēˈseˌmītˌanˌtīˈseˌmīt|
      a person who is hostile to or prejudiced against Jews: he was not just a bigot, but also an anti-Semite.

      I see no mention of opposition to a state.

    2. In reality, the BDS movement is rooted in the gross violations of the 4th Geneva Convention by Israel to which it is a High Contracting Party. Also, that Israel has failed to adhere to the rulings of the International Court of Justice, the UN Security Council and General Assembly.

      1. The BDS movement takes no position on the two state solution and in all but name is opposed. It rejects the entire spirit of the Geneva convention which holds that the inhabitants of the territory have the right to self determination in that territory, rather it supports a doctrine of permanent racial ownership of lands. BDS is essentially (I don’t mean this rhetorically) the philosophy of the Khmer Rouge not the UN.

        Opposition to Israel might be rooted in gross violation of the 4th Geneva convention but BDS is not.

      2. @ CD-Host: Seeing your name isn’t revealed I suspect you must be Sean Spicer with time to spread false news on your hands. The BDS movement supports the Right of Return which is guaranteed under the Geneva Conventions. Your statement that BDS supports a doctrine of permanent racial ownership of lands is fictitious and cannot be found in the BDS charter. As far as comparing the BDS movement to the Khmer Rouge that is about as accurate as comparing a kangaroo to Mars. In other words, it is nonsensical.

    3. Hey David Roytenberg, thank you for your comment. I always (well, almost always) appreciate your thoughtful interventions.

      You raise two separate items. I believe if you check Hansard from both the Ontario and Federal legislatures, you will find many many statement alleging that BDS proposes a boycott of Jewish businesses. (Comparisons were frequently made to the German boycott of Jewish businesses in the 30’s.) My article was aimed at focussing in on this misconception and setting the record straight. BDS is not aimed at Jewish Businesses, and certainly not at Jewish businesses in Canada. It is aimed at Israel and its violations of international law.

      While I think the 3 basic demands of the BDS movement are legitimate, I have no problem at all belonging to the Solomon Jewish Community Centre, buying bread from the Rideau Bakery, or entrusting my teeth to my very capable orthodox Jewish dentist (wearing a kippah).

      Your other point – basically that boycotting Israel amounts in practice to boycotting or criticizing Jews because of their close relation to Israel, is a little more complex.

      Of course I know that most Jews feel very attached to Israel, and I have some sympathy for why, given their tragic history, many Jews feel that Israel represents their ultimate security.

      I think that some supporters of the BDS movement are not sufficiently sensitive to this, and their vocal criticisms of Israel can seem to be mounted against Jews. One of the most painful examples of this was a demonstration held in Vancouver a few years ago against Israel, but it was held in front of a Canadian synagogue. I think this is a big mistake.

      On the other hand, I think Jews should be cognizant of the fact that if the synagogue is festooned with Israeli flags, and with posters urging Canadians to buy Israel bonds, etc, it becomes difficult to oppose Israel without appearing at the same time to oppose Jews.

  2. Peace negotiations will not take place in a legal vacuum. The status of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a flagrant violation of international law is long standing and was most recently reaffirmed in binding UN Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016). Such violations have legal consequences and one of them is an accurate labelling requirement.

    It is not a defence to gross violations of international law that others have done the same and have not been criticised appropriately. The real issue is why flagrant Israeli violations only result in criticism and labelling requirements rather than binding sanctions. The answer, of course, is that Israel is shielded from the more serious legal consequences of its illegal actions by the USA veto in the UN Security Council.

  3. The third demand in the BDS list is too narrow, The expulsion of Palestinians did not end in 1948. See for an excellent article by an Israeli reporter in an Israeli Newspaper. Ethnic cleansing is continuing today.

    People flee violence. Palestinians fled in 1948 and 1967 and have not been allowed to return. Expulsions continue today. Contrast this with what happened during the Nazi period. Many Jews, including my parents fled the Nazis and World War II. However, they were later allowed to return. A cousin of mine who fled and then fought in the underground (The Nazis would have called her a terrorist!) returned and received compensation that allowed her to re-establish our family factory. She was able to live out her days in comfort in her homeland. Germany recognized its errors; Israel and individual Israelis have benefited from that. It is time for Israel to recognize its errors and welcome Palestinian exiles to return and live out their lives in their homeland. .

  4. Who would have believed that the CFIA bureaucracy would reverse itself in less than 8 hours! Amazing! Knowing how long it can take to get a memo out, I suspect the first phone call from a Zionist lobby group to Minister Philpott’s office occurred within minutes of the release of the letter to the LCBO. It was probably only minutes after that the officials on the Hill ordered CIFA to beat a hasty retreat. A short lived victory but grounds to push forward.

    1. @Steve

      Or maybe they are telling the truth. The CFIA hadn’t considered that the CIFTA explicitly states that this agreement applies to all territory where the customs laws of Israel are applied and they were acting in direct contradiction to black letter law.

      1. Canadian foreign policy is clear that we do not accept the settlements as part of Israel. Further, Canada is bound by Security Council Resolution 2334.

  5. the term “kosher wine” is next to meaningless if this wine is not a Kiddush wine, and both of the wines above will not fit for Kiddush. I don’t know of any Kiddush wine which is not made in Israel (please enlighten me)
    on the Shabbat, observant Jews bless the Kiddush wine with בורא פרי הגפן and they can not bless that blessing on a non Kiddush wine.

    Also the Tzafona cellars is just another brand of the Lakeview wine co. which is not owned by Jews, and the grapes for the wine are coming from vineyards which are (most likely) not farmed and owned by Jews either, so it’s a similar situation to my Biermann ancestors who used to brew beer in southern Germany during the 18-19th centuries: they just weren’t allowed to own the land and cultivate the barley.
    My grandparents bought their farm in Israel back in 1938 but some people still believe that Jews shouldn’t own a land.
    My grandfather would have said : Nu Shoin!

      1. Thank you for the Wikipedia link, you’ll notice that if Wayne Gretzky will hire a Shabat observing Jew to make sure that he is not adding pork to his Ice Wine, the Wayne Gretzky wine will be Kosher too. Essentially every wine is a Kosher a wine.

        The Manischwitz winery was bought by the dear Mormon Mitt Romney back in 1990 and their wine is indeed fit for Kiddush.

    1. Thanks Ahik, I’m pretty uninformed about what is and what is not “kosher”. My main point, though, was that BDS promotes a boycott of Israeli products, not Jewish ones.

      I am intrigued by your comment that “some people still believe that Jews shouldn’t own land”. I am sure you are right, but I don’t know any of them. Were you aiming that at anyone specific?

  6. @Steve

    Canadian foreign policy is clear that we do not accept the settlements as part of Israel. Further, Canada is bound by Security Council Resolution 2334.

    Is it clear or is it ambiguous and contradictory? If a Canadian commits a crime in Ariel Canada doesn’t talk to the PA. When people who live in Ariel need to travel the government that secures their documents is the Israeli one. If Is it perhaps that Canada does accept them but pays lip service to the UN? Because pretty clearly Canada does recognize the governing power in the territories is Israel. Pretty clearly Canada does recognize that Israel is not just running a minimal military government but rather is actively constructing infrastructure, organizing the economy, administering justice, setting tax policy…. They don’t even pretend that the PA is doing that.

    As for bound by SA 2334. How are they bound? What does being bound look like. How would I distinguish them being actually bound from ceremonial support only while mostly doing precisely the opposite. What actions would distinguish those two states?

  7. @Steve

    The “right of return” is not guaranteed under the geneva convention. It guarantees a right for people fleeing from war the right to return. It doesn’t pass that right down generation after generation to descendants and create a concept of racial land entitlement.

Comments are closed.