By Marion Kawas
The consumer BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign in Canada is one of many fronts that activists are utilizing to help keep the Palestinian issue “front and center”. Following the motion passed in February 2016 by the House of Commons to “condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement”, it is more urgent than ever that the Zionist lobby not be allowed to intimidate or put a chill on public debate and grassroots actions. It is obvious that pro-Israel groups have felt emboldened by the House of Commons move; recent “BDS bashing” seems to have gone to a new level, both in quantity and in the nastiness quotient.
Several recent examples in Vancouver, BC and in other parts of Canada certainly bear testament to that – from the shrill bullying of Canada’s Green Party for daring to pass a resolution supporting BDS (including a libelous editorial in the Vancouver Sun, which was quickly pulled) to threats and other verbal attacks on activists engaged in the relaunched Boycott Israeli Wines campaign in BC liquor stores.
This year, on the 68th anniversary of the Nakba, BDS Vancouver-Coast Salish put out the call to demand that the BC Government stop its complicity in war crimes by carrying Israeli wines (many sourced from illegal settlements). In fact, not only are BC liquor stores carrying wines from the occupied Golan Heights, but they have added several others from the occupied West Bank, specifically the illegal Gush Etzion settlement bloc around Jerusalem. One in particular is called Efrat Judean Hills Kosher and is produced by the Teperberg Winery. This brand declares openly on its website that “Teperberg’s vineyards are spread around several growing regions in the Judean Hills, Upper Galilee, Gush Etzion….”.
In recent years, settlement wineries in the occupied West Bank seem to have become a growth industry, serving many ends – land confiscation, water theft and strengthening of ideological tenets, to mention just a few. According to 972 magazine, in a July 2016 article:
“….Israeli agriculture has become the main driver in taking over new territory in the West Bank, and especially the hilltop settlements. However as opposed to Israeli agriculture in the Jordan Valley — usually on land that Israel took over formally and transferred to settlers — the agriculture around the hilltop settlements is the result of forceful takeovers by the settlers themselves, who enjoy the cooperation and near-total support of the authorities. The most popular branch of Israel’s hilltop settlements is dedicated to vineyards. Over 1,000 acres of vineyards are planted on private Palestinian land (over half of which was expanded after Oslo). Although this phenomenon is common across the West Bank, the settlements of Shiloh, Kochav HaShachar, Elon Moreh, Psagot, Ofra, and Susya lead the pack.”
More information on Israeli wineries can also be found in the exhaustive study done by “Who Profits” entitled Forbidden Fruit: Israeli Wine Industry and Occupation.
The new Vancouver campaign was based on a previous one launched 8 years ago, which was endorsed by 22 local and international groups including PACBI and several Gaza organizations. At that time, the Israeli government had announced plans to “rebrand” its 60 years of dispossession and ethnic cleansing. As the original campaign statement noted:
“Here in B.C., the focus of this “rebranding” is the promotion of wines under an Israeli label in B.C. liquor stores, which are now carrying products from the Galil Mountain Winery, the Golan Heights Winery and the Dalton Winery … successive Canadian governments have given Israel preferential trading status under the Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement, an agreement that financially enables the Israeli government’s oppressive policies and does not even attempt to distinguish products that are from illegal Israeli settlements.”
That campaign was actually one of several that led to the infamous “Buycott Israel” some years ago, a Zionist project that attempted to counter BDS by calling on its supporters to rush out and over-buy whatever product was mentioned in the early consumer boycotts.
And now to recent actions. Several “surprise” pickets were held at various BC liquor stores, including one at the beginning of August that included an instore flash action, the video of which has over 78,000 views on FB. It was at this point that the Zionist lobby really cranked up their attacks.
Beginning on August 21, 2016, hundreds of vicious comments were posted on the Boycott Israeli Wines FB page within the space of 48 hours. The attacks were clearly aimed at shutting down both the page and the campaign in general. Several even explicitly claimed – “We will shut down this page”. Many others included the foulest of language, the worst kind of racism and threats of physical repercussions against those participating in the pickets and action.
There was also consistency in the attacks, many reiterating identical points after finishing with their various insults as if they were following the same script. It was instructive to see the pattern and source of the comments, some from Christian Zionists, some from extreme right-wing circles in the U.S. and others claiming to be from Israeli settlements.
The campaign FB page recently posted the following, while thanking supporters,
“…local activists are more determined and more united in making sure BDS actions are protected and strengthened. The struggle continues!!” And indeed, this is the only answer to the bullying of the Zionist lobby and the acquiescence of the Canadian political establishment that allows such intimidation to flourish.
– Marion Kawas is a long-time pro-Palestinian activist, a member of BDS Vancouver-Coast Salish and co-host of Voice of Palestine. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.