Pro-Israel ralliers buy wine to stymie boycott

TORONTO — A boycott against Israeli wine organized by Not In Our Name: Jewish Voices Opposing Zionism backfired on Sunday when hundreds of consumers staged a counter-boycott and bought up the Summerhill LCBO’s entire stock of Israeli wine in a matter of hours.

 A man makes a purchase of Israeli wine at the Summerhill LCBO. [Sheri Shefa photo]
(with video)

The protest, dubbed “Apartheid is Not Kosher,” was scheduled to take place at the Summerhill LCBO, at 10 Scrivener Square, between 1 and 3 p.m.

Not In Our Name, an affiliate member of Independent Jewish Voices, had planned to picket in front of the store to distribute information about the Palestinian cause and “Israeli apartheid.”

They asked that Jews buying kosher for Passover wine “make [their] Passover apartheid-free” by boycotting Israeli wine brands such as Dalton, Margalit, Barkan, Carmel and Gush Etzion, and instead purchase kosher wines from Canada, Chile, Australia, the United States, Italy, Argentina, France, New Zealand and South Africa.

The group also urged people to contact their local LCBO to “tell them you don’t support Israeli apartheid and they shouldn’t either.”

Don Carr, The CJN’s president, who went to the demonstration to support the counter-boycott, said that “a forlorn little group of about a dozen protesters stood meekly on the sidewalk on Yonge Street, north of the store. Some carried signs urging the boycott. However, they were swallowed up by the hundreds and hundreds of Jewish purchasers.”   

Carr said that he learned about the boycott late last month from a member of the Jewish Defence League. He and his wife, Judy Feld Carr, decided to send an e-mail to everyone on their e-mail list, – which included addresses of those who work with UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, Canadian Jewish Congress and others involved in the Toronto Jewish community – to urge them to fight the boycott by purchasing Israeli wine.

The result was a successful counter-boycott that attracted about 600 supporters of Israel to the Summerhill LCBO, who bought out the store’s entire stock of Israeli wine.

LCBO spokesperson Chris Layton said that a total of 1,455 bottles of Israeli kosher wine and spirits were sold at the Summerhill LCBO on Sunday.

Ami Cohen, who was also supporting Israel, said the boycotters left soon after the counter-demonstration began.

“They had about six people here. They came here and then they left.”

Layton said that when the Summerhill location sold out, staff encouraged consumers to visit other LCBO locations that carry a large selection of Israeli kosher products.

A staff member at the LCBO at Bathurst and Centre streets in Thornhill said the store’s entire stock of Israeli wine was sold out.

John Begley, general manager of the Summerhill LCBO, said about 500 people walked through the doors at the Summerhill LCBO to purchase Israeli wine.

“I can tell you that I had not only stock of Israeli kosher wine to meet our normal demand, based on historical data… but I also had some residual stock as well.”

He said the store was completely sold out by around 2 p.m. Non-Israeli kosher wine also sold well, but the stock wasn’t completely sold out.

With the sun shining and the temperature in the double digits, hundreds of people draped in Israeli flags and carrying signs that said, “Support Israel. Buy Israeli wine,” and, “Israeli apartheid = Pure Balderdash,” demonstrated on Yonge Street outside the store.

Jerry Klayman, a JDL member, said that although the boycott was called for 1 p.m., he showed up at 11 a.m. “to secure a spot.”

“We have groups from UJA, the JDL, B’nai Brith, and it’s a beautiful thing to see all the people come out and get behind Israel. That is the most important thing,” Klayman said.

“The other side doesn’t look like they have much representation… Now we’re hoping to get the same [anti-Israel] group to protest against matzah, so maybe that will help them sell matzah. And then gefilte fish,” he said with a laugh.

Pro-Israel demonstrators were joined by Yids on Wheels, a Jewish motorcycle club, and a Chabad cube van drove up and down Yonge Street blaring Hebrew songs.  

Pro-Israel supporters waved Israeli flags as they danced and sang Hatikvah in front of the store.