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Israeli beer companies brew controversy with Gandhi-themed bottles

Israeli beer companies brew controversy with Gandhi-themed bottles
An Indian activist group is up in arms after Israeli beer makers used a caricature of Mahatma Gandhi as part of a marketing campaign, arguing that the brewers have turned the anti-booze crusader into a mascot.

Created jointly by the Malka Brewery and Negev Beers, both based in Israel, the controversial bottle was included in a box set meant to commemorate Israel’s 71st Independence Day. The set features different historical figures on various types of beer, including a cartoon image of Gandhi decked out in shades and a tie-dye shirt.

Eby J. Jose, chairman of the Kerala-based Mahatma Gandhi National Foundation, said the image made a “mockery” of the independence leader, and filed written complaints to both Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, hoping to see legal action against the brewers.

“The act of labeling the liquor bottle [with] his name and image was down right despicable and deplorable, to say the least,” Jose wrote in the letter to the Israeli PM, adding that the manufacturer was engaged in “improper conduct” that was “undemocratic, unethical and immoral.”

The activist said he first noticed the bottle in an online video posted by an Indian man working in Israel. 

“I was shocked to see him at the bar counter, holding a beer bottle carrying a distorted image of the Father of the Nation,” Jose told Gulf Today. “He posted [the video] with a feeling of hurt like me, and I’m sure millions of Gandhians worldwide would have deeply hurt.”

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In addition to campaigning against British rule in India, Gandhi was also a fierce critic of alcoholism and advocated abstinence, which Jose said added to the insult.

In 2015, US-based New England Brewing Co. chose to rename its ‘Gandhi-Bot’ Indian Pale Ale after a lawsuit filed in India claimed the company had dishonored the memory of the independence leader. The Connecticut brewing company eventually apologized and removed all references to Gandhi from its products.

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