Toronto Eatery Triggers Outrage, Protest

Days of outrage at antisemitic and anti-Zionist statements emanating from a Toronto business saw social media boil over with indignation directed at Kimberly Hawkins, owner of Foodbenders, a restaurant and catering business in the Bloordale neighbourhood of Toronto.

Days of outrage at antisemitic and anti-Zionist statements emanating from a Toronto business saw social media boil over with indignation directed at Kimberly Hawkins, owner of Foodbenders, a restaurant and catering business in the Bloordale neighbourhood of Toronto.

Foodbenders’ windows prior to the protest by the Jewish Defence League.

In a development on July 6, Uber announced it is breaking relations with Foodbenders.

In a letter to Hawkins and Jann Meneses of Foodbenders, an Uber official wrote that the agreement between the food delivery service and the restaurant “is terminated effectively immediately.” No reason was provided.

Foodbenders first triggered notice for proclaiming “F@ck the Police” on a sandwich board outside the shop. But in recent weeks, it turned its ire toward the Jewish community.

Another sign outside the shop said “defund Israel,” while one stated: “F@ck Mossad, IDF, Bibi.

On Instagram, the eatery announced: “#zionistsnotwelcome,” and that “Zionists are Nazis.”

On Canada Day, the restaurant put out a sign saying, “Happy KKKanada Day.”

The business also praised Leila Khaled, who hijacked two planes 50 years ago as a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a group designated a terrorist entity in Canada. Alongside a photo of Khaled clutching a rifle, the business proclaimed: “There is only solution: Intifada. Revolution.”

Of Canadian Jewish groups, the establishment said, “These people control your media and elected officials.” On her personal Facebook page, Hawkins described Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a “Zionist puppet.”

In a tweet on July 6, Premier Doug Ford stated: “Language and actions like this are disgusting and will not be tolerated here in Ontario. Our government stands with the Jewish community in condemning this kind of behaviour here at home, and across the globe.”

Jewish organizations all took notice of Foodbenders.

“It is outrageous that Jews would be denied service at an establishment in our city just because of who they are,” said the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

CIJA said it will bring the matter to its Legal Task Force “and will pursue all options available to send a clear message that there is no place in Toronto for antisemitism.”

The sentiments expressed by Foodbenders Hawkins are “hateful and deplorable, and have no place in the Canadian food industry,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada.

B’nai Brith offered concrete steps activists can take, including contacting Uber Eats and Doordash to ask they stop delivering Foodbenders products until the company renounces antisemitism and apologizes, and emailing local city councillor Ana Bailão, area MPP Marit Stiles, and MP Julie Dzerowicz.

B’nai Brith also suggested contacting 311@toronto.ca to request that Foodbenders have its business license investigated. “Be sure to mention section 27 of By-law No. 574-2000, which prohibits the use of a licensed business to discriminate against any member of the public on grounds of race, colour, or creed,” the Jewish group advised.

It is “absolutely shameful that any business would show support for violence against the Jewish people or to suggest that Jews are not welcome as customers,” said Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, director of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s Campaign Against Antisemitism. “We urge all city leaders to speak out and condemn this and any other hatred taking place in our city.”

Also weighing in was York Centre Liberal MP Michael Levitt, who said it was “absolutely disgraceful to see this antisemitic rhetoric publicly displayed in our city. We are so much better than this. Shame on them.”

The response, noted Levitt, is “condemnation and education, and legal action if necessary.”

The furor over Foodbenders also prompted supporters of the Jewish Defence League to gather Sunday night (July 5) at the closed shop, whose windows were festooned with two large Israeli flags, one concealing an “I [Heart] Gaza” logo. Earlier screen shots had shown Stars of David had been scrawled onto the glass.

“The days when the Jewish community is going to put up with antisemitism [are] over,” proclaimed JDL leader Meir Weinstein, who added he would employ “any means necessary to shut down this hate.”

In an interview with the website blogTO, Hawkins stated: “I’m not antisemitic. That would go against all the other principles that I’ve been standing up for the past few weeks. I believe that Palestinians should be free and have the same equal human rights as everyone and that’s not a stance I will apologize for.”

She told the site that she’s received a flurry of hate messages but welcomes dialogue.

“When I’m making a statement about Zionism, I am not referring to Jewish people… It’s about the state government.”

Hawkins described herself as a “white Canadian settler on Turtle Island” and said she’s been pro-Palestinian since she was 16 years old. She also said that about half of her customers are Jewish.

Suggestions posted to social media have included boycotting the shop but also complaining to Foodbenders’ suppliers and other eateries that carry its products.

– By CJR Staff

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