Ontario premier, delivery services, crunch into antisemitic Toronto eatery

Restaurateur of Foodbenders, Kimberely Hawkins, has been in hot water for promoting antisemitic anti-Zionist theories and tropes on the company's social media profile.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada (photo credit: REUTERS)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Antisemitic language and actions are disgusting and will not be tolerated here in Ontario, the province’s premier, Doug Ford, condemned after a restaurant in Toronto had business ties severed in the wake of promoting antisemitic and anti-Zionist theories and tropes.
Foodbenders, under the ownership of Kimberly Hawkins, had its contracts with delivery services Uber Eats and Ritual terminated after the company’s storefront signs and social media profiles were used to promote antisemitic anti-Zionist language.
The restaurant has been a spot of fierce protests between pro-Israel and Pro-Palestinian activists since 2018, and has seen confrontations between the two groups.
The controversy surrounding Foodbenders boiled over in recent weeks as the eatery displayed signs at its storefront claiming IDF or Israeli responsibility for police brutality in the US, alongside calls to “Defund Israel,” and allegations Jeffery Epstein, the late disgraced sex offender, was part of a “Zionist Mossad” operation.
B’nai B’rith Canada, in short order, put together a campaign seeking grassroots support against the statements. The campaign resulted in a number of politicians, at both the provincial and federal level, condemning the establishment on Monday.
B’nai B’rith Canada’s campaign included contacting politicians, requesting food delivery services cease delivering its products and petitioning the city to revoke its business license.
Condemnations of the language were quick.
”Language and actions like this are disgusting and will not be tolerated here in Ontario,” Ford wrote on Twitter “Our government stands with the Jewish community in condemning this kind of behaviour here at home, and across the globe.”

Andrew Scheer, current Conservative Party leader, was also quick the condemn the actions and behavior of Foodbenders.
Peter McKay, who is running for head of the Conservative Party and is considered a front-runner in the race, shared Ford sentiments. “At this time of serious discussion on individual and systemic racism, there can be no tolerance for this public display of antisemitism,” he wrote on Twitter. “I condemn all hate and proudly stand with Canada’s Jewish community and the State of Israel.”

Erin O’Toole, another front-runner for the party’s leadership, echoed the view, writing on Twitter, “antisemitism has no place in Canada. I join those condemning this hate.”
Michael Levitt, a Liberal Party politician, who is Jewish, and is a founding member of the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee and co-chair of Liberal Friends of Israel, praised Ford’s condemnation of the restaurant on Twitter.

“Thank you... for standing against antisemitism and hate. We are so much better than that!,” Levitt wrote on Twitter.
The outcry against the store also stemmed from its use of profanity in public spaces, as signs placed on the sidewalk read f**k the police, Mossad, CIA, MI6,” among others.


Beyond Hawkins’s promotion of antisemitic anti-Zionist conspiracy theories online and at her store, the manager of the restaurant in has, in the past, said on Instagram “Zionists are Nazis” and are not welcome at her restaurant, while also tying Zionism to alleged Jewish and Zionist influence within the Canadian government and in US foreign policy.
Hawkins expressed her admiration for Leila Khaled, a Palestinian who was responsible for hijacking two planes in 1969 and 1970 as a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, considered a terrorist organization by most Western governments, including Canada, the US and European Union.
On both her personal Facebook account and the restaurant’s Instagram page, Hawkins has claimed Canadian Jewish organizations, including B’nai B’rith Canada, “control your media and elected officials,” in addition to suggesting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a “Zionist puppet.”
Hawkins denied any claims she harbors antisemitic views and glorifies Palestinian terrorists.
“I’m not antisemitic,” Hawkins told local news outlet blogTO. “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.
“When I’m making a statement about Zionism, I am not referring to Jewish people... It’s about the state government,” Hawkins added.
The reaction in Toronto and wider Canadian Jewish community to Hawkins’s claims and tropes has been fierce.
“The sentiments expressed by Foodbenders and its owner are hateful and deplorable, and have no place in the Canadian food industry,” Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai B’rith Canada, said in a statement on the organization’s website on Sunday.
“Together, acting within the boundaries of the law, we can ensure that there are real consequences for this behavior,” he added.
Aside from regular pro-Israel activists arriving at the restaurant, playing Hebrew-language songs and waving Israeli flags, the Canadian branch of the Jewish Defense League also picketed outside the restaurant this week in a bid to disrupt Foodbenders’s operations.
In one instance, a woman was seen  spray-painting Stars of David on the storefront.

Hawkins doubled-down after the criticism, saying on the restaurant’s Instagram page, “criticizing the Israeli zionist state occupation or the police isn’t a hate crime. Nor is it antisemietic to say that zionist journalists in Toronto and now Israel have written slander fake news pieces about me to present me as racist, for the sole reason of silencing me on Palestine. They are controlling the narrative of my story and they are lying."
“Once again, Jews are very welcome to shop with us, zionists may also shop if they can do so without insisting they’re right to a homeland justifies killing other people. When a zionist tells us Palestinians should be murdered, something that happens all day long, we ask them to leave because THAT is hate speech,” she added.
Hawkins also noted a flurry of death threats she received in recent days, often with an Islamophobic bent, in addition to acts of alleged vandalism and intimidation against her teenage daughter. She concluded her statement with the hashtag #KKKanada.