Toronto eatery dishes out antisemitic theories and tropes

The reaction in the Toronto and wider Canadian Jewish community has been fierce.

Toronto Skyline (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Toronto Skyline
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Foodbenders, a Toronto-area restaurant located in the heart of the city, has been accused in recent weeks of promoting extreme antisemitic anti-Zionist theories and tropes through its social platforms and at the storefront, displaying signs claiming IDF or Israeli responsibility for police brutality in the United States, calls to 'Defund Israel,' and allegations that Jeffery Epstein, the late disgraced sex offender, was part of a "Zionist Mossad" operation. 

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Beyond her promotion of antisemitic anti-Zionist conspiracy theories online and at her store, Kimberely Hawkins, the manager of the restaurant in the Bloordale neighborhood of Toronto, has said on Instagram and elsewhere that "Zionists are Nazis" and are not welcome at her restaurant, while also tying it to alleged Jewish and Zionist influence within the Canadian government and in US foreign policy. 

Additionally, Hawkins expressed her admiration for Leila Khaled, a Palestinian woman who was responsible for hijacking two planes in 1969 and 1970 as a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The PLFP is widely considered a terrorist organization by most Western democratic governments, including Canada, the United States and the European Union. 
On her personal Facebook account and the restaurant's Instagram page, Hawkins has claimed that Canadian Jewish organizations, such as B'nai B'rith Canada, “...control your media and elected officials,” in addition to suggesting that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a “Zionist puppet.”

Speaking to the popular local news outlet blogTO, Hawkins denied any claims that she harbors antisemitic views and glorifies Palestinian terrorists. 
"I’m not antisemitic," Hawkins said to 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 the Toronto and wider Canadian Jewish community to Hawkins' 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,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai B'rith Canada, in a statement Sunday on the organization's website.
“Together, acting within the boundaries of the law, we can ensure that there are real consequences for this behavior,” he added.
B’nai B'rith Canada noted Canadian Jewish attitudes on Zionism, citing the 2018 Survey of Jews in Canada, conducted by Environics Research at York University and the University of Toronto, which found that Zionism is “the normative form of Canadian Jewish identification.”
The Canadian Jewish organization has also suggested ways of combating the promotion of antisemitic and anti-Zionist theories and tropes by Foodbenders, including contacting Uber Eats and Doordash to request that they cease delivering Foodbenders products; emailing public officials like local City Councilor Ana Bailão, MPP Marit Stiles and MP Julie Dzerowicz; and sending requests to the City of Toronto to revoke the restaurant's business license. 
Similarly, the Canadian branch of the Jewish Defense League (JDL) arrived at the restaurant in recent days to disrupt Foodbenders' operations, via the use of picketing. Hawkins further alleged the smashing of the restaurant's windows. In one instance, a woman can be seen spray painting Stars of David on the storefront, which can be viewed on Foodbenders' Instagram profile. 
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Commentators on Foodbenders' Instagram page, along with Canadian Jewish organizations, have suggested that Hawkins may be liable to prosecution under Canadian hate speech laws, though she told blogTO that the police have not been in contact with her regarding violations.