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July 8, 2020 3:16 pm

Businesses Cut Ties, Politicians Condemn Toronto Restaurant That Said ‘Zionists Not Welcome’

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

The Foodbenders logo. Image: Facebook.

The fallout from an ongoing antisemitism scandal in which a local Toronto restaurant declared that “Zionists” were not welcome has resulted in delivery services cutting ties and local and national politicians slamming the establishment.

The Foodbenders eatery had already aroused controversy after it put up a sign saying “f—k the police,” when a post last week on its Instagram account announced that it was now open to “non-racist shoppers,” adding the hashtags “freepalestine” and “zionistsnotwelcome.”

Toronto resident Jamie Gutfreund slammed the restaurant in a direct response, saying she was “shocked and surprised to see a local Toronto company @foodbenders openly promote their racism and Jew hatred,” setting off a firestorm of controversy.

It was quickly discovered that the restaurant’s social media pages were replete with anti-Israel and antisemitic material.

On Tuesday, food delivery service DoorDash stated, “We have removed Foodbenders from our platform for their failure to follow the community guidelines and our partner code of conduct, as we do not tolerate malicious, discriminatory or hateful behavior.”

Delivery services Uber Eats, Ritual, and SkipTheDishes have also cut ties with Foodbenders, as have local businesses such as Blue Heaven Café and Ambrosia Naturally.

Major political figures have also weighed in on the matter.

Doug Ford — the premier of Ontario — said, “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 behavior here at home, and across the globe.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory commented, “There is no place for this type of hate or discrimination in our city or anywhere else in Canada. I stand with Toronto’s Jewish community in condemning this type of hate and intolerance and commit to continuing to build up our city as a place that is inclusive of everyone.”

The national leader of Canada’s Conservative Party, Andrew Scheer, said, “These deplorable actions have no place in Canada. Canada’s Conservatives stand with the Jewish community and all Canadians in condemning antisemitism and other forms of hate in our society.”

The leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, Steven Del Duca, stated, “Antisemitism has no place in Ontario. We must fight intolerance and hatred in all forms.”

In a statement to the Toronto Sun, Foodbenders owner Kimberly Hawkins said, “I’m taking political stances against the state of Israel and the Zionist ideology used to uphold it. I do not equate the state of Israel or Zionism to Judaism. I do not hate Jewish people in any way.”

“In my understanding Israel is a settler colonial state occupying land by force,” she added. “I think the state of Israel and the Zionist ideology are using the faith of Judaism to justify committing crimes against Palestinians that in turn make Jewish people less safe.”

“We disagree on the pathway to peace but I do want peace and safety for all humans,” she claimed. “I am sorry if people interpreted what I have said as hate because it is not what I intended.”

Despite Hawkins’ protestations, Foodbenders’ Instagram feed remains laden with problematic statements, with posts expressing sympathy for antisemitic former UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, saying “team white and blue” is about “racist hate,”  “the Israeli flag is white for supremacy and blue for cop,” rants about the JDL protesting the venue, vague references to “two Zionists” harassing employees as part of a “plot,” and a claim that the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell was connected to the “Zionist Mossad,” along with a death’s head next to “IL” for Israel.

B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn told The Algemeiner on Wednesday, “The conduct of Foodbenders owner Kimberly Hawkins has shocked and disturbed the Jewish community in Toronto and beyond. A 21st century business shamelessly and nonchalantly declaring the majority of Canadian Jews unwelcome based on a core part of their identity crosses a new line many of us never dreamed the radical anti-Israel movement would reach.”

“At the same time, we are encouraged by the swift and decisive action that several businesses have taken to denounce this behavior and cut ties with Foodbenders — Uber Eats, DoorDash, Ambrosia Natural Foods, and Blue Heaven Café to name a few,” he added.

Daniel Koren of Hasbara Fellowships Canada commented to The Algemeiner, “This was a grassroots and collaborative effort where Jewish Canadians and organizations united to combat antisemitism in our community.”

“Kimberly Hawkins is clearly unremorseful for referring to Jewish Canadians as ‘Nazis’ and ‘racists,’ despite repeated efforts to inform her that the majority of us identify as Zionist,” he continued. “She could have easily taken a stand for Palestinian human rights without engaging in antisemitism.”

“Hasbara Fellowships Canada would like to acknowledge Uber, Doordash, Ambrosia Natural Foods and many others for taking a principled stand against antisemitism,” Koren said. “There is no place for such hatred here in Toronto.”

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