Restaurant in Toronto Claiming “Zionists Are Not Welcome” Faces Backlash
July 13, 2020
A Toronto eatery called “Foodbenders” is facing heavy criticism from both Jewish and political leaders, for a series of anti-Semitic actions. The restaurant had long hung a Palestinian flag in the front window with writing saying “I Love Gaza”.
However, the most recent controversy was fueled by a social media post in early July. The Times of Israel reports that an Instagram post read “Open now – 8pm for non-racist shoppers”, followed by two hashtags: #freepalestine and #zionistsnotwelcome.
About two weeks after the discriminatory behavior first came to light, Foodbenders has lost delivery agreements with DoorDash and UberEats, and has been called anti-Semitic by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Kimberly Hawkins, the restaurant owner, attempted to draw a distinction between Jews and Zionists in a confusing Instagram post. Hawkins wrote, “The first thing I will say is that I love Jewish people and they are welcome in my store. I have never said anything about Jewish people,” What Hawkins does not address, though, is the fact that most Jews would identify as Zionist. Instead, she claimed that she was “pointing out [Zionism’s] racist supremacist foundations”.
Leaders in both the political world and the Jewish world strongly dispute Hawkins’ characterization. Rabbi Meyer May, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, raised a particularly harsh objection. Rabbi May told the European Jewish Press, “By stating that Zionists are not welcome to its store, this business is basically stating that Jewish people are not welcome. This is clear anti-Semitism, extremely discriminatory and unacceptable.”
Rabbi May’s condemnation was echoed by Toronto Mayor John Tory who called the incident unacceptable. Mayor Tory stated, “There is no place for this type of hate or discrimination in our city or anywhere else in Canada.” He went on to say that he stands united with the Jewish community, in a blow to the restaurant from the popular mayor.
Nonetheless, Foodbenders has doubled-down. More social media posts have compared Zionists to Nazis and called police brutality “an Israeli export”. On Saturday, July 4th, more than 200 protestors rallied outside the restaurant as part of the Day of Rage against potential Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank. The protests, which according to the Times of Israel accused Israel of “genocide”, appear to be just a symbol of the broader conduct of this Toronto restaurant.