Restaurant Boycott | Because “We Are Jewish”

A list of Montreal restaurants “to boycott” because of their “ties to Israel” has been circulating on social media for several months. Faced with hateful remarks and calls for violence that are increasing against restaurant owners and, more generally, the Jewish community, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs is sounding the alarm.


Published at 1:09 am

Updated at 9:00 a.m.



What there is to know

  • For several months, a list of Jewish Montreal restaurants has been circulating on social media, calling for a boycott of them because of their alleged “links” to Israel.
  • Negative ratings, hateful messages and calls for violence have been multiplying against restaurateurs. One of them found projectile impacts in the window of one of his restaurants.
  • The Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs denounces the “anti-Semitic” nature of this call for a boycott.

“All the restaurants on this list are small restaurateurs, family businesses. They are not big restaurant chains. And the only thing we have in common is that we are Jewish,” says Louise*, the owner of one of the Montreal restaurants targeted by a boycott call launched on social media, who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.

“Anti-Semitism should not be tolerated, like any other form of hatred towards a group of people. But today, it is. And it’s terrifying,” she says.

The list, which has been widely circulated and has garnered thousands of likes on social media, details the “links” these restaurants have to Israel that would justify a boycott.

One pizza restaurant is targeted solely because it allegedly follows “an Israeli influencer” on social media, another restaurant simply because its owner has Israeli citizenship. Others are said to have put an “Israeli dish” on their menu – recipes that were allegedly “stolen from Palestine.” “Anyone who supports or does business with a Zionist will be exposed,” it reads.

“I don’t have social media, I’ve never made any political comments, either personally or with my restaurants. It’s really against my way of doing things and thinking: these are restaurants, not political platforms,” says Yoni Amir, owner of several of the restaurants on the list and himself of Israeli origin.

“This is really nonsense. They just want to hurt us for nothing,” says Simon*, another owner.

The group behind the list, which we are not identifying at the request of the restaurateurs so as not to facilitate its dissemination, did not respond to the interview request from The Press at the time of publication.

From hatred to action?

Under these publications shared on social networks, hate speech and calls for violence are multiplying. Several owners also reported receiving waves of messages and negative votes. “We had comments saying that we encourage the occupied territories, that we support this or that camp… says Simon. It’s really not easy.”

On June 19, Yoni Amir found bullet holes in the window of one of his restaurants, an event that he believes is linked to the boycott call.

PHOTO JOSIE DESMARAIS, THE PRESS

The window of the Falafel Yoni restaurant, marked by three bullet holes

He says he’s been contacted by the media in recent months about the list, but he’s declined interview requests for fear of drawing more attention to himself. But on June 19, “it really was like crossing a red line,” he says.

The Montreal Police Department (SPVM) is continuing its investigation to determine whether these projectile impacts were an act of hate. “The real motivation is still undetermined. The investigation is ongoing,” said Véronique Dubuc, SPVM media relations officer.

An anti-Semitic boycott?

For Julien Corona, associate director of communications and media relations at the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the “anti-Semitic” nature of this call for a boycott is beyond doubt.

“This kind of list intimidates people, forcing them to hide. It can only incite lone wolves to act violently. This is not acceptable, especially in this day and age, in a city that is supposed to be peaceful.”

Its hateful nature is, however, difficult to prove, he explains.

[Les auteurs de cette liste] call themselves anti-Zionists [mais] It’s a roundabout way of saying anti-Semites. They use this semantics to protect themselves, but we know very well the intention behind it.

Julien Corona, Associate Director of Communications and Media Relations at the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs

More generally, he notes a resurgence of anti-Semitic remarks and acts perpetrated against the Jewish community, in the world, but also in Quebec. “Politicians must take decisive action. We have already asked the mayor to really act more strongly against anti-Semitism,” he explains.

Asked about this, Valérie Plante’s office said it was “shocked to learn that certain companies had received hateful messages.”

“Bullying and anti-Semitism have no place in our metropolis,” he added. “We must all denounce these types of actions. The right to campaign for a cause is fundamental, but it must not be at the expense of the safety of individuals.”

The three restaurateurs to whom The Press spoke maintained that they and their employees did not fear for their safety going to work. “I’m not afraid, but I am sad,” Louise told us. “It’s a difficult time for Jews around the world, to see this rise in anti-Semitism, to see crimes committed against innocent people everywhere.”

*Fictitious first name to protect the identity of the speaker, who fears reprisals.

What is the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?

Anti-Semitism is a form of racism: it is hatred and discrimination directed toward Jews as a group.

Anti-Zionism is the rejection of Zionism, a political movement that maintains that the Jewish people have a right to a state. Anti-Zionism is opposition to the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.

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