By Yves Engler
As part of a well-organized, multilayered, Israel nationalist lobby bid to bankrupt a small left-wing restaurant a prominent Toronto interior designer sued Kimberly Hawkins for $800,000. Shai DeLuca is claiming the Foodbenders owner libeled him.
The suit was filed by RE-LAW LLP and the US-based Lawfare Project which harasses pro-Palestinian activists. The Lawfare Project, reports Nora Barrows-Friedman, is “a pro-Israel group that works to silence activists by filing lawsuits against them and smearing supporters of Palestinian rights as anti-Semites.”
In a statement of claim, DeLuca said two posts on Foodbenders’ Instagram account on July 6 defamed him. One of the posts was apparently a screenshot of DeLuca’s Instagram account with the comment, “he’s literally gathering his other whining Zionist friends to attack Palestinians and others in support of @foodbenders.”
A second post, reported Toronto.com, featured the statement, “this guy is one of the people who was attacking @foodbenders. He’s an IDF [Israel Defense Forces] SOLDIER (aka terrorist) yet he’s using the BLM [Black Lives Matter] movement for likes. How can you sit there and post about BLM when you have your sniper rifle aimed at Palestinian Children.”
DeLuca’s statement of claim suggests Foodbenders’ statements were libelous. But, on Twitter DeLuca describes himself as an “IDF sergeant (ret)” and a quick Google search demonstrates that he is an aggressive proponent of Israeli military violence. DeLuca publicly defended Israel’s 2014 onslaught on Gaza that left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead and has spoken at a number of international events promoting the Israeli military. DeLuca even claims IDF experience helps with interior design!
In recent years the Israeli military has bombed Syria on a weekly basis and has multiple boots on Palestinian necks. In his 2008 book Defending The Holy Land: A Critical Analysis of Israel’s Security & Foreign Policy Zeev Maoz notes: “There was only one year out of 56 years of history in which Israel did not engage in acts involving the threat, display, or limited use of force with its neighbors.
The only year in which Israel did not engage in a militarized conflict was 1988, when Israel was deeply immersed in fighting the Palestinian uprising, the intifada. So it is fair to say that during each and every year of its history Israel was engaged in violent military actions of some magnitude.” Maoz concludes: “None of the wars — with a possible exception of the 1948 war of Independence — was what Israel refers to as Milhemet Ein Brerah (‘war of necessity’). They were all wars of choice or wars of folly.”
DeLuca works with the rabidly pro-Israel Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). Funded by Donald Trump mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, Seth Klarman and other anti-Palestinian billionaires, CAMERA regularly promotes the IDF and is “aligned with right-wing and hawkish political views”, reports the Jewish Forward.
In his statement of claim to the Ontario Court of appeal, DeLuca presents his military service as simply a requirement that every Israeli must fulfill. “He grew up in the State of Israel where he served his compulsory term of military service as a sergeant in the Israel Defense Forces”, it notes. But, elsewhere DeLuca offers a more politicized depiction of his time in the IDF.
Asked in 2018 by the Canadian Jewish News “What shaped your strong connection with Israel?” DeLuca responded: “I grew up in an extremely Zionist family. The matriarch of my family, my grandma, and I had a very special relationship. She always said that if she’d had the opportunity, she would’ve gone to Israel. She talked a lot about the importance of defending our homeland. This was really strongly instilled in me. From the age of 15, I knew that, at 18, I’d go do my army service in Israel. I finished high school in Toronto and in November 1995, I went into the Israeli army.”
When speaking to a pro-Israel Canadian audience DeLuca promotes fighting in the IDF but when a social justice activist reframes his actions as a moral outrage against Palestinians he claims to have been duty-bound and the victim of malice. DeLuca’s position is not unique. After pro-Palestinian activists protested a presentation by Israeli military reservists at York in November, those who brought the ‘terrorists’ to the university and in some cases assaulted the protesters claimed they were the victims. In 2018 a private Toronto school that flew an Israeli flag and promoted its military also claimed “anti-Semitism” when pro-Palestinian graffiti was scrawled on its walls.
To get a sense of DeLuca’s extreme anti-Palestinian ideology, last week he retweeted ethnic cleansing denial, claiming Israel merely occupied mosquito infested lands. “The only ones that Zionism displaced were mosquitos,” he messaged. “The lands Zionists acquired to establish themselves were malaria-ridden, and they reclaimed those lands.” This, of course, is complete nonsense.
It requires chutzpah to join a brutal occupation force halfway across the world, spend years promoting it, and when called on it claim you are the victim. DeLuca should either stop promoting a violent foreign military or accept that people are going to criticize him for doing so.
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– Yves Engler is the author of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid and a number of other books. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit his website: yvesengler.com.