Photo Credit: Courtesy of Elmaleh
Shai DeLuca in a recent photo while in Israel.

A Canadian judge has decided in favor of a former IDF lone soldier in his defamation lawsuit against a Toronto restaurant and its owner. Back in 2020, Foodbenders’ Kimberly Hawkins used her restaurant’s Instagram account to launch a digital diatribe against Shai DeLuca, calling him a “terrorist” who has “a sniper rifle aimed at Palestinian children.” Among the offending posts were Jews-control-the-media tropes, “Zionists are Nazis,” and the hashtag “Zionistsnotwelcome.”

DeLuca, who holds both Israeli and Canadian citizenship, moved to Israel to serve in the IDF after high school. He is now a successful interior designer and Canadian TV personality who uses his platform as a design and lifestyle expert – he has over 89,000 Instagram followers – to speak out proudly for Israel and against antisemitism.


After over three years of heated litigation culminating in a full trial, the judge awarded DeLuca 85,000 Canadian dollars in damages and granted a permanent injunction against the defendant. In awarding punitive damages, which in Canada are reserved for cases in which the defendants’ misconduct is “so oppressive and high handed that it offends the court’s sense of decency,” the judge wrote, “[T]hese kinds of statements not only affect people’s reputations, but they also contribute to prejudice, antisemitism, and intolerance and have the potential to incite violence.” The restaurant shut its doors midway through the litigation. (Bad publicity, perhaps?)

David Elmaleh

“I think that this precedent-setting case will deter some of the antisemitic vitriol that we have seen online targeting Jews, Israelis, and the brave Israeli soldiers and first responders,” said attorney David Elmaleh of Re-Law LLP in Toronto, who handled the case in partnership with the Lawfare Project. Elmaleh said he does not believe the outcome of the litigation was impacted by the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel. “The Court scrutinized the evidence presented at trial, not geopolitical current events,” he told The Jewish Press. “That being said, the timing of the decision is as relevant as ever. IDF soldiers and veterans should not have to worry about their reputation being tarnished through malicious and reckless allegations that have no factual basis.”

Elmaleh’s firm dedicates a significant portion of its practice to representing Jews and Israelis (individuals as well as businesses) who are discriminated against and mistreated. “Unfortunately, since October 7th, we have been busier than ever on this front,” he said. The firm often partners with non-profit organizations such as the Lawfare Project, which provides pro bono legal services to protect the civil and human rights of the Jewish people worldwide.

“The defendants spread an intentional and vicious blood libel against the Jewish State, and against DeLuca because he is Jewish,” said Lawfare Project founder and executive director Brooke Goldstein. “This victory underscores that there will be legal repercussions for those who defame Jewish people under the guise of ‘Palestinian advocacy.’”

Elmaleh noted, “The defendants truly lost in every sense of the word here and it is a cautionary tale to others that they will be personally liable and they will sustain personal financial loss by maliciously and recklessly spreading falsehoods, hate and defamatory content over the Internet.

“In addition, the court provided some clear guidelines for other defendants that find themselves in similar positions: publicly apologize and remove the defamatory publications immediately or face the strong possibility of a monetary damages award that is large enough to significantly impact an individual and small business. We see this as a big win not just for Mr. DeLuca, but for all Jews, Israelis, IDF soldiers, Zionists and allies.”

DeLuca said he was “thrilled” with the judge’s decision. “Justice has prevailed… We will no longer remain silent in the face of these antisemites. Jews lowering our heads as a means of defense in hopes of antisemitic situations passing ended in 1948,” he stated.

Has his proud stance for Israel affected his high-profile design career? “I have some of the best clientele in the world. All support me in my ongoing battle to fight antisemitism and anti-Zionism,” he said. He also expressed his gratitude for the “unwavering support” of his television colleagues, adding “I do not take that for granted.”

Elmaleh had a message for other IDF soldiers in Israel and around the world:

“We are here for you. You are not alone. You are in our thoughts, in our prayers, and in our hearts. We in the Diaspora will continue to help you any way we can – in courts of law, in courts of public opinion, in the hallways of power and in the town squares. We will do our best to protect you and to protect your good names and reputations throughout the world. We will never give up.”


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Ziona Greenwald, a contributing editor to The Jewish Press, is a freelance writer and editor and the author of two children's books, “Kalman's Big Questions” and “Tzippi Inside/Out.” She lives with her family in Jerusalem.