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Arrests made at protest outside Toronto-area synagogue hosting event marketing occupied West Bank land

Arrests have been made at protests near a Toronto-area synagogue, hosting a real estate event marketing property in the occupied West Bank. 

Realtors and companies participating in the session, called the great Israeli Real Estate Event, gathered at the Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto in Thornhill, Ont., on Thursday — one of five shows part of a broader North American tour.

York Regional Police confirmed to CBC Toronto that arrests have been made at the demonstration near Clark Avenue W. and York Hill Boulevard, but have not provided details as to who has been arrested or if any charges have been laid.

Along with other cities in Israel, the website says customers can inquire about purchasing property in Ma’ale Adumim, Efrat and Neve Daniel — all Israeli settlements in the West Bank, according to the United Nations. Participating companies include My Home in Israel and Noam Homes, according to their websites.

The UN, alongside Canada, considers Israeli settlements in the occupied territories to be in violation of international law.

A list of event dates for a real estate fair, happening in Toronto, Montreal, New Jersey and New York.
A website shows the areas featured at the great “Israeli Real Estate Event” include parts of the occupied West Bank. (Realestateisrael.org)

Rabbi Daniel Korobkin of the Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto said while the majority of land for sale is in “Israel proper,” there is a chance land outside of that will be shown to participants.

“All that’s going on is an informational evening, no property is exchanging hands,” Korobkin told CBC Toronto.

He said real estate events like Thursday’s have been taking place within the community for years.

“If the state of Canada wants to bring any kind of legal action about that, they’re free to do so.”

Settlements ‘serious obstacle’ to peace: Canada

Ahead of the event, the Canadian government reiterated to CBC Toronto that it does not recognize “permanent Israeli control over territories occupied in 1967, and strongly opposes illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank.

“The settlements also constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace,” wrote Global Affairs Canada spokesperson John Babcock, adding Canada “strongly condemns” extremist settler violence against Palestinians in the area. 

“Canada is also gravely concerned by reports of Palestinian communities being forcibly removed from their lands in the West Bank.”

Asked if events promoting the sale of the land in the West Bank are allowed in Canada, and if there are any legal implications for Canadians who purchase property in those settlements, the government did not respond. 

A woman wearing a keffiyeh shouts in a megaphone in front of a police officer and pro-Israel protestors.
A pro-Palestinian protester is confronted by a police officer at the demonstration on Thursday. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Local politicians, including Vaughan Mayor Steven Del Duca, Coun. Gila Martow, MPP Laura Smith and MP Melissa Lantsman penned a joint statement Wednesday, calling it “unacceptable that a place of worship” be targeted by protesters, saying they are “committed to doing what we can to ensure that places of worship do not continue to be targeted in this manner.” 

The statement from the group did not address the legality of the event. CBC Toronto has reached out to their offices for additional comment.

When asked to comment on the real estate event, The City of Vaughan referred to the joint statement. 

The great Israeli Real Estate Event held a show in Montreal on Tuesday. A Quebec court temporarily prohibited protests near several Jewish institutions near the synagogue the venue was hosted at, following back-to-back demonstrations outside community buildings.

Protesters clash

Farah Mater, a demonstrator at the event with group Toronto 4 Palestine, said people organized outside of the synagogue to protest the “illegal sales of stolen Palestinian land to further illegal Israeli settlements.”

“We stand as Muslims, Jews and Christians to make sure that our places of worship [aren’t] used as cover to advance any illegal activities and international law violations,” said Mater.

“Our government’s allowing for this to take place, they aid in further displacing Palestinians.”

A woman and a man in separate photos edited together, looking away from the camera.
Farah Mateh with Toronto 4 Palestine and Mohammed William with Palestinian Youth Movement say they’re protesting a real estate event at a Thornhill, Ont., synagogue for featuring properties for sale in the West Bank. (Chris Langenzarde/CBC News)

Mohammed William, with Palestinian Youth Movement, agreed. He called on Canada to “end its complicity” by “cutting ties with the Israeli government, placing sanctions, placing an arms embargo and condemning the occupation of Palestinian land.”

Ahead of the demonstration, the synagogue sent a call-out to members of the congregation that spread like “wildfire” in the larger Jewish community to counter-protest pro-Palestinian demonstrators, according to Korobkin, who said he feels protestors says are also targetting the synagogue for reasons beyond the real estate event. 

Their counter protest is meant to “show that we will not be intimidated or cowed out into silence or submission,” said Korobkin.

The protest is the second to be held in Toronto in the last week over concerns of the sale of occupied land. On Sunday, dozens of people gathered near the Aish Hatorah synagogue in Thornhill, Ont., to protest an event that organizers say was aimed at helping people in the Toronto area buy property in Israel.

One realtor involved in that event said it was “absolutely, 100 per cent false” that property located on “disputed” land was promoted during the event.

A man who allegedly shot a nail gun toward at least one pro-Palestinian demonstrator and shouted obsceneties at others was arrested and charged. 

The great Israeli Real Estate Event also held a show in Montreal on Tuesday, which was met by a demonstration and counter-protest the following evening. In response, a Quebec court temporarily prohibited protests near several Jewish institutions near the synagogue the venue was hosted at.

The real estate events have been held amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel, which killed some 1,200 Israelis and foreigners. Israel has since responded with a relentless assault that has so far killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian figures. 

Late last month, The Associated Press reported that Israel plans to build more than 3,300 new homes in settlements in the occupied West Bank. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was “disappointed” to hear of the announcement, calling them “counter-productive” to achieving peace.

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