Protests against sales in Canada of illegally occupied Palestinian land

March 10, 2024
illegal israeli settlements and land sales events
Protesters in Canada have targetted events that they say are promoting land sales in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Graphic: Green Left

With the ongoing horrors of the Israeli assaults on Gaza since last October, awareness is growing of diverse and egregious connections between Canada and Israel. Among these, it has recently come out that touring Israeli real estate exhibitions are making stops in Canada to promote sales of land in the occupied West Bank.

At least 500,000 Israelis now live in settlements in the occupied West Bank. Several consecutive Israeli governments have expanded settlements there, but the construction of homes for Israeli settlers in the West Bank has been stepped up significantly under the current right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Canada and the United Nations recognise Israeli settlements in the occupied territories to be in violation of international conventions. The federal government has declared that they “constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace”. Yet the Canadian government has done nothing to stop sales of illegally occupied land in Canada.

In response, Palestine solidarity activists mobilised in mass demonstrations at the sites of the sales. Two protests were held within days in Toronto and another was held in Montreal. The sales are held at local synagogues, and Jewish activists have decried the use of holy spaces for profiting from land theft and dispossession.


In Thornhill, a suburban area north of Toronto in Ontario, several dozen people gathered near the Aish Hatorah synagogue, on March 3, to protest a land sale event organised in part by Home In Israel, a Keller Williams (KW) real estate subsidiary. KW has organised several such events in Canada and the northern United States.

KW denies selling properties in the West Bank, and says its Modi’in office is located “on the Israeli side of what we understand to be the internationally recognized Israeli border, not the West Bank”. However one attendee at its land sale event identified land in question being sold in Modi'in Illit, “a settlement on land that belonged to Palestinian villages”. There has been no independent, public verification of what properties were being sold or shown at that event.

The March 7 event was not so ambiguous. Listed as the “great Israeli Real Estate” event, that sale did include notice of land in the West Bank. It was sponsored by IMP International, Emanuel Group, Your Home in Israel, and the Israeli American Council and was part of a series of events in New Jersey, New York and Montreal. According to KW, it was not associated with this event.

According to the event publicity, “expert speakers” would “address all your questions about purchasing real estate in Israel”, including in parts of “Modi'in”, as well as in “Neve Daniel”, “Efrat” and “Ma’ale Adumim” — Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The event was held at the Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto (BAYT) synagogue, in Thornhill. Rabbi Daniel Korobkin confirmed the BAYT synagogue agreed to host the event and added that they and other Jewish institutions have been doing so for years.

A serious clash broke out at the March 7 event, as Zionist counter-protesters became aggressive towards Palestinian solidarity demonstrators. The synagogue had put out a call to members of the congregation ahead of the protest, which “spread like wildfire” according to CBC Canada.

One man from the Zionist crowd attacked several people and shot a nail gun in the direction of at least one pro-Palestinian demonstrator. He also shouted obscenities at others before being arrested. A day later, it was reported that a 27-year-old man from nearby Vaughan, Ontario, is facing several charges, including assault, assault with a weapon, possessing a weapon dangerous to the public and mischief. It has since been confirmed that York police believe hate was a “motivating factor” in his actions and if convicted, “hate-motivated aggravating factors” would be considered at sentencing.

Palestinian activists have pointed out that such hate charges do not protect people and are most often used against them. They insist that communities not police keep them safe.


Another protest took place on March 5 in Montreal outside the “great Israeli Real Estate” event inside the Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue in Côte-des-Neiges. Again, there were counter-protests as groups faced off on the streets.

Sarah Boivin, of Independent Jewish Voices, told CTV News: “It is absolutely shameful that a house of worship is being used for this kind of illegal real estate tour, which is why we really tried to have it cancelled and to really ask the synagogue to be a leader.

“It’s a controversial event because they're selling stolen lands to illegal, internationally recognised illegal Israeli settlements. So I wish that the synagogue would have canceled the event.”

This sentiment echoed views expressed by Jewish activists in solidarity with Palestinians in Toronto. Real estate agent Chelsey Lichtman, who is a member of Jews Say No to Genocide, called it “sacrilegious”. In her words, “The synagogues are holding events that [are] trying to get Canadians to invest in stolen Palestinian land in Israel … [which] contributes to the ongoing colonisation of Palestinian people.”

They do not want to see their places of worship used as cover for illegal activities and violations of international law.

Government equivocates

Ahead of the March 7 protest, the Canadian government restated that it does not recognise “permanent Israeli control over territories occupied in 1967, and strongly opposes illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank”.

Global Affairs Canada spokesperson John Babcock said in a statement that “The settlements also constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace”, adding that Canada “strongly condemns" extremist settler violence against Palestinians in the area and “is also gravely concerned by reports of Palestinian communities being forcibly removed from their lands in the West Bank”.

However, local Mayor Steven Del Duca, Councilor Gila Martow, Member of Provincial Parliament Laura Smith and federal MP Melissa Lantsman jointly released a statement condemning Palestine solidarity activists. They said it is “unacceptable that a place of worship” be targeted by protesters, adding they are “committed to doing what we can to ensure that places of worship do not continue to be targeted in this manner”.

Protesters have stressed that they are not showing up at these sites because they are synagogues. They are showing up to them to protest the real estate events.

The statement by local politicians seems to put them out of step even with Canada’s formal stance —even if successive Canadian governments have a history of refusing to cut ties with Israel.

Palestine solidarity activists are calling on the government end its complicity in genocide by cutting ties with the Israeli government, enacting sanctions and carrying out an arms trade embargo.

As Rabbi David Mevaser, a member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada, put it: “Our government’s allowing for this to take place, they aid in further displacing Palestinians. It’s kind of unbelievable that Canada permits this.”

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