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New Jersey real estate fair marketing land in occupied West Bank draws charged protests

The event held by an Israeli firm outside a synagogue descended into scuffles as protesters accused organisers of violating international law
Several hundred protest outside a synagogue in Teaneck, New Jersey, over a real estate fair featuring land in the occupied West Bank (Azad Essa/MEE)
By Azad Essa in Teaneck, New Jersey

There were tense scenes outside a New Jersey synagogue on Sunday where several hundred pro-Palestinian supporters assembled to demonstrate their outrage over a real estate event showcasing land and properties for purchase in Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Several dozen pro-Israel supporters from the local Teaneck community stood outside the synagogue and taunted and heckled the travelling pro-Palestine rally, resulting in several scuffles, at times forcing police intervention. 

The event at the Keter Torah synagogue in Teaneck, organised by the Israel-based My Home in Israel, is just the latest in a string of real estate fairs taking place across North America featuring land and properties for sale in the occupied West Bank. Activists say it isn't just unconscionable but also illegal under international law. 

"You cannot sell anything that isn't yours. [And] these sales are taking place in New Jersey and then they are going there [to the occupied West Bank] and taking people's homes," Alex, a New Jersey resident, told Middle East Eye.

"This is violation of international law. It is abhorrent that we had to come out here to protest against this," Alex, who only offered his first name, added.

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Protesters beat drums, waved Palestinian flags, and chanted "shame", in the hope that it would reverberate to those showcasing properties and land. 

Earlier on Sunday, police and private security turned the synagogue in Teaneck, a town close to Manhattan, New York City, into a fortress.

Dozens of police cars blocked off the road and blocked off parking on the roads leading up to the synagogue.

The local police department set up barricades and directed pro-Palestine supporters to the sidewalk across the road from the synagogue.

Explaining the heightened security on Friday, township manager Dean Kazinci told residents that the town would be "maintaining public order, safeguarding the rights of peaceful demonstrators and ensuring the protection of the synagogue and its visitors". He also said he did not have the authority to shut down the event.

In practise, organisers said, the town was facilitating Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

"There is a connection between things that happen here and violence that happens abroad," Alex added.

Protest Teaneck (MEE/Azad Essa)
Protesters were made to stand behind barricades across the road from the synagogue (Azad Essa/MEE)

Police presence in Teaneck (MEE/Azad Essa) (
There was strong police presence and security outside the synagogue in Teaneck, New Jersey (Azad Essa/MEE)

Sunday's march was organised by several organisations under the banner of "Teaneck for Palestine".

Jewish activists who helped organise the rally said they were outraged the town would openly allow an event of this type to take place.

"It just feels like settler-colonialism. It feels like stealing land, killing people. This was done to Jews decades ago. And to see it - in our name - being reproduced, is grotesque," Michelle Fine, from Jewish Voice of Peace, told MEE.  

Earlier, pro-Palestine protesters had gathered in the park outside the Teaneck Armory. They trudged over the wet grass and the mud calling for a "Free Palestine".

Across the road, a handful of pro-Israel supporters waved flags and heckled the protesters.

The town's decision to block roads around the synagogue where the real estate fair was taking place meant the rally had to start in a different part of the town.

Along the 2.25km walk, members of Teaneck's Jewish community - which makes up around 40 percent of the town's population - emerged from their homes to heckle the marchers making their way to the synagogue.

"Show your face, cowards!" pro-Israeli supporters screamed at those with their faces masked. "Terrorists!" others screamed.

"Baby killers!" one pro-Palestinian protester replied as he held up two dolls splattered with red paint.

"Stolen land is not for sale," others chanted. "Settlers, settlers, go back home. Israel is not your home." 

When MEE asked several pro-Israelis along the route about how the community was processing the current war on the people of Gaza, supporters blamed Hamas for the Palestinian death toll - now upwards of 31,000 - but also said they didn't believe the numbers being released by the UN.

"Only the IDF can be trusted," one supporter, Rebecca, who only offered her first name, said. 

(MEE/Azad Essa)
Protesters braved the chilly weather, with hundreds staying for most of the day (Azad Essa/MEE)

Teaneck protests in NJ (MEE/Azad Essa)
Protesters marched for about two kilometres to the synagogue in support of Palestine (Azad Essa/MEE) ​ ​

Rebecca, along with other pro-Israel supporters interviewed by MEE, said she didn't think it was a problem that land in the occupied West Bank was being marketed to prospective Jewish buyers. She said that all the land belonged to Israel.

Likewise, another protester, Jacob, who said he had come to show that "Jews were not afraid", said he wasn't aware that occupied land was being showcased at the private event at the synagogue. But he wasn't against it. 

"If they are selling land in Israel or in any of the contested areas, I am for it," Jacob, who also offered his first name, said. "The Palestinians had their chance to live alongside Jews in their own state," he added.

Adam Weissman, an anti-Zionism Jewish activist, described the response by the pro-Israel supporters in Teacneck as cynical, cowardly and lacking empathy.

"They made racial slurs at the protesters. They made transphobic comments. And they made other obscene gestures. Then they threw water bottles. And when they became scared, they hid behind the cops." 

Access to the event on Sunday was heavily policed and restricted by a large police contingent as well as the private security firm Community Security Service (CSS), which specifically provides security to the Jewish community.

Outside the synagogue, MEE observed masked CSS officials taking photographs of the registration plates of every car that carried pro-Palestinian emblems.

The CSS did not reply to MEE's request for comment.

While organisers of the event said there was no restriction on who could attend the events, activists told MEE that the organisers had placed several barriers to filter out non-Jewish participants. These include having to name their synagogue and rabbi to get in.

"Even Jewish participants were rejected because of pro-Palestine views," Weissman told MEE.

My Israel Home did not reply to MEE's request for comment.

teaneck protests (MEE/Azad Essa)
 The synagogue was heavily guarded by both police and private security (Azad Essa/MEE)

Palestine is not for sale teaneck (MEE/Azad Essa)
Several pro-Israel supporters said they had no problem with land being sold in the occupied West Bank (Azad Essa/MEE)

Real estate fairs promoting purchasing property or relocating to Israel are commonplace in the US. Weissman says there are upwards of 11 real estate events in March 2024 alone.

Gidon Katz, a British Israeli who organised the real estate event on Sunday in Teaneck, told Haaretz that just one of the projects showcased at the fair featured a settlement in the occupied West Bank.

"First of all, let's take things in perspective. We're marketing 100 different projects. There's only one in Gush Etzion. Secondly, whatever you believe, everyone knows that Gush Etzion will be part of Israel in any future peace settlement," Katz said.

Two more real estate fairs are planned in Cedarhurst, on Long Island, on Tuesday, and in Flatbush, Brooklyn, on Wednesday.

Activists in New York City told MEE that protests are planned for these events, too

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