WASHINGTON: Tensions escalated outside a Torah synagogue in Los Angeles on Sunday following protests over an auction of property and land in the Israeli-occupied West Bank to settlers.

The event, organised by pro-Israel groups, drew strong condemnation and opposition from anti-war activists and protesters advocating for Palestinian rights.

According to eyewitnesses and journalists covering the event, the protests turned violent when clashes broke out between pro-Palestinian demonstrators and pro-Israel groups.

A social media site sympathetic to Palestinians, Gaza Notifications, reported, “A Torah synagogue in Los Angeles hosted a controversial auction on Sunday where property and land in the Israeli-occupied West Bank were sold to settlers”.

The event, organised by pro-Israel groups, draws condemnation from protesters advocating for Palestinian rights

According to this news site, protests by anti-war activists began upon learning about the auction. “Protesters and journalists covering the event were subjected to harsh rhetoric, harassment, and violence from pro-Israel groups,” Gaza Notifications added.

Police officers were called to the scene as altercations intensified, with reports of demonstrators being shoved and hit by counter-protesters.

Criticism mounted over the auction itself, with questions raised about the legality and ethical implications of selling land exclusively to one religious group.

“Are they even allowed, in America, to sell property exclusively to one religious group?” questioned observer Yvonne Haugen, commenting on Gaza Notifications’ post.

Other commentators expressed broader concerns about discriminatory practices and police actions.

In response to allegations of violence and harassment directed towards journalists and protesters, Sunny Singh remarked, “Laws don’t seem to apply equally to everyone”, pointing to perceived disparities in law-enforcement’s response to the situation.

The post included a video showing police officers watching pro-Palestine demonstrators being shoved and hit by pro-Israel group members, with pro-Palestine demonstrators pleading with officers for help.

However, amidst the contentious scenes, misinformation also played a role. A social media post claiming that protesters mistreated a Jewish woman spread widely, sparking further online debate and confusion.

Later, commentators clarified that this was a man with long hair who attacked anti-war activists and journalists at demonstrations in Los Angeles throughout the day.

While some commentators claimed there was no auction, one who identified himself as EliKopter defended the auction. “Nice, hopefully there’ll be some parcels left to purchase. Real estate in Israel is way too expensive. Anything you do that helps keep costs down is appreciated,” he wrote.

The incident has sparked a broader debate about ongoing protests and the complexities of Middle Eastern geopolitics playing out on American soil.

The mainstream media focused on the protests but did not mention the auction. A CNN report noted that videos showed confrontations involving shoving, taunting, and physical altercations, prompting strong condemnation from officials.

The report mentioned that the city’s Mayor, Karen Bass, and California’s Governor, Gavin Newsom, have condemned holding protests outside a place of worship and have labeled the incident as anti-semitic.

It also noted that both Jewish and Muslim advocacy groups have highlighted increasing hate crimes linked to the Israel-Gaza conflict. Police monitored the situation and made one arrest for possessing a prohibited item.

Some protesters were arrested during the clashes but were later released.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2024

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