Since September 2014, the global real estate giant RE/MAX LLC has been the target of a corporate responsibility campaign by CODEPINK Women for Peace because of the company’s involvement in the sale and rental of illegal settlement properties in the Occupied West Bank. Each year the Denver-based RE/MAX LLC holds its annual convention in Las Vegas. Around 6,000 real estate brokers and agents from 62 countries around the world attend. This year we at CODEPINK decided it was time to take our message about RE/MAX’s settlement profiteering to its Las Vegas convention. As CODEPINK co-founder Jodie Evans said, “People around the world are waking up to the immorality of settlement profiteering, and it is unclear why RE/MAX continues to risk its brand’s reputation through its involvement in illegal activities in the Occupied West Bank.”
On Tuesday, March 1 the RE/MAX R4 conference featured a talk by RE/MAX Israel VP of Marketing, Gil Le-ran entitled “Mind of Steel.” About five minutes into the talk, as Li-ran was boasting to the audience about how he impervious and powerful he is, allowing nothing to get in his way (apparetnly not even international law and Palestinians’ human rights) CODEPINK founder Jodie Evans and I got up and went to the front of the room, unfurling a banner that read “No Open House on Stolen Land.” We informed the crowd that through RE/MAX Israel’selling of homes in illegal Israeli settlements, RE/MAX LLC is profiting from violations of international law.
In an attempt to muffle our message, two attendees clamped their hands over our mouths and attempted to pull the banner from us. Despite their efforts to wrest the banner from our hands, we held it firmly as we were hustled down a long hall and two sets of escalators leading out the building. On the way out the we distributed postcards that described what RE/MAX is doing in Israel/Palestine and asking RE/MAX LLC CEO, Dave Liniger, to set standards for RE/MAX brokers and agents that they may not sell, rent, or advertise properties in Israeli settlements in the the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem.
Agents from RE/MAX Israel do business in all the major West Bank settlements, including those in Occupied East Jerusalem, in violation of international law. The Fourth Geneva Convention states that an occupying power may not move its civilian population onto the territory it is occupying. RE/MAX’s profiteering and complicity have drawn condemnation from human rights activists around the world. A recent report from Human Rights Watch entitled “Occupation, Inc.: How Settlement Businesses Contribute to Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights,” directly indicting RE/MAX LLC, states:
By advertising, selling and renting homes in settlements, both the Israeli franchise of RE/MAX and RE/MAX LLC, the owner of the global franchise network, facilitate and benefit from the transfer of Israeli civilians into occupied territory and the associated human rights abuses, contravening their rights responsibilities.
Since 2014 CODEPINK’s Remodel RE/MAX campaign has been calling on RE/MAX to stop profiting from Israeli violations of international law. Specifically, the campaign asks RE/MAX LLC to set standards for its franchises, prohibiting them from selling, renting or advertising properties on illegally seized land in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem. Additionally the campaign asks RE/MAX to establish that members of the RE/MAX network should not refer clients to agents and brokers who are involved in such activities.
As part of the Remodel RE/MAX campaign, people around the US and world sent letters to RE/MAX LLC CEO, Dave Liniger, about the company’s involvement in RE/MAX Israel’s sales of illegal settlement homes. RE/MAX LLC responded by saying that it had sold the franchise rights for RE/MAX Israel to RE/MAX Europe in 1993. They claimed that because of this, “RE/MAX, LLC has no contractual agreement with RE/MAX Israel.” If it is indeed the case that RE/MAX LLC has no connection to RE/MAX Israel and is not able to affect the illegal actions of the franchise, why then was RE/MAX Israel’s Gil Li-ran speaking at the RE/MAX R4 convention? Furthermore, both RE/MAX Europe and RE/MAX Israel are part of the Re/Max international network of franchises and are therefore directly connected to RE/MAX LLC. RE/MAX Israel uses the RE/MAX brand name and trademark. They benefit from RE/MAX association, name recognition, trainings, and participate in and lead talks at the annual RE/MAX R4 convention.
As the international franchise holder, RE/MAX LLC has the responsibly to make sure that its profits are not coming from violations of international law. As RE/MAX LLC has been remiss in fulfilling this obligation, it becomes the responsibility of everyone to see that RE/MAX ceases selling homes in illegal Israeli settlements. CODEPINK will continue its campaign targeting RE/MAX using a variety of methods and tools–including disruptions such as the one we just did in Las Vegas–until the company lives up to its ethical, moral and legal responsibilities.