Human rights advocates were present both inside and outside of RE/MAX’s annual shareholder meeting in Denver, Colorado last Thursday. Driving into the entrance of the Marriott Tech Center Hotel, RE/MAX board members and shareholders were greeted by around 30 protesters from CODEPINK, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) – Denver, Jewish Voice for Peace, Friends of Sabeel – North America, and Coloradans for Justice in Palestine. The group held signs, banners, and cardboard boxes painted like Israeli settlements to express their demand that RE/MAX immediately stop profiting from Israeli apartheid by selling, renting, and advertising homes in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Inside the meeting, Sam Jones of the Heartland Institute, presented his organization’s shareholder resolution calling for RE/MAX to establish an ad-hoc committee to investigate RE/MAX’s role in Israeli violations of international law. Jones relayed that RE/MAX’s selling of homes in Israeli settlements violates international law and US principles and commitments which recognize Israeli settlements as being in violation of the fourth Geneva Convention. He pointed out that RE/MAX was highlighted in a recent report by Human Rights Watch entitled, “Occupation, Inc.: How Settlement Businesses Contribute to Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights,” and addressed in an article by real estate agent Elias Kibalian, who left RE/MAX when the company refused to end their complicity in Israeli human rights against the Palestinian people. Kibalian states:
These properties are built on occupied land that once belonged to Palestinians, whose homes are often demolished and farm lands destroyed to make way for Israeli settlers. Hundreds of thousands of these settlers are now living in the West Bank, driving on roads that Palestinians are not allowed to access, and using 10 times the water resources allocated to nearby Palestinians.
Jones pointed out that by listing Israeli settlement properties on RE/MAX’s international website, RE/MAX is potentially misleading its customers. He stated that CODEPINK’s ongoing Remodel RE/MAX campaign is causing reputational damage to the company, thereby risking losses for its shareholders, agents, and brokers until RE/MAX meets their demands to cease occupation profiteering.
Aware of CODEPINK’s ongoing campaign, RE/MAX had hired increased security for their shareholder meeting. They placed their entire next door corporate office building on lockdown to prevent a presence by protestors and hired additional security for inside the meeting. AFSC director of economic activism, Dalit Baum and CODEPINK campaign organizer Ariel Gold attended the meeting. Gold attended on behalf of CODEPINK co-founder and RE/MAX shareholder, Jodie Evans. Baum Gold intended on making a human rights statement of support for Heartland’s resolution during the question and answer section of the meeting, but RE/MAX made this impossible by eliminating the Q &A, leaving Gold no other means for having her voice heard than to hold up a sign reading “No Open House of Stolen Land” at the end instead. Baum and Gold were then removed by police.
Since 2014, CODEPINK’s Remodel RE/MAX campaign has been calling on RE/MAX to stop profiting from Israeli violations of international law. Specifically, they are asking RE/MAX 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, as well as to establish that members of the RE/MAX network should not refer clients to agents and brokers who are involved in such activities.
CODEPINK co-founder Jodie Evans purchased stock in RE/MAX to be able to have a say about RE/MAX’s profiting from the sales of homes in illegal Israeli settlements. Evans has been protesting RE/MAX for years, including this past March when she and Gold disrupted a talk by RE/MAX Israel VP of Marketing, Gil Le-ran, at RE/MAX’s annual R4 Conventions in Las Vegas. Evans also disrupted the RE/MAX R4 Convention the previous year.
Evans, and other advocates for justice in Palestine, know the power of international campaigns to hold companies responsible for profiting from, and contributing to Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise. Following CODEPINK’s Stolen Beauty campaign, Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, an Israeli cosmetics company with its main production facility in the Occupied West Bank, announced this past March that they will be moving their factory out of the West Bank to within Israel’s recognized borders. Likewise, other companies, such as SodaStream, Veolia, and G4S have responded to international pressure, and either moved their operations out of the West Bank or announced plans to end their business relationships there.
Until the time when RE/MAX ends its practice on selling, renting, and advertising homes in illegal Israeli settlements, human rights advocates will continue using a variety of methods and tools – including protests and attendance at shareholder meetings – to compel the company to live up to its ethical, moral and legal responsibilities.