Over 20 agents for the real estate corporation RE/MAX Israel, working in at least eight offices, are selling many millions of dollars worth of illegal properties in over 15 settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Mondoweiss has compiled a non-exhaustive list of RE/MAX Israel offices and agents engaging in these illegal transactions (embedded below).
In 2014, the Electronic Intifada revealed that the real estate company was selling illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, both of which are recognized as occupied territories under international law.
A 2013 United Nations report maintains that RE/MAX International, which is headquartered in the US, can be “held accountable” for RE/MAX Israel‘s illegal activity.
RE/MAX Israel offices Momentum, Vision, Agam, Atid, Trend, More, Express, and Hazomet have sold illegal properties in the occupied Palestinian territories. Homes are for sale not just in occupied East Jerusalem, but also in settlements located kilometers beyond the Green Line. These offices are selling properties in illegal settlements including, but not limited to:
- Adam (Geva Binyamin)
- Beit Aryeh
- Betar Illit
- East Talpiot (Armon HaNatziv)
- French Hill (Giv’at Shapira)
- Givat HaMivtar
- Karnei shomron
- Kfar Adumim
- Kokhav Ya’akov
- Ma’ale Adumim
- Ma’alot Dafna
- Pisgat Ze’ev
- Old City
- Ramat Eshkol
The RE/MAX Atid office is located in the Ma’ale Adumim settlement in the occupied West Bank. At the time of writing of this article, its owner and broker, Michael Brand, was selling 15 illegal properties in Ma’ale Adumim, totaling almost $10 million USD.
A luxury home sold by Brand in Ma’ale Adumim is going for over $1 million USD.
Some of the homes being sold are priced at almost $2 million USD. In a posting for a $1.7 million USD home for sale in occupied East Jerusalem, sold by RE/MAX Momentum agent Albert Kokosowski, RE/MAX Israel boasts that “one can see the Kotel,” also known as the Western Wall, and the Temple Mount, the site on which the al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock also sit.
A $729,000 USD luxury home for sale in the illegal Gilo settlement in occupied East Jerusalem advertises that it has a “master bedroom with a great Jacuzzi.” This property is sold by RE/MAX Vision agent Yechiel Shushan.
The Electronic Intifada revealed in August that some of the agents and brokers in these various offices even advertise on their websites (in both Hebrew and English) that they specialize in selling properties in the occupied territories.
Recently, some brokerages that sell illegal homes in have combined. RE/MAX Capital and RE/MAX Vision joined together into one office.
Most of the illegal properties sold by RE/MAX Israel are not visible on its online map feature. The homes it sells in the occupied territories are still for sale, but they must be crosschecked on RE/MAX Israel‘s listings, not on the interactive map.
If one searches for properties in the settlements of, for instance, Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim, Gilo, or the French Hill, mapping coordinates are disabled for almost all of the listings. If one searches for legal properties, however, in areas such as Tel Aviv or Ashdod, mapping coordinates are often enabled for many of the properties.
RE/MAX Israel is still selling scores of illegal properties, but there is extra work and knowledge involved in finding them. One has to know the names of the settlements, search for them manually, and cross-reference listings; one cannot just look at the map.
No Open House
As the UN made clear, RE/MAX International profits off of RE/MAX Israel‘s sales. Head Office gets a commission on sales.
Frank Polzler, the chairman and co-founder of RE/MAX Europe, which oversees RE/MAX Israel, has also indicated there is a large financial incentive. In 2013, Polzler wrote a memoir titled Journey of a Lifetime. In the book, he speaks of his close relationship with the head of RE/MAX Israel, Bernard Raskin.
Discussing the Second Intifada in his memoir, Polzler recalls that RE/MAX Israel offices were destroyed. “It was dire circumstances and Bernard thought he was going under, and we worked with him and told him, ‘Don’t pay us for a while,'” the RE/MAX executive writes. “[Raskin] hung in there and rebuilt. We didn’t make any money off Israel for a year or more. But he rebuilt it to twice the size and today he sends us lots of money.”
Raskin also wrote a tribute to Polzler, which is included at the end of the book. The RE/MAX Israel chief states “What I’ve learned from Mr. P is this: … sell franchises and grow the network. All the rest is secondary.”
Because of RE/MAX International’s profiting off of RE/MAX Israel’s sale of occupied Palestinian land, human rights activists have drawn attention to RE/MAX as a target in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Peace group CODEPINK, which also created the Stolen Beauty: Boycott Ahava campaign, launched a No Open House on Stolen Land: Boycott RE/MAX campaign.
In late 2014, No Open House held a week of action across the US, with activists protesting outside of local RE/MAX branches. In March, BDS activists protested at the 2015 RE/MAX Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. 25 protesters were forcibly ejected, and one was arrested.
Mondoweiss reached out to No Open House to see if they had heard from RE/MAX since the protests. Organizer Nancy Kricorian, who has helped to lead the campaign, said they “have had no contact with RE/MAX since the protests in March,” in spite of attempts by No Open House to get some kind of statement from the international corporation.
“People are appalled about this. It violates their capacities far more than Ahava and Soda Stream,” CODEPINK co-founder Jodie Evans said, referring to two corporations that also operate illegally within the occupied territories.
RE/MAX Israel Illegal Activity List
The following is a non-exhaustive list of RE/MAX Israel offices and agents selling illegal properties in settlements in occupied Palestinian territories. All of the information included in the list is publicly available on RE/MAX Israel websites.