(21 November 2014)
My recent Electronic Intifada article “US-Based Corporation RE/MAX Sells Homes in Illegal Israeli Settlements” has raised quite a storm, if you will. Before I released it, few people knew that RE/MAX Israel sold multimillion-dollar properties in illegal, Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank—let alone that UN special rapporteur Richard Falk had written a report firmly stating that RE/MAX International can be “held accountable” for the flagrant violations of international law committed by RE/MAX Israel.
Today, 21 November, author, activist, and former political consultant Naomi Wolf published a transcript on her Facebook page of an interview she held with RE/MAX International Vice President of Public Relations, Shaun White.
“I asked about the sale by ReMax Israel of illegal units in East Jerusalem and the occupied territories,” she writes. The executive responds in typical PR Speak:
Shaun White (SW): We sold the rights for the territory of Israel in 1995. ReMax LLC has no contractual arrangement with the current owners of ReMax Israel. Currently ReMax LLC the corporate headquarters based in Denver Colorado has no contractual arrangement with the owners of ReMax Israel.
Naomi Wolf (NW): Do you receive any profits from the sales currently?
SW: The UN report that was released in 2013 on the Palestinian territories had several factual errors. The authors never contacted us to verify any information about ReMax.
NW: Does that mean that you don’t receive any fees, income, profit from the sales in Palestine?
SW: Remax LLC does not receive any fees from any specific real estate transaction in Israel.
NW: I am not asking about Israel. I am asking about the occupied territories and East Jerusalem.
SW: When you say the Occupied Territories and I said Israel, I am talking about the ReMax Israel region.
NW: The land is allegedly in the occupied territories and East Jerusalem.
SW: It is not allegedly, they are there. ReMax LLC does not receive fees from specific real estate transactions in the Remax Israel region.
NW: What is the Israel ReMax region?
SW: You would have to ask ReMax Israel about that specific region. [Reads statement for the fourth time] Remax LLC does not receive fees from specific real estate transactions in the ReMax Israel region.
NW: I will say again for the second time: what is that region? How do you know that you are not receiving fees from a region if you don’t know what it is?
SW: You are talking about Maale Adumim.
SW: [Reads statement again] We receive fees from ReMax Vienna.
NW: But Remax Vienna does business with Remax Israel.
SW: That is my understanding of it.
NW: Does ReMax LLC receive any fees from any land sales in the occupied territories or East Jerusalem?
SW: Remax LLC does not receive receive any fees from specific real estate transactions in the Remax Israel region. Their contract is with ReMax Europe. You should contact ReMax Europe and see what fees are being charged.
NW: What would you say to people who propose a boycott given that ReMax is a global brand and people don’t distinguish between profits moving from one franchise to another globally?
SW: If you understand how franchising works, some franchises are owned by the companies and some are not. We own some and the vast majority we do not own.
NW: I get it. The ReMax Israel office is using your brand. How does ReMax US feel about your brand being used to sell illegal properties?
SW: There is no entity ReMax US.
NW: All Right. ReMax LLC.
SW: [Reads statement again and offers to send it to NW]
NW: I am asking now how ReMax LLC feels about ReMax Israel selling illegal properties under the same brand given we understand you have no current contract with ReMax Israel but with ReMax Europe which contracts with Remax Israel.
SW: [Reads statement again] I would just tell you to read our statement and you will see. We have tried to take steps to make the situation better but we don’t have a contract there so we don’t have legal authority to do anything. I would tell you to read our statement.
NW: You do have legal authority to sue them if you think they are misrepresenting your brand or behaving illegally. Don’t you have guidelines that sure your franchisees behave legally?
SW: You will have to talk to ReMax Europe.
NW: I do get it. One thing you could theoretically do which is free is issue a statement about whether you think this represents ReMax values or not.
SW: [Offers to send NW a statement]