LOS ANGELES (May. 19)
KPMG Peat Marwick, the world’s largest accounting firm, has been accused by the Simon Wiesenthal Center of purposely omitting Israel in its worldwide directory of offices and affiliates in order to avoid offending Arab clients.
The firm’s 399-page directory lists branches in 161 countries on six continents and in more than 800 cities. Not listed is the Tel Aviv-based firm of Kesselman & Kesselman, which has worked with Peat Marwick for the past decade, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center.
However, information on Peat Marwick’s contact in Israel can be obtained, at a client’s request, in the form of a free-standing page, which the international accounting firm labels as an “optional insert.”
In a letter to Jon Madonna, chairman of U.S. operations for KPMG Peat Marwick, Cooper protested that while the company’s affiliates and consultants in other countries were listed in the directory, only Israel was relegated to an “optional insert.”
“It is obvious that the failure to include Israel is seen as a way by KPMG International to allay certain Arab sensitivities,” wrote Cooper.
“But in fact, this approach only serves to reinforce the very same reactionary forces in the Middle East which seek to torpedo a peaceful future for that region,” the rabbi wrote.
Cooper requested Madonna’s help in correcting “this misguided and unfortunate policy.”
“President Clinton and Secretary of State (Warren) Christopher have indicated that it is the foreign policy objective of the United States to seek an early end to the Arab boycott of Israel,” he wrote.
WANTS PRESENCE IN ISRAEL
“The decision to finally list Israel as an equal among nations by your important and prestigious firm will add both symbolic and practical momentum in this direction,” Cooper wrote in the April 26 letter.
He said Monday that he had yet to receive a response.
But The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Madonna had sent a reply, dated May 15, in which he denied that KPMG was trying to circumvent the Arab boycott with the optional insert.
The company’s worldwide regulations, he wrote, require that only firms with exclusive relationships with his company be listed in the directory.
Madonna added that Peat Marwick desires to be formally represented in Israel and “will continue to seek an appropriate format” to list an Israeli firm as “our service-provider of choice.”
The Journal also contacted Avi Berger, managing partner of Kesselman & Kesselman, Israel’s largest accounting firm, with branches in Jerusalem and Haifa.
Berger is reported as conceding that Peat Marwick did not list his firm in its directory because of the Arab boycott and only began offering the optional insert last year.
In the past, the Wiesenthal Center has protested similar omissions of Israel in brochures and maps issued by various airlines, the DHL Worldwide express mail service and other firms.