Ikea, the giant international furniture chin, is seriously exploring the possibility of establishing an outlet in Israel and plans to increase its purchased from Israeli suppliers in 1995.
These projections, coupled with assurances that the founding head of Ikea has completely broken with his youthful Nazi ties, were contained in a letter sent last week from the company’s president to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
In the letter, Anders Moberg, international president of the Swedish-based firm, also assured Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, that Ikea had never taken part in the Arab boycott of Israel.
“Nor has it ever been the intention of Ikea management to treat Israel in a discriminatory way,. Although it cannot be ruled out that some individual Ikea employee may have acted in a way that could be misunderstood,” Moberg wrote.
He also noted that “for years, IKEA has purchased various products from Israel, including textiles and plastics. We expect that such trade will expand considerably next year and in the years to come.”
The letter arrived a few hours before a face-to-face meeting in Los Angeles between Cooper and Goran Carstedt, head of Ikea’s North American operations.
The letter and meeting were prompted by concerns raised by Jewish groups after it was disclosed last month that Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad had joined pro- Nazi Swedish groups in the late 1940s and 1940s and early 1950s.
In a handwritten letter to Ikea’s 25,000 employees worldwide, Kamprad, now 68, apologized for the associations of his youth.
“This is a part of my life that I bitterly regret,” he wrote last month. He said he got involved with right-wing groups in post-war Sweden because he shared their anti-communist views, but quit after “a couple of meetings in pure Nazi style.”
Following inquiries by the Wiesenthal Center, Carstedt flew to Los Angeles last month for a three-hour meeting with Cooper, who asked for concrete assurances that Kamprad had fully broken with his fascist past and that Ikea had never complied with the Arab economic boycott of Israel.
In the second meeting last week, Carstedt underline his president’s statement and also emphasized that Ikea founder Kamprad had not backed any fascist group or individual during the past four decades.
After the meeting, Cooper said that while Ikea’s decision on whether to locate in Israel would understandably be based on business consideration, he would be surprised if the company failed to take some action during the next few months to promote its presence in Israel.
According to Ikea’s records, some 80 Israeli business executive have separately contacted the company over the year, with a view to establishing a franchise operation in their country.
Ikea has $4.5 billion in sales in 25 countries in the first nine months of this year.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.