Outcry over male-only Ikea catalogue released in Israel

Swedish furniture giant Ikea has been criticized after a special version of one of its catalogues featuring no women was released in Israel, echoing a similar case in Saudi Arabia from 2012.

Outcry over male-only Ikea catalogue released in Israel
File photo of an Ikea store. Cornelius Poppe/NTB scanpix

The new catalogue was first flagged up by Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post, which reported that members of strictly Orthodox Haredi communities in the country had received a special version of the Ikea catalogue in the post.

The catalogue features pictures of boys and men, but “unlike the standard Ikea catalogue, no daughters, sisters or mothers accompany those fathers and sons,” the newspaper noted.

The story has since been picked up in the Swedish media, where comparisons have been made with another case from 2012 when women were erased from sections of an Ikea catalogue released in Saudi Arabia.

Public outcry and criticism from Swedish politicians followed, leading to Ikea apologizing and calling the incident “unfortunate”. The controversial new catalogue in Israel has also led to a wave of online complaints.

In a statement provided to The Local, Ikea's press manager in Sweden stressed that the strict Orthodox brochure is not representative of Ikea's catalogues in Israel as a whole, and it does not live up to the company's standards.

“What happened here is that the local Israeli Ikea organization distributed a brochure to a religious ultra-Orthodox minority group in an attempt to reach the minority with commercial messages. Ikea, globally as well as in Sweden, is clear on our view that the local brochure doesn’t live up to our values and what Ikea stands for,” Jakob Holmström explained.

“Ikea is for many people and we want to respect local traditions and needs. That is also an aspect of not discriminating. BUT, we are convinced that it is possible to unite. Ikea in Israel obviously failed to do that. We want to be clear that Ikea Group in Sweden and globally does not stand behind the local brochure, and be clear on the fact that it does not live up to the Ikea Group values and what Ikea stands for,” he added.

In an additional statement given to The Local on Friday, Shuky Koblenz from Ikea Retail Israel said:

“In February, the local Israeli organization distributed a brochure, customized specifically for the Haredi community in an attempt to reach this minority community in Israel with messages of our home furnishings offer. Accordingly, this brochure has been customized in several ways and as such, it also does not show any images of women or girls,”

“We realize that people are upset about this and that the publication does not live up to what Ikea stands for and we apologize for this. We will make sure that future publications will reflect what Ikea stands for and at the same time show respect for Haredi community.”