The Brooklyn Nets last week suspended star Kyrie Irving for promoting an antisemitic documentary and book on social media, and Irving has apologized. Now the NBA team and the Anti-Defamation League want Amazon to be held accountable as well.
“The book and the film are designed to inflame hatred and, now that it was popularized by Mr. Irving, will lead directly to the harm of Jews,” said the letter, a copy of which was seen by The Washington Post.
“These views aren’t different viewpoints on history, they are outright antisemitic hate. They amplify longstanding antisemitic tropes about Jewish power, greed and claims that Jews control the media.”
The American Jewish Committee also asked its supporters to help them urge “Amazon to reaffirm its commitment to fight antisemitism by removing this anti-Jewish swill.”
Amazon did not respond to The Post about the future of the book and documentary on its website. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Post.)
The 2014 book “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” and 2018 documentary by the same name are still available on Amazon, and they are each listed as a “Best Seller.” Neither currently comes with a disclaimer about harmful content.
Two weeks ago, Irving tweeted about the film to his 4.6 million followers. He deleted the tweet but refused to apologize for it for a week before relenting and posting an apology on Instagram on Thursday. The Nets suspended him for at least five games, and Nike ended its relationship with the NBA star. The ADL turned down his offered donation of $500,000 to be used in anti-hate causes.
“The book has become hot because of the news. All the sellers, including Amazon, have cashed in,” said Alvin H. Rosenfeld, director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and a professor at Indiana University. “It’s very ugly.”
Rosenfeld said banning books is not a solution.
He believes Amazon could continue selling the book with a disclaimer that clearly outlines its nature. He added that Amazon should donate its profits from the book and the documentary to organizations that fight hate speech.
“It’s irresponsible to make money from such a toxic book,” he said.
The book is not the only antisemitic book being sold by Amazon, said Matt Boxer, an assistant research professor in the Hornstein Program in Jewish Professional Leadership at Brandeis University.
The website still sells copies of “Mein Kampf” by Adolf Hitler. “I am not talking about the scholarly edition, but the original version,” Boxer said.
Rosenfeld is teaching Hitler’s book as well as “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” to his students this semester. He believes it is important to study selected chapters from these texts and discuss them responsibly.
Rosenfeld said the book Irving promoted is “simply a recycling of old hateful ideas.” The book is full of antisemitic accusations that have been disproved many times, he said.
The ADL tabulated 2,717 antisemitic incidents throughout the United States in 2021, it said in its letter. This was a 34 percent increase from 2020. FBI hate-crime reports have also confirmed increased violence and bigotry against Jews, the letter said.
Last year, a few days after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Amazon removed “The Turner Diaries” from its virtual shelves. The 1978 novel portrays a group of white supremacists who attack the Capitol to overthrow the U.S. government.
Even before “The Turner Diaries” was removed, Amazon was selling it with a disclaimer about its racist content.
“While it is important to defend private companies’ right to sell products that they see fit, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences,” Boxer said, adding that booksellers would have to deal with the fallout from the contents of their books.
“There is a lot more antisemitism in the public sphere in recent times because people with such beliefs are less afraid of sharing them,” he said.
Boxer said he believes Amazon’s vetting process for books and documentaries fails to recognize products that contain hate speech. “Amazon doesn’t seem to have the knowledge or the engineers in place to understand if a book is toxic,” he said. “To them all books are just products meant to be sold.”
On its website, Amazon Studios outlines that it encourages free speech and that “all titles undergo manual and automated reviews before a licensing decision is made.”
The guidelines outline that “movies or scripts shouldn’t be bigoted or hateful when taken as a whole and we don’t permit movies, scripts, reviews or other content that are nothing but hate speech.”