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Blackwell’s removes antisemitic conspiracy book

Isaac Ettinghausen reports.

Blackwell’s has removed an antisemitic conspiracy document from shops after the book’s promotion as “interesting” was met with outrage by the Jewish community.

The Oxford booksellers had originally listed The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a well-debunked manual detailing supposed Jewish plans for world domination, with an antisemitic synopsis which did not fully refute the text’s legitimacy. 

The description used read: “Some say the issue has already been settled conclusively — that [The Protocols] is clearly a forgery. Although there may be final evidence to this effect, we have not seen a clear and convincing version of it produced by those making this claim.”

It continued: “If The Protocols are a forgery, they still form an interesting book which deserves to be studied. If, however. The Protocols are genuine (which can never be proven conclusively), it might cause some of us to keep a wary eye on world affairs. We neither support nor deny its message, we simply make it available for those who wish a copy.”

Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said that “It is astounding that a supposedly reputable retailer would distribute a notorious antisemitic forgery accusing a cabal of Jews of being behind a plot to rule the world, with a blurb on its website that claims the work could be genuine.” 

The Board of Deputies was among a group of Jewish organisations condemning the books sale, along with the Campaign Against Antisemitism and Holocaust Educational Trust.

In a statement released on 27th January, Blackwell’s wrote: “To confirm our position, we have in response to a large number of comments removed completely from our website the details of a particular book. This book is in fact an antisemitic hoax, which has been used by extremists since it was first published 150 years ago  to justify anti-Jewish hatred.”

The statement said the site had used the offensive synopsis because “with over 18 million books on our website it is standard practice in online bookselling to list books with the book descriptions provided by the book publishers as we are unable to physically check this many records.”

It continued: “Generally it is our belief that books should be made available, even hateful books, so they can be studied and understood with a view to ensuring that such despicable views cannot gain credence in the future. Given that this publication is a forgery however, we take the view that continuing to list such a publication would only provide a platform for the lies it seeks to propagate.”

A spokesperson for Oxford’s Jewish Society said that “As a Jsoc we were saddened by the lack of care taken by Blackwells in the advertising of this book. We hope this incident will make people more aware of their responsibility in the representation of this text.”

Blackwell’s was approached for comment.

Image: Rosewoman / CC BY 2.0

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