A leading bookstore with 20 chains nationwide has removed from sale The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, after an outcry from Jewish leaders.
Blackwell’s took down the item from its website after criticism of the synopsis used to describe the racist forgery, which said it “neither supports nor denies the message”.
After hundreds of complaints on social media, and statements from Jewish leaders, the outlet published a statement saying: “We have refrained from commenting publicly because we did not wish to give the oxygen of publicity to this title, but given the volume of comments on this situation, we feel that we must now comment.”
It said “the description that appeared for this book was an automatic feed from the publisher. It was neither
written nor endorsed by us”.
The original synopsis of the book questioned whether “the issue has already been settled conclusively — that it 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 the claim. Others maintain that it was and is absolutely genuine ..”
It continued, that: “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.”
This lead to outrage in the Jewish community, with the Board of Deputies, Campaign Against Antisemitism and Holocaust Educational Trust condemning the book’s sale and the original synopsis, urging a full apology.
Blackwell’s said the synopsis was used because “with over eighteen 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.
“However, as soon as this was brought to our attention, we replaced the description with one which expressed our complete and utter condemnation of the contents”.
Saying the outlet has a policy that “books should be made available – even hateful books – so that they can be studied
and understood”, Blackwell’s added it “cannot state in clearer terms that we believe that the contents of this book are abhorrent, we also believe steadfastly that books should be available and not pushed underground.”
“In the face of the unprecedented reaction to this ongoing situation, we have removed these books from sale, which of course may well attract further criticism.
“We believe that we have explained clearly and with honesty and integrity why this was not a course of action we wished to take, but we have now taken it.
“We are sorry for any hurt that has been caused, but we hope that our explanation provides a full, unexpurgated explanation of this entire situation. We will not be commenting further on this matter.”
Reacting to the listing of the item, Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl called it “astounding that a supposedly reputable retailer would distribute a notorious antisemitic forgery”, saying “we expect a full apology to the Jewish community.”
The Campaign Against Antisemitism said Blackwell’s “demonstrated grotesque ignorance in providing a synopsis that implies that the forgery may in fact be genuine”, while Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust said: “Ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, let’s say no to antisemitism and resign conspiracy theories to the annals of history where they belong.”
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.