A month after Irving scandal, antisemitic book and film still available on Amazon

Company has so far resisted numerous calls to remove contentious content from its platform, despite report of multiple internal debates on the issue

Composite photo: The film 'Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America' is seen on Amazon Prime; Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving plays during an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, in Philadelphia. (Screenshot; AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Composite photo: The film 'Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America' is seen on Amazon Prime; Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving plays during an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, in Philadelphia. (Screenshot; AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

A month after the NBA’s Kyrie Irving caused a scandal by promoting a film with antisemitic tropes on social media, Amazon has yet to remove either the movie or the book it is based on from its platforms.

Irving landed in hot water for his support of “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” facing torrents of criticism and being suspended by his team. He eventually apologized and was reinstated.

Meanwhile, the film has become a bestseller, topping all documentaries on Amazon Prime Video. On IMDb, the Amazon-owned popular movie database, the film now has 650 reviews. A snapshot of the title’s page from February shows it had only eight reviews at the time.

According to a report in Variety this week citing unidentified insiders, though top Amazon executives have held numerous meetings in which they debated the matter in recent weeks, there are currently no plans to nix the problematic materials.

The report says Amazon at one point considered adding a disclaimer to the film “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” but had backed off that plan as well.

The movie is hosted by Amazon as part of its Amazon Prime Direct program, which enables independent filmmakers to upload their works for worldwide audiences.

The film and the book it is based on focus on the idea that the true descendants of the ancient Israelites are modern-day African Americans and that today’s Jews fraudulently claim that ancestry. It also contains a series of other antisemitic claims, including Holocaust denial and the false allegation that Jews controlled the American slave trade.

Amazon has come under pressure from Jewish groups to remove the titles from its website.

According to Variety, Amazon is still reluctant to remove the content, while now considering removing the titles from its auto-fill suggestions on the site’s search bar.

Amazon has not commented on why it is unwilling to remove the content from its site but has been reluctant to censor contentious self-published content in the past, citing free speech principles. Variety speculated that removing the titles could be a slippery slope for the company, leading to a deluge of demands on other controversial content.

The Anti-Defamation League has warned Amazon that the titles “will lead directly to the harm of Jews.

“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 has said “it is critical that Amazon act quickly to remove this blatantly hateful material.”

“It’s irresponsible to make money from such a toxic book,” Alvin H. Rosenfeld, director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and a professor at Indiana University, told The Washington Post.

More than 200 entertainment leaders have also urged Amazon and Barnes & Noble to stop selling an antisemitic title, warning executives that they are “profiting from hate.” The titles no longer appear to be available on the Barnes & Noble website.

Amazon’s guidelines for filmmakers distributing films on the company’s platform say that “all titles undergo manual and automated reviews,” which are meant to catch copyright violations or sexually explicit content as well as “derogatory comments, hate speech, or threats specifically targeting any group or individuals.”

The company’s policy for booksellers says Amazon can remove “offensive” content. It also says that it will allow a broad range of views to be aired.

“As a bookseller, we believe that providing access to the written word is important, including content that may be considered objectionable,” the policy says.

Irving has apologized for publicizing the film, saying he is “aware of the negative impact of my post towards the Jewish community and I take responsibility.”

Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving speaks before the team’s NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Oct. 19, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

He’s offered his “deep regrets to anyone that felt threatened or felt hurt by what I posted, that wasn’t my intent at all.”

The controversy surrounding Irving, and antisemitic comments from hip hop star Kanye West, have contributed to a national conversation about Jew hatred and put US Jews further on edge amid record levels of reported antisemitic incidents.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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