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Amazon CEO: Antisemitic film must stay on site, to allow for ‘different viewpoints’

Andy Jassy suggests decision on controversial ‘Hebrews to Negroes’ movie is not ‘straightforward,’ does not indicate if disclaimer could be added

Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy, discusses a new initiative during AWS re:Invent 2019 in Las Vegas, December 5, 2019. (Isaac Brekken/AP Images for NFL)
Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy, discusses a new initiative during AWS re:Invent 2019 in Las Vegas, December 5, 2019. (Isaac Brekken/AP Images for NFL)

Amazon’s CEO said Wednesday that the company has no intention of removing a virulently antisemitic film from its site despite it being at the center of a recent uptick in antisemitism.

“As a retailer of content to hundreds of millions of customers with a lot of different viewpoints, we have to allow access to those viewpoints, even if they are objectionable — objectionable and they differ from our particular viewpoints,” Andy Jassy said at a New York Times summit in Manhattan.

Jassy said that the decision is not as “straightforward” as those made to remove content that includes incitement to violence or pedophilia.

The film in question is called “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” and promotes 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.

Last month, NBA player Kyrie Irving shared a link to the film on social media, which resulted in torrents of criticism and a suspension from his team. He eventually apologized and was reinstated.

The surrounding controversy has rocketed the otherwise obscure film to the center of attention, and it has since become a bestseller, topping all documentaries on Amazon Prime Video.

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)

According to a report in Variety earlier this month, top Amazon executives have held numerous meetings debating the matter in recent weeks, but made no decision on removing the film — or the book which inspired it — or adding a disclaimer.

On Wednesday, Jassy did not say if the film would receive a disclaimer, something that has been pushed for by some groups.

Amazon has “a significant group of people” who are involved in making decisions over monitoring and removing objectionable content, Jassy said. “On top of that,” he added, the company would have to decide if “you will build another process where you have to evaluate which items get disclaimers.”

Amazon has come under pressure from Jewish groups to remove both the film and the book from its website.

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,” the ADL said. “They amplify longstanding antisemitic tropes about Jewish power, greed and claims that Jews control the media.”

Screen capture of the book ‘Hebrews to Negroes’ on the Amazon website, November 10, 2022. (Amazon. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

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

After doubling down on his original post for weeks, Irving later apologized for publicizing the film, saying he is “aware of the negative impact of my post towards the Jewish community and I take responsibility.”

He 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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