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Amazon under pressure to remove antisemitic film promoted by Irving as sales soar

ADL, American Jewish Committee call on company to take action against movie shared on social media by NBA player after it becomes site’s top-selling documentary

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving looks out during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, in New York. (AP/Jessie Alcheh)
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving looks out during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, in New York. (AP/Jessie Alcheh)

JTA — As the antisemitic book and film that NBA star Kyrie Irving promoted on social media continues to occupy best-seller lists on Amazon, the e-commerce giant has come under pressure from Jewish groups to remove the titles from its website.

The company is now considering adding a disclaimer to the film, according to The New York Times.

The Anti-Defamation League sent a letter Friday to Amazon on behalf of itself and Irving’s team, the Brooklyn Nets, calling on the company to either remove the “virulently antisemitic book and related video” or to label them with a note about their offensive content.

“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,” the letter reads, according to 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.”

On Monday, another major Jewish group, the American Jewish Committee, asked Amazon to address the issue by removing the book and film.

“Effectively combating antisemitism requires corporate leaders to recognize what antisemitism is and take firm action to confront it,” AJC CEO Ted Deutch said in a statement. “Amid the controversy surrounding Kyrie Irving’s sharing of a film filled with antisemitic tropes and Holocaust denial, it is critical that Amazon act quickly to remove this blatantly hateful material.”

Fans wearing matching “Fight Antisemitism” shirts watch Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, in New York. (AP/Jessie Alcheh)

A little over a week ago, Irving posted a link to the Amazon page for “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” a documentary based on a book by the same name.

The film has since become a bestseller, topping all documentaries on Amazon Video. On IMDb, the Amazon-owned popular movie database, the film now has 370 reviews. A snapshot of the title’s page from February shows it had only eight reviews at the time.

Meanwhile, the related book was the 78th best seller overall on Amazon and 2nd in the Christian Education category as of Monday.

“Hebrews to Negroes” focuses 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.

Irving rejected the criticism he attracted after posting a link to the film and remained defiant following his suspension from the Nets for declining to say he had no antisemitic views. Eventually, however, he apologized for publicizing the film, saying he is “aware of the negative impact of my post towards the Jewish community and I take responsibility.”

The Nets want Irving to take a series of steps before allowing him to return to the team, including meeting with Jewish leaders and the ADL.

As long as the film stays on Amazon, the company continues to collect half the purchase price, distributing the other half to the filmmaker. Some people are calling on the company to donate its proceeds from the book and film to groups that fight the spread of hate.

“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.

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.

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