Over 200 entertainment leaders urge Amazon, Barnes & Noble to drop antisemitic title

Letter to companies’ leaders warns they are ‘profiting from hate,’ endangering US Jews by offering ‘Hebrews to Negroes’ film and book of same title, promoted by Kyrie Irving

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)
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)

More than 200 hundred entertainment leaders, including household name stars, have urged Amazon and Barnes & Noble to stop selling an antisemitic title, warning executives that they are “profiting from hate.”

“Hebrews to Negroes,” a book and film, has recently seen a surge of purchases after it was promoted on social media by NBA star Kyrie Irving, boosting it to bestseller lists on Amazon and drawing pressure from Jewish groups to remove the titles.

In an open letter to Jeff Bezos, James Daunt, and other leaders at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, the signatories noted that despite “private messages and public calls to take the fallacious book and movie” off their sites, “you have so far refused to act.”

“Your companies are profiting from hate,” accused the letter published by the nonprofit entertainment industry organization Creative Community For Peace.

It warned that the titles were “causing tremendous harm to the Jewish community while spreading dangerous misinformation to an impressionable public that may be susceptible to its propaganda.”

“These works promote numerous antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact, including manufactured Hitler quotes, false claims of Jewish power and control, that the Jewish people fabricated the Holocaust, and that the Jewish people are fake Jews,” it said.

“The claims made in these works have led to the persecution and murder of millions of Jews throughout the centuries.”

Noting that in the US “there are more per capita hate crimes against Jews than any other minority, overwhelmingly more religious-based hate crimes against the Jewish people than any other religion,” it declared it was “unacceptable to allow this type of hate to foment on your platforms.”

As of Thursday, the titles no longer appeared to be available on the Barnes & Noble website.

A Barnes & Noble book store in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, March 14, 2022. (Matt Rourke/AP)

In a statement, Creative Community For Peace said those who signed the letter “are among the first in the entertainment industry to publicly and collectively call for the removal of the film, hoping to eliminate future radicalization and indoctrination.”

Those who put their names to the letter included actresses Mila Kunis, Debra Messing and Mayim Bialik; Sherry Lansing, the former CEO of Paramount Pictures; Haim Saban, the chairman and CEO of Saban Capital Group; David Draiman of the band Disturbed; and comedian Iliza Shlesinger.

Ari Ingel, director of Creative Community for Peace, said in the statement that the companies can “either continue to profit off of hatred and antisemitism, while turning a blind eye to the fears of the Jewish community, or they can choose to be an ally, and stand on the right side of history.”

“Corporations don’t need to help facilitate the spread of dangerous conspiracy theories that threaten the Jewish community,” he said. “We implore them to take the prudent, responsible steps needed to remove this content.”

Pressure has been mounting on Amazon to stop selling “Hebrews to Negroes,” which 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.

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

Last week the Anti-Defamation League sent a letter 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.

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 the 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.

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.”

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.

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.

In January, Barnes & Noble removed “The Protocols of the Elder of Zion” from its website following a social media outcry against the notorious fictional description of a Jewish plan for global domination.

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