NEW YORK (Sep. 21)
Jewish defense groups are taking on America’s superstore for peddling a quintessential anti-Semitic tract. Wal-Mart’s online sale of “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion” — a forgery that describes an alleged Jewish plan for world domination — should be ended, wrote Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, in a letter earlier this month to the chain, one of America’s largest retailers.
The flap comes amid a resurgence in anti-Semitism around the world.
The “bible for anti-Semites” — first published in Russia in the early 20th century — “has been resurrected and has new traction,” particularly in Arab countries, Cooper told JTA.
That’s why the Simon Wiesenthal Center recently began publishing a response — its “Dismantling the Big Lie: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” includes the original “Protocols,” with a chapter-by-chapter refutation.
And the center wants Wal-Mart to replac! e the “Protocols” with its publication.
“We have a very specific suggestion, which is if they actually want to share the information,” Cooper said, “they can make available the book we just published.”
But convincing Wal-Mart to ban a book may not be so easy.
“Walmart.com is an online retailer and our role is simply to provide our customers a choice within our broad, online book selection at every day low prices,” Wal-Mart spokeswoman Amy Colella told JTA by e-mail.
“As a retailer, we recognize customers have various interests and preferences, and we make case-by-case decisions based on what we believe our customers want. Again, we’re committed to our customers, and continue to focus on providing a wide range of books that appeal to our broad customer base.”
Wal-Mart is not the only online purveyor of the “Protocols.” Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com also sell the book.
In fact, the Anti-Defamation League addressed the issue several years ago with the be! hemoth bookstores.
But it took a different tack than the Simon Wie senthal Center — both then and now.
“In a free, democratic society, books should not be banned, no matter how reprehensible they are,” the group states on its Web site. “Suggesting to an online bookseller like Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com that they should limit the availability of a publication is like swimming upstream. Not only is the concept of banning books offensive, it is archaic. Offering navigational aids, however, is perfectly appropriate.”
At the time, the ADL got an agreement from the retailers to provide a disclaimer, saying they do not endorse the book, and would list an ADL statement about it.
Currently, some of the versions of the book for sale on the stores’ Web sites have disclaimers.
Wal-Mart, however, lists no disclaimer.
And ADL says its description of the book is problematic by framing its legitimacy as an open-ended question.
“Some say the issue has already been settled conclusively — that it is clearly a forgery,” states Wal-Ma! rt’s Web site. “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.”
It adds that “The Protocols were taken seriously by the Russians and by people in America like the famed industrialist, Henry Ford. This seems to give it validity, but people (and nations) have been known to be fooled.”
“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.”
In response, the ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman, fired off a letter Tuesday to Wal-Mart’s CEO.
“The ‘description’ of the book on your Web site suggests it may not be a forgery. In fact, there is no question that the ‘Protocols’ is a forgery,” Foxman states. “Historians, jurists and other authorities have publicly attested to its fraudulence.” “While Wal-Mart has discretion in what books it chooses to sell, it owes it to its customers to unequivocally state the nature of the book and to disassociate itself from any endorsement of it. To demonstrate its corporate responsibility, we expect Wal-Mart to do so in the case of the ‘Protocols,’ should it continue to list it in its online catalog.”
For its part, the Simon Wiesenthal Center says if Wal-Mart agrees to stop selling the book online, it will use the victory to pressure Amazon and Barnes & Noble to do the same.