A Holocaust survivor wears a yellow star during a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Yad Vashem has called on Amazon to remove Holocaust denial books from its online store, accusing the Internet retail giant of facilitating the spread of hate speech.
The appeal came in the form of a letter penned by Yad Vashem’s director of the libraries, Dr. Robert Rozett, to the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos.
“It has been clear for many years now that Holocaust denial literature is freely available for purchase over Amazon. Many of the items appear with glowing readers’ reviews and recommendations for further reading in the same vein,” Rozett wrote, attaching to his message several examples of rave reviews of books titled True History of the Holocaust. Did six million really die?
and The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry.
Mentioning that Yad Vashem had – in vain – broached the issue with Amazon soon after the latter’s founding, Rozett told The Jerusalem Post that in light of an unfortunate change in climate with more visible antisemitism, “maybe the time is a little more ripe for them to take up the idea that they need to be more careful in what they sell.”
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“Once again, given the presence of antisemitism around the globe, which has become more prevalent in recent years, we strongly urge you to remove books that deny, distort and trivialize the Holocaust from your store,” Rozett wrote to Bezos.
“Holocaust denial and other forms of hate speech indisputably nurture prejudice and hate crimes,” he continued. “Open discussion of ideas is certainly essential to pluralistic and democratic systems, but facilitating the spread of such hate-filled ideas is irresponsible, to say the least. As a major agent for the dissemination of ideas, it is incumbent upon Amazon, as it is also incumbent upon Internet providers in general, to act to curb the spread of hatred.”
He concluded by offering Yad Vashem’s assistance in identifying publications that foment Holocaust denial, distortion and trivialization.
“It’s not only Amazon, and there are a lot of forces trying to get this hatred removed or marginalized,” Rozett told the Post, also noting that in countries where Holocaust denial is illegal, such books are not available on Amazon. In the US, however, they are still freely available.
“There’s a civic responsibility,” he stressed. “These are very big giants of information.”
He said that while he would ultimately like the store to entirely remove such content from its website, he offered secondary solutions such as clearly marking the nature of the books.
He also noted that Amazon suggests further reading of the same kind to users who are browsing Holocaust denial books. Acknowledging that this is likely the result of an algorithm, he said this is another factor he would like to see changed.
“But the best thing would be if they would sign up not to sell this material,” Rozett emphasized, adding that while his letter was sent out to Amazon, its message applies universally.