A month after NBA’s Kyrie Irving caused a scandal by promoting a movie with anti-Semitic symbols on social media, Amazon has yet to remove the movie or book it’s based on from its platforms.
Irving landed himself in hot water for his support of Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, facing torrents of criticism and being suspended by his team. Eventually apologized and reinstated.
Meanwhile, the film became a bestseller, topping all documentaries on Amazon Prime Video. On IMDb, the popular movie database owned by Amazon, the movie now has 650 reviews. A screenshot of the title page from February shows that it only had eight reviews at the time.
according to Report Per Variety this week citing unidentified insiders, although top Amazon executives have had numerous meetings discussing the matter in recent weeks, there are currently no plans to rescind the problematic material.
The report says Amazon at one point considered adding a disclaimer to Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, but backtracked on that plan as well.
Amazon is hosting the film as part of its Amazon Prime Direct program, which enables independent filmmakers to upload their work to audiences around the world.
The film and book build on and focus on the idea that the true descendants of the ancient Israelites are modern-day African Americans, and that today’s Jews claim African ancestry. It also contains a series of other antisemitic claims, including denial of the Holocaust and the false claim that Jews controlled the American slave trade.
Amazon has come under pressure from Jewish groups to remove the titles from its website.
According to Variety, Amazon is still reluctant to remove the content, while now considering removing titles from auto-fill suggestions on the site’s search bar.
Amazon has not commented on why it is not willing to remove content from its site but has been reluctant to censor controversial, self-published content in the past, citing free speech principles. Variety predicted that removing the titles could be a slippery slope for the company, leading to a flood of requests for other controversial content.
The Anti-Defamation League warned Amazon that the headlines would “directly harm Jews.”
These views are not different views on history, they are outright anti-Semitic hatred. They amplify old anti-Semitic tropes about power and greed and claims that Jews control the media.”
“It is important that Amazon moves quickly to remove this blatantly hateful material,” the American Jewish Committee said.
“It is irresponsible to make money off such a toxic book,” Alvin Rosenfeld, director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and professor at Indiana University, told The Washington Post.
More than 200 entertainment leaders also have it urge Amazon and Barnes & Noble stop selling an antisemitic title, warning executives that they are “profiting from hate.” Titles are no longer available on the Barnes & Noble website.
Amazon’s guidelines for filmmakers who distribute films on the company’s platform state that “all titles are subject to manual and automated reviews,” which aim to detect copyright infringement or sexually explicit content as well as “degrading comments, hate speech, or threats aimed at Specifically any group or individual.”
The company’s policy for booksellers states that Amazon can remove “offensive” content. It also says it will allow broadcasts of a wide range of viewpoints.
“As a bookseller, we believe it is important to provide access to the written word, including content that might be considered objectionable,” the policy says.
Irving apologized for publishing the film, saying that he was “aware of the negative impact my position has on the Jewish community and I take responsibility.”
He expressed his “deepest regrets to anyone who feels threatened or feels hurt by what I have posted, that was never my intention.”
The controversy surrounding Irving, and anti-Semitic comments from hip-hop star Kanye West, have contributed to a national conversation about Jew-hating and made American Jews more on edge amid record levels of reported antisemitic incidents.
Agencies contributed to this report.