Recently, the World Jewish Congress and others urged Amazon.com to remove from its offerings books that deny or belittle the Holocaust and extoll white supremacy.
An Oct. 14 report in the British online magazine The Kernel had disclosed that Amazon carries such titles as “Did six million really die? The truth at last,” “The Synagogue of Satan” and “The myth of extermination of the Jews.”
In a letter to Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos, we appealed to Amazon’s sense of corporate responsibility, arguing that “no one should profit from the sale of such vile and offensive hate literature,” adding that “many Holocaust survivors are deeply offended by the fact that the world’s largest online retailer is making money from selling such material.”
Apparently, the company has chosen to ignore our campaign. As of this writing, those titles are still being sold on the site.
Amazon’s corporate behavior contrasts starkly with that of Ebay.com, which last week immediately pulled and apologized for Holocaust memorabilia that was put up for sale on its site.
“We are very sorry that these items have been listed on eBay and we are removing them,” eBay spokesman Steve Heywood said. “We don’t allow listings of this nature, and dedicate thousands of staff to policing our site and use the latest technology to detect items that shouldn’t be for sale. We very much regret that we didn’t live up to our own standards. We have made a donation to charity to reflect our concern.”
Free speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment, but that should not serve as an excuse for big corporations like Amazon.com to make money by selling hate literature. And sorry, all you would-be First Amendment defenders, asking Amazon not to sell such things is not the same as “banning books.” It’s just asking Amazon to be a responsible corporate citizen and take itself out of the league of such purveyors of hateful filth as Thirdreichdepot.com, which sells reproductions of SS and other Nazi uniforms. Such material will always be available to those who seek it even if Amazon forgoes making its few nickels on this trade.
Moreover, we’re just asking Amazon to live up to its own standards. The firm’s guidelines state: “Amazon.com reserves the right to determine the appropriateness of items sold on our site. Also, be aware of cultural differences and sensitivities. Some items may be acceptable in one country, but unacceptable in another.”
Does Amazon.com really believe that Holocaust denial is not offensive to most Americans?
In many countries, the sale of such books is not only deemed offensive, it is also illegal. Nonetheless, they can be ordered freely via Amazon.com and are shipped to many parts of the world.
There may not be a legal obligation to do so, but there is a moral responsibility not to profit from the sale of books that are considered offensive and obscene by a vast majority of its customers. Even the business that some call “The Everything Store” ought to have standards.
Robert Singer is CEO of the World Jewish Congress, which represents Jews in 100 communities across six continents.