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June 17, 2019 5:31 am

Penguin Cleans Up an Antisemitic Book — and Declares It Kosher

avatar by Harold Brackman

Opinion

Illustrative. Photo: ActuaLitté.

Pedro Baños’ How They Rule the World: The 22 Secret Strategies of Global Power has been attacked as antisemitic. The English language edition of the Spanish original, published by a Penguin subsidiary, has been expunged of references to the Rothschilds as “world rulers.” But English novelist Jeremy Duns has pointed out that the “octopus” title cover is a favorite image of antisemites and those who trade in Jewish power conspiracies.

In the original Spanish, the book claims: “It is clear that [the Rothschilds’] economic power is gigantic. As is their ability to influence in all senses, an aspect that, when considering their traditional distance from the media spotlight, has led to multiple speculations about their capacity to intervene in key global decisions.” This statement echoes other antisemitic smears by Baños in Spanish media over the years. Polls have consistently shown Spain at or near the top of antisemitic countries in Europe.

Penguin has responded by claiming that its own “thorough” review of the author and book (no details given) shows that what has been said about the Rothschilds is “robust” but not “antisemitic.” Contrast this to the comments of Niall Ferguson, who has published several scholarly volumes on the Rothschilds, that the power of the Rothschilds was always overblown, and that it collapsed under the Nazis like a house of cards.

Penguin Books was founded in England in 1935 by maverick English publisher Allen Lane, who deserves credit for “democratizing publishing” though marketing low-price, quality paperbacks. Lane was very sensitive to the rising tide of antisemitism in pre-war Europe, as reflected in one of Penguin’s early titles — The Jewish Problem by novelist Louis Golding, which exposed Jew hatred throughout the ages. Penguin also published Deborah Lipstadt’s Denying the Holocaust in 1993, for which Holocaust denier David Irving unsuccessfully sued both author and publisher for libel three years later in a London court.

Lane died in 1970. Now, Penguin’s management has “put lipstick on a pig” (to use the colloquialism) to obscure the antisemitism of both Pedro Baños and his book. I don’t think Lane would be proud.

Historian Harold Brackman is coauthor with Ephraim Isaac of From Abraham to Obama: A History of Jews, Africans, and African Americans (Africa World Press, 2015).

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