Blackwell’s book advert called notorious anti-Semitic forgery ‘interesting’ and ‘possibly genuine’

·3 min read
Blackwell's bookstore has come under fire over an advertisement for a anti-Semitic conspiracy text listed on its website - PhotoEdit / Alamy Stock Photo
Blackwell's bookstore has come under fire over an advertisement for a anti-Semitic conspiracy text listed on its website - PhotoEdit / Alamy Stock Photo

A leading bookstore has advertised an anti-Semitic conspiracy text as an “interesting book” which had “validity”, prompting outrage from the Jewish community.

Blackwell’s, which has 20 shops nationwide, issued its justification for selling The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, saying it “neither supports nor denies the message” of the racist forgery.

The text is a notoriously fraudulent document that served as a pretext and rationale for anti-Semitism, mainly in the early 20th century.

Blackwell’s was urged to issue a full apology after it listed the item on its website, translated from Russian, for £15.95.

Blackwell's listed the racist forgery text on its website for £15.95
Blackwell's listed the racist forgery text on its website for £15.95

Following pressure from the Jewish community, the bookseller changed the synopsis on its website from saying: “We neither support nor deny its message, we simply make it available for those who wish a copy” to: “Not all documents that change the world are good — some are despicable, and leave hatred and bigotry in their wake. Such is the case with the 1900-era anti-Semitic manifesto.”

Reacting to the listing of the item, Marie van der Zyl, the board of deputies president said: “It is astounding that a supposedly reputable retailer would distribute a notorious anti-Semitic forgery accusing a cabal of Jews of being behind a plot to rule the world, with a blurb on its website that claims the work could be genuine.”

A spokesperson for the charity Campaign Against Antisemitism added: “The reputable bookseller has demonstrated grotesque ignorance in providing a synopsis that implies that the forgery may in fact be genuine.”

The original synopsis on the bookseller’s website called it: a book which “supposedly outlines a plan of action by elders of the Jewish Nation to rule the world — to take control over key organizations, including assets, in order to manipulate world affairs in their favour”.

The website’s original description for The Protocols of the Meetings of the Learned Elders of Zion, said that “some say the issue has already been settled conclusively – that it is clearly a forgery. 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.

“Others maintain that it was and is absolutely genuine — proven by the fact that all copies were destroyed in Russia in the early 1900s.

“If The Protocols are a forgery, they still form an interesting book which deserves to be studied.”

It adds: “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.”

Description came from ‘automatic feed’

Trading since 1879, Blackwell’s of Oxford is the largest academic and specialist bookseller in the UK.

Its spokesperson said: “The description that appeared for The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion was an automatic feed from the publisher, not something written or endorsed by us.

“With over eighteen million books on our website, we are unable to physically check each record, but once this was brought to our attention, we replaced the description with these words which express our complete condemnation of the contents of this book.”