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Chi Tribune on Barnes & Noble


By Stevenson Swanson 
Tribune Staff Writer 
March 25, 2000 
NEW YORK -- A leading Jewish advocacy group has called for bookseller Barnes 
and Noble to stop selling a notorious anti-Semitic book, charging that sales 
of the book help support right-wing hate groups.

In a letter this week to Barnes and Noble Chairman Leonard Riggio, the 
American Jewish Committee complained about the company selling two editions 
of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" that the committee contends are 
published by anti-Semitic and racist organizations.

"The Protocols," first published in Russia in 1902, paints a picture of 
Jewish conspirators plotting to take over the world. The Jewish committee's 
letter describes it as "a main staple of anti-Semitic movements around the 

Editions of the book published by Noontide Press and The Book Tree are 
available by special order at Barnes and Noble and at the bookseller's 
on-line operation, Rival on-line bookseller 
also offers both editions.

Spokesmen for the booksellers said they would continue to offer the book.

According to the Jewish committee's Ken Stern, Noontide Press is the 
publishing arm of the Liberty Lobby, a right-wing extremist group that 
questions whether 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust during World 
War II.

The Book Tree markets a number of anti-Semitic and conspiracy-theory titles, 
according to a committee statement.

Neither publisher could be reached for comment.

American Jewish Committee President Bruce M. Ramer and Executive Director 
David A. Harris, who requested that Barnes and Noble stop selling "The 
Protocols," did not challenge the company's right to sell the book.

"While you certainly have the right to distribute this book, you also have 
the right not to," Ramer and Harris wrote to Riggio. "We ask that you choose 
not to sell this book."

Stern, a specialist in anti-Semitic groups, said the Jewish committee would 
likely make a similar request to, possibly as early as next week.

"The Protocols" purports to be the record of how Jewish elders, meeting in 
secret, laid out a plan to overthrow Christian society. A British journalist 
showed in 1921 that the work was a fake, probably by Czarist Russians. But 
the book, which reached Western Europe and America after World War I, was 
widely influential in stirring up anti-Semitic feeling and was cited 
approvingly by such figures as Adolf Hitler and American industrialist Henry 

"If you're going to pick one work of the last couple hundred years that has 
been used to fuel violence against Jews, this is it," Stern said.

But who is publishing "The Protocols" is as important to the Jewish group as 
the book's anti-Semitic message.

"`The Protocols' is going to be out there," Stern said. "It is available. The 
question for us is whether it's appropriate for Barnes and Noble to sell hate 
literature and an even more critical issue is do they want to help fund these 
groups. We want them to think through the consequences of selling this."

Barnes and Noble spokeswoman Debra Williams said the company had changed the 
book's classification from "Judaica" to "World History" at the request of 
customers who objected to finding the book with mainstream books about Jewish 
culture and religion.

But the company has no plans to drop the title, she said.

"As booksellers, it is our policy to make available every book in print," 
said Williams.

Similarly, Amazon spokesman Bill Curry said the on-line retailer had changed 
the description for the Book Tree edition of "The Protocols" at the request 
of the Anti-Defamation League to make clear to shoppers that Amazon does not 
endorse the book's contentions. The ADL did not ask Amazon to drop the title.

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