Bowing to mounting pressure from Jewish groups, Wal-Mart has decided to stop selling "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" at its Web site. The Sept. 21 announcement by the world's largest retailers came just days after the Simon Wiesenthal Center began publicizing that Wal-Mart recently began selling the anti-Semitic tract that has fomented hatred toward Jews for more than a century.
In a Sept. 8 letter, Wiesenthal Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper said he found it difficult to believe that Wal-Mart would market such anti-Jewish propaganda in the post Sept. 11 world. Cooper asked Wal-Mart to immediately cease selling the forged document, penned by members of the Russian czar's secret police claiming that Jews want to take over the world Wal-Mart initially seemed defiant, releasing a Sept. 21 statement saying it responded to consumers' preferences by providing a large selection of books at low prices. Wal-Mart's Website also suggested the Protocols might be genuine. If valid, "it might cause some of us to keep a wary eye on world affairs," the site said. "We neither support nor deny its message, we simply make it available for those who wish a copy."
Later that day, Wal-Mart reversed itself after receiving calls from Jewish organizations and Jewish journalists penning stories on the controversy. "Based on significant feedback ... we made a business decision to remove this book," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Amy Colella said in a release.
Prior to Wal-Mart's decision, several local nonprofit executives criticized the retailer's judgment. Peter Eliasberg, managing attorney of the ACLU of Southern California, said he found it odd that Wal-Mart refused to carry Maxim, Stuff and other "racy" magazines but sold "Protocols."
"Wal-Mart is basically saying that a disproved anti-Semitic tract is more consistent with the image it wants to convey to the public than magazines with scantily clad celebrities in bikinis," he said.
Several booksellers carry "Protocols," including online retailers amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Borders.com and buy.com. The Barnes & Noble site carries a statement by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) debunking the tract. Amazon, which also features the ADL position, goes further, calling the book "one of the most infamous, and tragically influential examples of racist propaganda ever written."