Thursday, January 18, 2007

Henry Norr: Amazon customers protest Bezos's blatant attack on Carter's book on Israeli apartheid

It's bad enough to have to recognize that Amazon
CEO, Jeff Bezos is one of them. It's even more discouraging to find that that his ideology is so strong that he would go to the length of cutting off his nose for the sake of brutal racist Israeli policies. If he read Carter's book and others, it'd be easier for him to see that among many other atrocities, the Israelis and people like himself are assisting Bush-Cheney's drive to permanent war, and their mad plan to attack Iran. How many books does Bezos think he'll sell after that?
As far as signing the petition, perhaps Henry Norr could draw up one that doesn't place people like me who have an connection in a conflict of interest and doesn't commit us to breaking all our Amazon relationships. The goal might be to get the most possible numbers to focus on Bezos's shameless pro Israeli partisanship.

David comments:
Yes, I think I have the same problem with breaking any connection with Amazon and would appreciate an alternative petition.
Henry responds:
Hi, Ronald. I understand the bind you are in, but I'm not sure there are enough people in a situation like yours to justify a whole separate petition, or if there are, it would surely be better if someone in your category wrote the petition and publicity. How about just e-mailing directly to I'm sure Mr.Bezos himself won't read it, but somebody will. If you know other people who have business connections with Amazon but don't like what they're doing with Carter's book, maybe you could also organize them to write to Bezos. Regards, Henry

Henry Norr wrote:
Hey, folks, here's the latest on the campaign to get to treat Carter's book fairly. The total of signatures on the petition has now topped 13,000. And if anyone thinks we may have been overreaching in charging Amazon with bias, do check out their version of NY Times bestseller list - Carter's book ranks 5th on the Time list, so Amazon deals with that "problem" by shamelessly skipping from 4 to 6 on the page where they display the list. Mind-boggling!

If you haven't yet signed the petition, it's not too late - onward to 20,000!


January 17, 2007
Contact: Henry Norr
(510) 841-5035

10,000+ Customers Demand Fair Treatment
for Jimmy Carter's Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid
Online giant favors hostile review,
omits former president's latest book from bestseller list

Berkeley, CA – More than 10,000 customers of have signed an online petition threatening to close their accounts and take their business elsewhere if the Internet shopping site continues to present a new book by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in an unusually negative light.

The petition, posted at , accuses Amazon of treating Carter's Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid unfairly by posting a lengthy and unabashedly hostile review on the page where it lists the book, in a section normally reserved for short, even-handed descriptions of the title in question.

In addition, Amazon simply omits the Carter book from its version of the New York Times bestseller list. In reality, the book ranked number 5 in the Times' latest list of hardcover nonfiction bestsellers. Amazon's version of the same list, however, avoids mentioning Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by brazenly omitting the number 5 slot – it jumps directly from number 4 to number 6! (Compare to ).

In the book Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to bring about a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, points to Israel's 40-year-long occupation of the Palestinian territories as the key obstacle to peace in the region. He compares Israel's treatment of the Palestinian population to the brutal apartheid system that once kept South African blacks subjugated.

The review that provoked the petition, written by New Yorker staff writer and former Israeli prison guard Jeffrey Goldberg, labels the book "cynical," disparages Carter's understanding of the conflict as "anti-historical," and accuses him of being "easy on Arab aggression and Palestinian terror." The review originally appeared in the Washington Post.

According to Henry Norr, a former journalist and initiator of the petition, its purpose is not to challenge Amazon's right to post a negative review, but to demand the same kind of nondiscriminatory treatment most books get on the site. The Goldberg review appears on the Amazon page < > under the heading "Editorial Reviews," a section that on most Amazon book pages contains only one- or two-paragraph synopses from book-listing services such as Publishers Weekly or the American Library Association's Booklist, or descriptions by the book's publisher or by Amazon itself.

Currently, the "Editorial Reviews" section on Amazon's U.S. site includes a one-paragraph, 198-word blurb from Publishers Weekly followed by the full, 20-paragraph, 1,636-word text of Goldberg's totally negative review.

The petition, which is addressed to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, suggests several possible remedies: removing the Goldberg review, moving it to a secondary page Amazon already uses for additional material on the book, or "restor[ing] a semblance of balance by giving comparable space and prominence to a more positive evaluation of Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid."

If Bezos doesn't choose one of these options by January 22, petition signers pledge to stop shopping at Amazon, to completely close their accounts, and to urge friends, family, and associates to do likewise.

"I think Amazon should stick to their usual formula of posting only brief, more or less neutral descriptions on the main page for any book," said Norr. "But if they insist on including Goldberg's attack piece on the U.S. site, they owe it to their customers – as well as their shareholders - to put something more positive alongside, something that mentions the many merits of the book."

"If you want to see what a normal review looks like, you have only to go to the Amazon UK treatment of Carter's book," said Paul Larudee, who worked with Norr to publicize the petition. "It is a single paragraph, mildly promotional, but not grinding any particular political ax. By comparison, the North American site is hatchet job."

Other international Amazon sites also present the book even-handedly, according to reports by signers of the petition. So does the U.S. site of Amazon's chief competitor, .

Before creating the petition, Norr, Larudee, and others sent e-mail directly to Bezos, objecting to Amazon's one-sided treatment of the book and suggesting several favorable assessments – from publications such as the Wall Street Journal, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Nation – that could be added.

"Unfortunately, Bezos turned us all down flat," Norr said. Responses from Amazon's "Executive Customer Relations" staff suggested that the letter writers post their own reviews. In fact, Amazon does display reader reviews on its book pages, and in the case of Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, a large majority of the posted reviews are positive about the book. Reader reviews, however, are not displayed as prominently on the page as "Editorial Reviews," and they may not carry as much weight with potential buyers.

The petition also complains that Amazon does not include information customers need in order to evaluate Goldberg's attack on the book – such as the fact that he volunteered to serve in the Israeli military and served as a military policeman guarding Palestinian detainees in a prison camp notorious for its harsh conditions.

The petition was first posted on January 10, when it garnered 84 signatures. The next day 693 more customers signed on, and since then the total has climbed steadily. Signers come not only from the U.S., but from all over the world. Many added comments expressing admiration for Carter's book, disappointment over the site's apparent bias against it, and determination to follow through on closing their accounts if Amazon doesn't correct the situation. The petition will be sent to Bezos later this week.

As of noon PST on Jan. 17, the total number of signatures on the petition stands at 12,989 and continues to climb rapidly.


Other assessments of Carter's Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid:

Ali Abunimah, "A Palestinian view of Jimmy Carter's book," Wall Street Journal, Dec. 26, 2006:

George Bisharat, "Truth at last, while breaking a U.S. taboo of criticizing Israel," Philadelphia Inquirer,
Jan. 2, 2007:

Chris Hedges, "Get Carter," The Nation, Jan. 8, 2007:

Saree Makdisi, "Carter's apartheid charge rings true," San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 20, 2006:


Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure about the validity of this campaign against Amazon, Ronald. It seems to be motivated by the same brand of breathless paranoia which motivates Zion and its defenders. In particular it assumes that Amazon customers are stupid. A best-seller list, with the 5th listed book entirely omitted, would surely only serve to arouse curiosity about the missing book. Also, most people with suspicious minds would read an overly long rant written by a Goldberg/blum/baum expecting it to be biased in a petty, hair-splitting manner - which it is.
Apart from an imbalance in the size of the reviews, it's a typical Amazon offer to sell - complete with immediately available new and used stock of the book in all of its media versions. All of which invites speculation that the petition was motivated solely by the old chestnut that Size Really DOES Matter.


Anonymous said...

when the good'ol jew boys boicot is OK. When the rest of us stand by the truth it's not OK. I know where you are coming from.