Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt (via The Examiner)
A European rabbinical group is protesting an anti-Semitic text distributed as an app on Apple’s App Store and calling for its removal, according to The Jewish Press. The app, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” is a forged work from 1903 that describes a supposed Jewish plot to take over the world.
The Brussels-based Conference of European Rabbis has contacted Apple to request that the company remove the app, but has thus far not received a reply, according to the group’s president, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt.
The app was released earlier this year by Egyptian developer Innovation Group and is only available in Arabic. It does contain a disclaimer that the work is “a forgery,” but does not address the clear anti-Semitic theme of the text.
Attempting to balance free speech and censorship, Mr. Goldschmidt stated that the book should remain available for religious and historical study within the proper context but to “disseminate such hateful invective as a mobile app is dangerous and inexcusable” and that it could be “used by anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists and their fellow travelers to pursue their racist agenda.”
Joining the rabbis’ calls for Apple to remove the app is Israel’s information minister, Yuil Edelstein. “They wouldn’t allow pedophilia and pornography on their networks; they shouldn’t allow xenophobia, anti-Semitism, or racism,” he told the Associated Press.
If Apple does remove the app, and if the removal is permanent, it would not be the first time that social pressure forced Apple’s hand on religiously based expression.
In late 2010, Apple removed “The Manhattan Declaration” app from a conservative Christian organization of the same name. The app, initially approved with a 4+ age rating, included anti-gay and anti-abortion messages and was removed by Apple for “violating the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people.”
Apple does have relatively strict guidelines for its iOS and Mac App Stores, distinguishing it from open competitors such as Android. Whether Apple, now that the company’s attention is drawn to the matter, chooses to find “The Protocols” app in violation of those guidelines remains to be seen, but raises interesting questions about the applicability of censorship to so-called historical works.
How old must a work be in order to be considered “historical,” and how much value should that work provide to overcome any hateful or offensive themes it may possess? These are the questions Apple faces due to its choice to act as gatekeeper for iOS applications, and the future of the App Store’s significance in culture and education depends on how Apple answers them.