Penguin orders independent review of book over antisemitism claims
Julia Neuberger to analyse Pedro Baños’s How They Rule the World, which includes passages about the Rothschild family
‘Clearly expresses robust opinions’ … Pedro Baños
Penguin Random House has asked Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger to independently review one of its books, Pedro Baños’s How They Rule the World, after allegations of antisemitism made against the author continue to grow.
Concerns had been raised over imprint Ebury’s decision to cut 30,000 words from the English-language edition of the Spanish book, including passages about the Rothschild family, a banking dynasty often subject to antisemitic conspiracy theories. Baños, a colonel in the Spanish army, had also called the Rothschilds “dominant” and has compared them to the Illuminati in interviews. The cover of both the English and Spanish editions also features octopus tentacles – imagery long associated with antisemitism.
Ebury said last week that it had undertaken a thorough review into the book and concluded that while the author “clearly expresses robust opinions”, they had found no evidence of antisemitism. But on Friday, Ebury asked Neuberger to conduct an external review of both the English language and a translation of the Spanish edition of the book, along with any other aspects that she feels are relevant to making an overall assessment. Neuberger – author of Antisemitism: What It Is. What It Isn’t. Why It Matters – was also asked by the publisher to consult with a small number of other independent experts.
Neuberger, who has not finished her review, told Radio 4 on Monday that the UK edition of the book was definitely not antisemitic and said it was unfair to describe the tentacle imagery as antisemitic, saying it had been used to denote people controlling other people since the 19th century.
Looking at the 30,000 words cut from the Spanish edition, she said Baños’ writing “betray[s] a sort of fascination” with the Rothschilds, “that they’re very powerful and very rich and sort of secretive”.
She told the Today programme: “It’s not antisemitic in itself, but it hints at stuff about the Jewish conspiracies: powerful, half-hidden, secretive groups mainly of Jewish men bankers. That all goes back to something called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which is a fake – it was proved to be a fake actually in London in 1921 – but nevertheless it keeps reappearing..
“I think what would push it over the line is if he’s known to have made lots of allusions, if you like, to some kind of Jewish conspiracy. Because that is antisemitism. I think where people allege that there is a Jewish conspiracy to control the world or control banking or whatever it is, that is antisemitism … because it evokes the stuff about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and we know that that itself is pretty nasty.”
She said there were some questions to be asked about the edits that were made, and that Baños’s past needed to be looked at more closely.
Penguin Random House chief executive Tom Weldon said the external review was “an unusual step, which is a mark of how seriously we view the complaints made and the complexity and sensitivity of the issues involved”.
He added: “We will give full consideration to the review and any conclusions and recommendations it makes within the context of our long-held commitment to publish responsibly across a spectrum of opinion and a diversity of voices.”