This week Amazon pulled a controversial book being sold through its website after Israeli media led an outcry against it, charging the US retail giant with hosting Hezbollah propaganda containing incitement to violence against Israelis written by the group's second in command.
"Hezbollah: The Story from Within" was published in 2010 by Naim Qassem, the deputy head of Hezbollah, who is a designated international terrorist by the United States. The rare "insider account" of Iran-backed Hezbollah has been translated into several languages and had reportedly long been available in English through Amazon.com.
According to the Israeli national Hebrew-language daily newspaper Maariv, "a reporter found that the English edition of the book was being offered for sale on the Amazon site," and was alarmed at "a clear instance of breaking sanctions and helping to finance terrorism" on the part of Amazon.
"A Maariv reporter contacted Amazon with findings in the book and Amazon subsequently decided to immediately remove the book from its sales sites in the United States and around the world," a rough English translation of the Maariv story said. The Hebrew-language report said the book was filled with anti-Semitic statements and questioned Israel's right to exit.
Though it had apparently been offered by Amazon for years, the book was spotlighted this week after controversy erupted between Israel and a United Nations official, after the official called it "necessary reading".
On Tuesday Israel slammed the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis for holding a high level meeting with Qassem after which the UN official publicly praised the senior Hezbollah official.
ممتن للنقاش الصريح حول مروحة واسعة من المواضيع مع نائب الأمين العام لحزب الله الشيخ نعيم قاسم. بالاضافة تلقيت نسخة عن كتابه - قراءة ضرورية. https://t.co/STXFszgNqs— UNSCOL (@UNSCOL) May 20, 2019
Kubis had confirmed on Twitter that he not only met with Qassem, but received a copy of his most well-known book, which he also praised.
The Times of Israel reported of the statement:
Kubis was likely referring to “Hizbullah (Hezbollah): The Story from Within,” a 464-page tome first published in English a decade ago. The book, published by the London-based Saqi Books, is available on Amazon.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman went so far as to denounce the meeting via Twitter, saying “You know what else is ‘necessary reading’? U.N. Resolution 1701” — in reference to a resolution intended to resolve the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.
Within two days following the incident, the initial link through which the book had been sold on Amazon led to an error page, in apparent confirmation that Amazon banned the book at the request of the Israeli reporter.
On Thursday, Middle East and Iran analyst Matthew Levitt confirmed that the "Hezbollah deputy Secretary General's book [is] no longer available on Amazon after journalist points out its anti-Israel incitement to violence & sanctions implications of selling it."
The fresh controversy comes following new efforts by Israel to convince the UN to officially recognize Hezbollah as a terror group — an effort which has reportedly failed to gain traction.
The Trump administration has also of late taken more aggressive sanctions measures on Hezbollah leadership amid the ongoing heightened tensions with Iran. Hezbollah has long been seen as an arm of the Ayatollahs in Lebanon and Syria.