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Rabbis call on Apple to ban anti-Semitic iTunes book

A group of European rabbis wants Apple to remove the long-running, anti-Semitic hoax known as "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Apple is again facing controversy over an item being sold through iTunes.

The Conference of European Rabbis wants Apple to remove a book known as "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," which is being sold as a 99-cent e-book through iTunes.

The Protocols, which surfaced early in the 20th century, purports to reveal a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. The book has since been discredited as a fake but was used by Nazis and is still used by some hate groups to justify their anti-Semitism.

The rabbis are concerned that the book's availability in a mobile format will make it easier to be used by "bigots and conspiracy theorists," according to USA Today.

"'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion' can and should be available for academics to study in its proper context, (but) to disseminate such hateful invective as a mobile app is dangerous and inexcusable," Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, conference president, said in a statement.

The publisher's description of the book on iTunes does label it as a fraud:

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is the one of the world's most famous conspiracy theories. It is a statement of prejudice and paranoia, a fake historical record and a grand hoax all rolled into one. The Protocols claim to prove that there is a Jewish plot to take over the world and purport to show that socialism, liberalism and every other reformist idea or activity are just tools of a Jewish secret cabal. The Protocols have been discredited many times over their 110-year-old history and would be laughable, except for the tragic role they played in the Twentieth Century.

But Goldschmidt told USA Today that the app is being sold in a context aimed at "propagating hatred."

The effort to ban the book presents a thorny dilemma: how far should Apple should go in restricting certain material?

In this case, the publisher seems to want to expose "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" as a hoax rather than promote it as factual. As such, should the book be banned, or should it be allowed in hopes that it will shine a light on anti-Semitism?

Apple has faced similar storms in the past. In 2009, Hitler's "Mein Kamph" made a brief appearance as an iTunes app before Apple quickly took it down, according to the Jerusalem Post.

CNET contacted Apple for comment and will update the story when we get more information.