BY NORM DIXON
Amiri Baraka — a famous African-American poet and political activist who, as LeRoi Jones, wrote the classic book Blues People in the 1960s — is under attack for a poem he wrote about the 9/11 attacks, titled "Somebody Blew Up America".
The state government of New Jersey is attempting to force Baraka to resign from his position as the state's Poet Laureate. New Jersey Governor James McGreevey has asked the New Jersey parliament to give him the power to sack Baraka.
The poem asks what did top US and Israeli officials know about the World Trade Center attacks and criticises US foreign policies. In response, the right-wing Zionist Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has slandered Baraka as an "anti-Semite". McGreevey has demanded that Baraka apologise and resign. Baraka has refused.
On October 2, Baraka hit back. He said that the pro-Israel ADL was distorting the contents of the poem to "cover the fact that this poem is an attack on imperialism, national oppression, monopoly capitalism, racism, anti-Semitism. I challenge the ADL to show anywhere in this poem that it is anti-Semitic in the least".
Baraka continued: "The poem's underlying theme focuses on how Black Americans have suffered from domestic terrorism since being kidnapped into US chattel slavery, eg., [from] slave owners, US and state laws, the Klan, skinheads, domestic Nazis [and by] lynching, denial of rights, national oppression, racism, character assassination, historically, and at this very minute throughout the US.
"The relevance of this to Bush's call for a 'War on Terrorism', is that Black people feel we have always been victims of terror, governmental and general, so we cannot get as frenzied and hysterical as the people who [ask] us to dismiss our history and contemporary reality to join them, in the name of a shallow 'patriotism', in attacking the majority of people in the world, especially people of colour and in the Third World...
"The ADL disingenuously makes no mention of my probing into the creators of the Holocaust, i.e. 'Who put the Jews in ovens,/and who helped them do it,/Who said America First/and Ok'd the yellow stars'. Which of course is a reference to America's domestic fascists just before World War II and the Nazi Holocaust.
"Nor do these ADL purveyors of falsehood mention the poem's listing of some of the Jews across the world, oppressed, imprisoned, murdered by actual anti-Semitic forces, open or disguised. The poem asks, 'Who killed Rosa Luxembourg, Liebknecht/Who murdered the Rosenbergs/And all the good people iced, tortured, assassinated, vanished..."
"No, I will not apologise, I will not resign."
[Read Amiri Baraka's poem at <http://www.counterpunch.org/poem1003.html>.]
From Green Left Weekly, October 23, 2002.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.