Jewish World Review Oct. 23, 2002 / 17 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Edward I. Koch

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New Jersey's bigot laureate is no private citizen and his 'defenses' are idiotic | The anti-Semitic and racist views of American poet and playwright, and now poet laureate of New Jersey, Amiri Baraka, are well documented.

Arnold Forster and Benjamin Epstein of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) provide numerous examples of Baraka's "anti-white and anti-Jewish stance" in their book "The New Anti-Semitism." For instance, they cite his 1966 poem, "Black Art," which reads in pertinent part as follows:

"…We want poems like fists beating niggers out of Jocks or dagger poems in the slimy bellies of the owner-jews…Setting fire and death to whities as-."

A 1967 Baraka poem entitled "The Black Man is Making New Gods" also is cited. It includes the statement "Atheist jews double crossers stole our secrets crossed the white desert white to spill them and turn into wops and bulgarians. The Fag's Death they give us on a cross."

Forster and Epstein also point out that a collection of Baraka's essays published in 1972 contains "numerous derogatory references to Jews."

In an October 17, 2002 "Salon Premium" article authored by Suzy Hansen, Baraka is quoted as saying "As for my personal trek through the wasteland of anti-Semitism, it was momentary and never completely real." Rubbish.

As recently as October 2001, Baraka authored a poem entitled "Somebody Blew Up America," writing "Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed. Who told 4,000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers to stay home that day. Why did Sharon stay away?"

Baraka's defense is that he is critical of Israel, not anti-Semitic. Baloney. As Abe Foxman of the ADL has pointed out with regard to those trying to hide their anti-Semitism by using Israel as a straw man, "The Arab-Israel conflict, Palestinian-Israeli conflict, has been highjacked into this global network of anti-Semitism. It has provided a camouflage of semi-respectability. The attacks are not about a nation state, they are about Jews."

Muslim terrorists around the world claim the Twin Towers attack was the work of the Jews. The fact that Osama bin Laden took credit for the destruction of the Twin Towers in a video aired on CNN on December 31, 2001, is irrelevant for them. In that video he said, "We calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy, who would be killed based on the position of the tower…I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hit and all the floors above it only…After a little while, they announced that another plane had hit the World Trade Center. The brothers who heard the news were overjoyed by it."

Baraka continues to recite his calumny before receptive audiences. If he did this as a private citizen, it would have been evil but it would have been his right. But he does it as poet laureate of New Jersey, to which he was nominated by a committee and confirmed by New Jersey's Governor James McGreevey. McGreevey had no prior knowledge of Baraka's anti-Semitic poems nor of his allegation, according to The New York Times, that President Bush knew of the "pending terrorist attacks" on the Twin Towers.

Governor McGreevey has demanded Baraka's resignation but Baraka refuses to resign. Legislation is currently pending in the New Jersey Legislature to give the Governor the authority to remove him as poet laureate. The New York Times and others have come out against his removal, foolishly arguing that it would be contrary to principles of free speech. According to The Times, "The proper response is discussion and condemnation not disciplinary action."

I responded to that editorial with the following letter:

"Today's New York Times editorial, 'New Jersey's Poet Dilemma,' is so foolish it almost qualifies your editorial writer for the title of New Jersey poet laureate. To write, 'But any notion that Mr. Baraka's offensiveness should be a reason to fire or silence him is in itself offensive,' is ridiculous. Let's assume that David Duke was appointed poet laureate of his state, Louisiana. Assume further that his first poem was a virulent attack against blacks, using every canard in the book, attacking their intelligence, work ethic, sexuality and whatever other monstrous lies he could conjure up.

"Would The New York Times calmly suggest that the 'proper response is discussion and condemnation, not disciplinary action?" I doubt it.

"It is inconceivable that anyone can be appointed by the Governor and not subject to removal for cause. But if that is the case in New Jersey, the proper response should be for the state legislature to eliminate the position for the term for which Baraka was appointed.

"New Jersey's mysterious charm speaks for itself. I lived there for ten years. I have great respect and admiration for Jim McGreevey, its Governor. The state can live without a poet laureate. But the people of New Jersey cannot live with a poet laureate who hates other races and parrots anti-Semitic lies."

Baraka is an arsonist. He uses a torch of false, inflammatory words. His free speech is protected when he uses his own stationery, not when he uses stationery bearing the imprimatur of the State of New Jersey. The Muslim cleric, Abu Bakar Bashir, leader of the al-Queda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia, has said of the recent Bali terrorist attack in which more than 200 Westerners were killed, literally burned alive, that "the Americans and Jews are the terrorists."

Can Baraka be far behind?

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JWR contributor Edward I. Koch, the former mayor of New York, can be heard on Bloomberg Radio (WBBR 1130 AM) every Saturday from 9-10 am. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Edward I. Koch