A January 10th obituary for Amiri Baraka which appeared in the Entertainment & Arts section of the BBC News website includes the following paragraph:
“In 2002, as poet laureate of New Jersey, Baraka drew accusations of anti-Semitism over his poem Somebody Blew Up America, which referenced the 11 September 2001 attacks.”
Like this writer, many readers of that article will probably remain confused as to why a poem about the 9/11 attacks should prompt “accusations” of anti-Semitism and why the BBC does not offer any further explanation to that cryptic statement.
Fortunately, Sohrab Ahmari of the WSJ comes to the rescue.
“Amiri Baraka, New Jersey’s controversial one-time poet laureate, died yesterday, aged 79. The poet, essayist, and playwright’s body of work will be remembered, if at all, as among the least humane in the history of American letters. An early 9/11 denier—a notorious 2002 poem suggested Jews were responsible for the attacks—Baraka embraced many of the last century’s worst ideologies. […]
And he hated Jews. “Smile, jew. / Dance, jew. / Tell me you love me, jew. . . . / I got the extermination blues, jewboys. / I got the hitler syndrome figured,” Baraka wrote in a poem published in 1969.
Baraka’s bigotry reached its apotheosis in 2002, with the publication and performance of his 9/11 poem, “Somebody Blew Up America.” The opening reads: “They say its some terrorist, some barbaric A Rab, in Afghanistan It wasn’t our American terrorists It wasn’t the Klan or the Skin heads Or the them that blows up n— Churches, or reincarnates us on Death Row It wasn’t Trent Lott Or David Duke or Giuliani Or Schundler, Helms retiring . . . ”
In the “verses” that follow, the poet asks questions like: “Who killed Malcolm, Kennedy & his Brother Who killed Dr King, Who would want such a thing? Are they linked to the murder of Lincoln?” Then, near the end, he wonders: “Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers To stay home that day Why did [former Israeli prime minister Ariel] Sharon stay away?” “
Read the rest of Sohrab Ahmari’s article here.
So why – once again – is the BBC being so coy about antisemitism?