Saturday, January 11, 2014

Intelligent responses -- my blog from a decade ago about Amiri Baraka and McGreevey

Intelligent responses

For Amiri Baraka

My son throws a stone at an Israeli tank

Their bulldozers roll in to knock down my house

Settlements rise in its place, full of splashing swimming pools
While my family seeks water to drink,
I buy a knife, a gun, a bomb
Then set out to kill their sons in the market place
I kill their sons, they kill mine
For what? A stone? A house? A drink of water?

Bushwhacked at Waterloo
This article was re-written from the original partly because of new facts learned after its original posting.
Governor Jim McGreevey and the New Jersey Arts elite attacked poet Amiri Baraka for a passage of a poem he read at the Dodge Poetry Festival in September.
McGreevey -- who is hardly a freedom of speech advocate and who earlier in the year tried to clamp down on information journalists might have access to (making New Jersey the most restrictive state for public information in the country) -- demanded Baraka's resignation as New Jersey Poet Laureate.
McGreevey has been deluged by pro-Israel groups to remove Baraka after Baraka questioned whether or not Israel knew of before hand of the attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 and deliberately ordered its citizens to stay away from the buildings.
Baraka's information came via web sites that had previously been proven to contain misinformation concerning Iraeli communications with New York. Slate Magazine had investigated the accusations and found they were part of a campaign to tie the Israeli government to the attack on the World Trade Center (see link below).
Although Governor has no power to remove Baraka -- and Baraka has refused to leave the post -- McGreevey could eliminate the position for which Baraka receives $10,000 per year.
Baraka's remarks came in the middle of a poem several hundred lines long, part of a questioning process as to who knew what about the attack. He is not the only one. Internet webpages have cropped up over the last several months noting other irregularities about the events of Sept. 11.
McGreevey's spokespeople blasted Baraka with the assumption that the poet knew the information was false when he included in the poem.
Or even if Baraka's had exercised poetic license.
McGreevey's office and officers from the state's art's council accepted an anti-Semitic spin on the lines, although Baraka said he was questioning the Israeli government, not the Jewish people.
His lines run as follows: "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?
Jewish writers in response a previous version of this article claim that these lines are anti-Jewish despite their lack of mention of Jews.
What makes the lie believable to many people is the history of Israeli relationships with the United States, in which information has been withheld and in fact, an agent of Israeli intelligence has been convicted of spying on the United States.
McGreevey, unfortunately, may be under pressure from numerous New Jersey political figures, who activive support of the Israeli government.
Charles "Shai" Goldstein, of the Anti Defamation League labeled Baraka's remarks "a pernicious anti-Semitic lie."
Baraka offered no apology, claiming that the U.S. Government was well aware of the attack before it happened. Baraka believes the United States and others are seeking to use the attack as an excuse to crack down on unfriendly governments in the Middle East. Similar theories were raised after Pearl Harbor, suggesting that then President Roosevelt had allowed the military base to be attacked so as to win public support for America's entry into World War Two. The big difference here, however, is the anti-Jewish spin that has been used against Baraka.
Jane Braillove Rutkoff, executive director for the New Jersey Council for the Humanities -- a person that should be protecting Baraka's freedom of speech, also came out against him, calling his statements counter to the mission of the council. This, of course, leads us to wonder, what mission the council is on, it not to promote an artist's right to create.
I have taken the position that firing Baraka is considered censorship, because he made a political statement. Numerous others disagree. I have included links to two New York Times stories as well as the definitive Slate article on the web hoax.

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