SECTION TWELVE
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COLUMN EIGHTY-ONE, JANUARY 1, 2003
(Copyright 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)

IN DEFENSE OF AMIRI BARAKA 

To Whom It May Concern:

I want to register my outrage at the slandering of Amiri Baraka for alleged anti-Semitism, in his 9/11 poem 'somebody Blew Up America".  I find it very troubling that the Anti-Defamation League evoked the tragedy of September 11th and its impact on the families to race-bait and distort Baraka's poem and call for his resignation. My father, Barry H. Glick lost his life in the World Trade Center on the 11th.  He worked for the Port Authority of NY/NJ and was assisting a woman, paralyzed by asthma and fear.  Amina and Amiri Baraka warmly attendeded my father's Shiva, the traditional Jewish mourning service, lifting our spirits in that dismal time. Even as we mourn the loss of my father and have not yet buried him, the ADL is using his memory and that of others lost in the tragedy to pursue their narrow slander against Baraka, shamefully claiming the banner "disrespect for lives lost on 9/11".

The ADL has historically preyed upon Jewish Americans' legitimate concern for escalating anti-Semitism and anxieties related to the Holocaust to validate its right-wing ideology.  Conflating criticism of the national polity of Israel (not its people) and anti-Sharon opinion with anti-Semitism truncates the very wide political continuum in Israel and represents a narrow?"you are either with us or with the terrorists"'type political line.  Its willingness to use the charge of anti-Semitism to so casually dismiss and shut down rational debate and discussion surrounding prominent Afro American culture workers and political figures smacks of anti-Black racism.  Yet, this issue is neither about 9/11 nor Israel per se?it pertains to the merit of a poem.  It would have helped if the ADL demonstrated an iota of literary analysis in their slander instead of harping on a singular line, out of its poetic context.

In its rush to a judgment of anti-Semitism, the ADL misread the strategies of the poem.  'somebody Blew Up America? uses repetition'the repeating of the term "Who? 'to posit a continuum of crimes against humanity to question the integrity of America's "War against Terror".  By universalizing the demand??War against Terror? and applying it to the history of anti-Black racist terror and Imperialist aggression world wide, Baraka's work opens up discussion and frees up a space for contradiction and dissent.  "Who? does not represent Jews?but a poetic field exploring imperialist aggression, fascism and domestic oppression within the U.S and throughout the world.  Contrary to Gerald Stern's claim that Baraka introduces hate and separation through his art, his poem brings contradiction into a mainstream media discourse in which rational discussion and dissent are virtually absent. The poem refuses to privilege one group of victims of violence over another.  It raises inquiries of prior knowledge of 9/11 as an appeal for more democratic debate and access to information for the victims of 9/11. The poem fulfills its role in asking questions.  This poem includes protest against historical acts of anti-Semitism. The political subject referent of the oft repeated Who is the International ruling class?which is neither loyal to caste, color, religion or nationality, only capital and plunder.  The contentious line in the poem in this context certainly does not read as some sort of Medieval blood libel. Rosa Luxembourg, Liebneckt, and the Rosenbergs, all mentioned in the poem are the complete antithesis of t the ADL.  These Jewish figures were murdered for their refusal to compromise with the exact society/economic order that produces anti-Semitism and makes it a viable ideology.  The ADL's problem is that it evokes Judaism to pounce on all forces (especially people of color) challenging the stability of American ruling class hegemony, war, and Israeli policies against Palestinians.  Perhaps the "Big Lie? referenced by the ADL is not Baraka's poetic endeavors, but the ADL's willingness to misrepresent Baraka's work and plug it into its fantasy construction of a singular "Arab World? that is homogenous and somehow magically unified in its anti-Semitism.  It is this same reductive fiction of an "Arab World?, ideologically unified that is being evoked to rationalize the up coming slaughter in Iraq.  Baraka has fulfilled his role as Poet Laureate by bringing national attention to poetry and has successfully utilized poetry to introduce ideas into the political public sphere. 

Jewish literary critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin in reference to escalating European fascism wrote, 'that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins".  I hope that the ADL might think twice in evoking the memory of victims like my father, for fodder in their hysterical crusade against one of New Jersey's greatest artistic and political assets.  I also would encourage Governor McGreevy not to take one-sided, literary advice from bigots. 

Thank you,
Jeremy M. Glick

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