The Anti-Defamation League has applauded New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey's call for the resignation of the state's poet laureate, saying Amiri Baraka had bought into "the big lie" that Jews were responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks last year, and condemning as "extremely offensive" a poem implying implying Israel knew about the attacks in advance.
Baraka, a celebrated writer and political activist who last month was named to a two-year term as New Jersey poet laureate, stirred controversy with "Somebody Blew Up America", a poem he read at a New Jersey poetry festival this month.
The poem reads in part:
"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?"
A spokeswoman for the Anti-Defamation League said her organization found the work offensive.
"Clearly, the poet laureate has bought into the big lie that Jews are responsible for 9/11," said ADL spokeswoman Myrna Shinbaum.
"While he has every right to write poetry as he chooses, to represent the state of New Jersey, we find that extremely offensive. We applaud the governor for trying to do what he can in this instance," Shinbaum said.
Baraka, 67, who won acclaim as a poet and playwright in the 1960s under his former name, LeRoi Jones, was selected poet laureate through the New Jersey Council for the Humanities and the State Council on the Arts.
McGreevey signed a proclamation on Aug. 28. appointing Baraka for a two-year term and giving him a $10,000 stipend "to promote and encourage poetry." McGreevey spokesman Kevin Davitt said neither the position nor the grant money could be taken away and that it was up to Baraka whether he would continue.
Baraka, who told the New York Times that reading the Internet had convinced him that Israel knew about Sept. 11 beforehand, said he had no intention of stepping down and defended his message.
"Obviously they knew about it, like Bush knew about," Baraka told the newspaper, suggesting that letting the attack happen served the White House's agenda in Afghanistan, Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.
Told he had offended people, Baraka replied: "I know. What can I do? I'm not perfect, alas."
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