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Columbia Mideast Institute Honors Antisemitic Poet

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Columbia University’s Middle East Institute, fresh from being exonerated of antisemitism by a shamefully whitewashed investigation, recently held a special event—to honor antisemitic poet Amiri Baraka: Columbia University’s Middle East Institute Sends Invitations for Event Honoring Notorious Anti-Semite Amiri Baraka.

Sponsored by several groups (the Radius of Arab American Writers, the National Union of Writers, NY, and Alwan for the Arts), the April 14, 2005 event featured tributes to Baraka. Its proceeds will go to support a conference of Arab American writers at Hunter College.

Baraka, born LeRoi Jones, is known for his writings on jazz, but more for his Marxism and anti-Semitism. As the poet laureate of New Jersey Baraka created a firestorm with his poem “Somebody Blew Up America,” a diatribe accusing Israelis of having been warned of the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. When Baraka rebuffed calls for his resignation, New Jersey lawmakers responded by abolishing the position of poet laureate.

Baraka’s anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism reach far back into the 1960s, as does his violent animosity to whites, American society, and the West as a whole.

Why did the Columbia Middle East Institute lend its support to such an individual? And why did it send out the invitation (via e-mail) on the very day of the event? Coming hard on the heels of the recent controversy over harassment and intimidation of Jewish students, the Middle East Institute might have seen fit to consider more closely who it was promoting.

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