South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture has announced that it will be joining local celebrations of the life and work of Amiri Baraka, the African-American jazz poet known for his improvisational verse–and also infamous for his hatred of Jews, and especially Israel. Baraka passed away on Jan. 9 at the age of 79.
After the terror attacks of Sep. 11, 2001, Baraka wrote a poem, “Somebody Blew Up America,” endorsing a conspiracy theory alleging Jewish and Israeli culpability. In response, New Jersey tried to withdraw his status as Poet Laureate of the state, eventually canceling the post itself to prevent him from holding it.
Even some of Baraka’s fans acknowledge his controversial views: Jewish poet Jake Marmer called him “my favorite anti-Semite.” The Anti-Defamation League has compiled a list of some of Baraka’s more notorious anti-Jewish riffs. The South African government’s commitment to tolerance is increasingly doubtful.