Critical German poet is bannedPosted Apr 10 2012
German Nobel laureate Günter Grass was declared “unwelcome” by the state of Israel’s interior minister after he published a poem saying Israel was a threat to world peace, the New York Times reported
Grass’ poem “What Must Be Said” was published April 4 in the Bavarian daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. It caused immediate controversy in Germany and drew harsh criticism from Israel and some of both nations’ prominent political figures, including Binyamin Netanyahu and Guido Westerwelle.
In the poem, Israel’s undeclared nuclear program “endangers / The already fragile world peace.” The poet draws an implicit parity with Iran’s covert and controversial nuclear program.
He decries Israel’s “alleged right to first strike / That could annihilate the Iranian people.”
Throughout the poem the poet asks himself why he has been silent in his criticism until now. Grass implicates the burden of history between Germany and Israel as a block to the poet, who faces the “verdict of anti-Semitism” leveled against him should he speak out.
Indeed, Israel's foreign minister Eli Yishai denounced Grass’ poem as “an attempt to fan the flame of hatred against the State of Israel and the people of Israel,” “as reported in the Jerusalem Post”: http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=265291. Grass is “promoting the idea he was a partner to when he wore the SS uniform,” Yishai said.
Grass had admitted in 2006 that he was conscripted into the Waffen-SS under the Nazi Regime at the age of 17.
The Jerusalem Post, in its coverage of the travel ban issued against Grass, drew parallels between the poet and pro-Nazi figures: “Israel has previously barred right-wing extremist politicians from entering the country. The late Austrian politician Jörg Haider, who praised the Nazi SS, was issued a travel ban in 2000,” it reported.
In contrast, Gideon Levy, a columnist for the Israeli Haaretz, called Grass’ criticisms of Israel hyperbole but also cautioned: “After we denounce the exaggeration, after we shake off the unjustified part of the charge, we must listen to these great people. They are not anti-Semites, they are expressing the opinion of many people. Instead of accusing them we should consider what we did that led them to express it.”
An unattributed editorial on Haaretz further criticized the ban against Grass: “Grass, a Nobel laureate for literature, did no more than write a poem. The State of Israel, through its interior minister, reacted with hysteria.”