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German writer: 'Israel is world's greatest danger'
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, JPOST CORRESPONDENT
04/04/2012
Nobel Prize Winner Günter Grass publishes poem, drawing condemnation from Israeli diplomat, Jewish leaders, NGOs and politicians.
 
BERLIN – The German writer Günter Grass published a poem in two major European newspapers on Wednesday, in which he accuses Israel of jeopardizing world security.

In his writing, the 84-yearold poet and novelist aligns himself with the Islamic Republic of Iran and calls for the administration of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to stop its delivery of Dolphin submarines to the Jewish state.

In response to Grass, Israel’s Embassy in Berlin, Jewish leaders, NGOs and German politicians fiercely criticized the writer, including accusations that he harbors an anti-Semitic attitude and lacks Mideast political knowledge.

Grass, who revealed in 2006 that he had been a member of the Nazi Waffen- SS, a group designed to exclusively eliminate European Jewry during WWII, wrote in his poem titled What must be said that “Why do I only say now, aged and with my last ink: The atomic power Israel is endangering the already fragile world peace?”

The writer and Social Democratic party activist was the winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in literature for his body of novels. His poem also appeared in European papers, including the left-liberal German Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Italian paper la Repubblica.

Israel’s government reacted swiftly to Grass on Wednesday. Emmanuel Nahshon, deputy chief of mission for the Israeli Embassy in Germany, said, “what must be said is that it belongs to the European tradition to accuse the Jews of ritual murder before the Passover celebration.”

“It used to be Christian children whose blood the Jews used to make matza, today it is the Iranian people that the Jewish state purportedly wants to wipe out.”

Nahshon added that “We want to live in peace with our neighbors in the region. And we are not prepared to assume the role that Günter Grass assigns us in the German people’s process of coming to terms with its history.”

Grass wrote that Germany could be a “supplier to a crime” in connection with Merkel’s decision to supply Israel with a sixth nuclearcapable Super Dolphin-class submarine.

“I admit: I will be silent no longer, because I am sick of the hypocrisy of the West,” added Grass in his poem.

Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for Merkel, said: “In Germany, the freedom of artistic expression applies, as, fortunately, does the freedom of the government not to comment on every work of art.”

Speaking from Jerusalem via telephone, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, director of the capital’s Simon Wiesenthal Center and known as the world’s leading Nazi-hunter, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, “Günter Grass’s attack on Israel and outrageous accusations against the Jewish state are a reflection of the transformation of German anti-Semitism in recent years.”

Zuroff continued that “While attacks on individual Jews as Jews are politically incorrect and generally unacceptable in the Federal Republic, Israel has become the whipping boy for anti- Semitic Germans sick of the Holocaust and seeking to rid themselves of any responsibility for its aftermath.

“In this respect, the outrageous comments by Grass are not unusually surprising, since his moral integrity was totally compromised by his admission of service in the Waffen-SS, and his status as a moral conscience for the country in terms of facing its World War II guilt was obviously unjustified.”

Zuroff further said that “Grass is speaking for a spectrum of ostensibly respectable Germans who harbor anti-Semitic views which which cannot be uttered at home in Germany, but can be directed at Israel, which has become a symbol for the hated Jews. The tin drum he is banging is not the one of moral conscience but of deep-seated prejudice against the Jewish people, the primary victims of German anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia.”

The Tin Drum, which Zuroff cited in his criticism, is the name of Grass’s most famous novel about the lead up to World War II in Poland and Germany and the time during the war years.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany said Grass’s writing was an “aggressive pamphlet of agitation.”

Henryk M. Broder, a leading expert on modern anti-Semitism and a German-Jewish journalist and author, wrote that Grass is “the prototype of the educated anti-Semite.”

Broder added in his Die Welt commentary that “Grass has always had a problem with Jews but he has never articulated it as clearly as with this ‘poem’… haunted by feelings of guilt and shame and also driven by the desire to settle history, he is now attempting to disarm the ‘cause of the recognizable threat.”

Philipp Mißfelder, the foreign policy spokesman for Merkel’s party in the Bundestag, told the daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger that “the poem is tasteless and unhistoric and shows a lack of knowledge about the situation in the Middle East.”

Grass received support from the German Left party deputy Wolfgang Gehrcke.

He said Grass has the “courage” to say what is silenced. In the past Gehrcke has participated in pro- Hamas and pro-Hezbollah rallies and has compared Israel to Nazi Germany.

Critics accuse Gehrcke of spreading hatred of Jews and Israel in the Federal Republic. The Left Party has been engulfed in series of anti- Israel and anti-Semitic scandals over the last few years.

“Günter Grass is turning the situation upside-down by defending a brutal regime that not only disregards but openly violates international agreements for many years,” said Deidre Berger, director of the Berlin American Jewish Committee/Ramer Institute.

“[Iranian] President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad bears responsibility for grave human rights violations, rejects Israel’s right to exist and denies the Holocaust. It is a grotesque reversal of reality to depict President Ahmadinejad as an adventurous bragger while denouncing Israeli politicians for their position countering Iranian aggression,” added Berger.

“Grass is causing huge damage to German-Israeli relations by depicting the Israeli government as criminal while protecting the policies of Iran, the real instigators of the conflict,” Berger said. “Grass asserts that criticism of Israel is neither allowed and is in any case not anti-Semitic. He is simply diverting attention from the real issues. Instead of denouncing Israel, Günter Grass should answer the question as to why he does not condemn the many authoritarian regimes in the Middle East that, until now, have made regional peace impossible. It might be useful for him to reflect as well on his own controversial statements regarding Germany’s Nazi past.

“In past years, Günter Grass has repeatedly cast the Israeli government as the root of all evil in the region. The author chose to release his newest attack on Israel, whom he claims is threatening Iran, just two days before the start of Passover, when Jews for time immemorial have been murdered for alleged blood libel,” said Berger.

“Grass’s seeming indifference to Israel, Jewish history and religion prompts the question as to his own relation to German history.”
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