Shame on Grass
Anything less than a complete retraction will cast a shadow on author’s reputation as a moral voice for Germans who came of age in the generation after the Shoah.
Gunter Grass Photo: REUTERS
Germany’s relationship with the Jewish people is complicated. Jews cannot and
will not bring themselves to forgive Germany for the Holocaust – reparations
notwithstanding. At the same time, Germany has gone a long way toward facing its
dark past. And Chancellor Angela Merkel is perhaps one of Germany’s most
pro-Israeli leaders ever.
As a result, an uncomfortable dynamic is
created: While it is legitimate for Germans, as friends of Israel, to offer
constructive criticism of Israeli policies, it is understandably not easy for
Israelis to accept such criticism, coming as it does from a people who proved
more than any other on the face of the earth the Jews’ need to stop relying on
the goodwill of host countries and to embrace instead political
self-determination and sovereignty in their historical homeland.
he penned the poem, “What Must Be Said,” Günter Grass, Germany’s most famous
living writer who is considered a moral compass in his homeland, callously
displayed a disappointing moral bankruptcy.
Grass’s poem and the attempts
by himself and other of his countrymen to defend it raise the question whether
Germans – at least those supporting Grass – have learned anything from
In “What Must Be Said,” Grass claims that it is Israel, not the
fanatic Shi’ite mullahs of Iran, that “endangers an already fragile world
peace.” Grass must know that Israel – even if it were to launch a military
strike against Iran to stop it from developing a nuclear bomb – would use
Nevertheless, he concocts a far-fetched and
completely unsubstantiated scenario, according to which Israel will resort to
nuclear capabilities reportedly at its disposal for “war games, at the end of
which those of us who survive will at best be footnotes.”
This is the
same Israel, which, if foreign news reports are to be believed, responsibly
refrained from using its nuclear capabilities, even during periods of
existential threat such as the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when defense minister Moshe
Dayan warned of the “destruction of the third Temple” and Israel’s political
leadership, including prime minister Golda Meir, were genuinely concerned that
the combined armies of the Arab states would succeed in destroying
Why would Grass make up a story that Israel is planning to use
nuclear weapons against the Iranian people? Grass claims in his poem that he
remained silent until now because he knew he would be labeled an
But what else can be said about a man who ignores Iran’s
deadly combination of Holocaust denial and sponsorship of terrorism against
Israel and instead singles out for censure Israel, a country seeking since its
establishment to live in peace with its neighbors, though stubbornly refusing to
be “wiped off the map”? Why is Grass so intent on forcing Israel to relinquish
its reported nuclear capability? Does he really think that he, an 84-year-old
German who was a member of the Waffen SS as a teenager, should be the one
recommending that Israel compromise its deterrence capability and, in the
process, expose itself to existential threats?
Jews have ample unpleasant
experiences of what it is to be powerless in the face of our enemies and to be
let down by others who have the ability to defend us but choose not
The establishment of a robust Israel with the necessary means to
defend itself against its enemies is the Jewish people’s answer to that
humiliating state of affairs.
As noted by Benjamin Weinthal, The
Jerusalem Post’s correspondent in Germany, the controversy surrounding Grass’s
poem has brought to the fore a modern manifestation of anti-Semitism, which is
actually a form of mental pathology. Germans such as Grass are filled with
Holocaust-era guilt. To alleviate their dissonance, some Germans project their
feelings of guilt onto Israel.
But regardless of the psychological
mechanics behind his despicable poem, Grass, at the end of his life, has now
been “exposed.” We hope he regains his moral bearings and issues a complete
retraction. Anything less will cast a shadow on Grass’s reputation as a moral
voice for Germans who came of age in the generation after the Shoah.