Yishai: Günter Grass not welcome in Israel

Interior minster prohibits Nobel literature laureate German author from entering Israel over poem, says he should publish in Iran.

April 8, 2012 12:30
1 minute read.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai.

Eli Yishai 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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Germany’s most famous living writer, the Nobel literature laureate Günter Grass, is not welcome in Israel, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said on Sunday, after a controversial poem Grass wrote stated that Israel's "atomic power endangers" world peace.

"Grass's poems are an attempt to fan the flames of hatred against the State of Israel and its people," Yishai said, who said the poem highlights Grass's well-known history as a member of the Waffen-SS.

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"If Günter Grass wants to continue to spread his distorted and false works I suggest he do it in Iran, where a receptive audience awaits him" Yishai stated, declaring the German author a "persona non grata" and prohibiting him front entering the country. 

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman also weighed on the issue, explaining to the visiting Italian prime minister that Grass's writing shows how Western intellectuals use anti-Semitism to attain greater notoriety and sell more books.

"We expect the leaders in Europe to move decisively against such expressions by influential opinion makers, and not to allow them to continue to enjoy mainstream respectability," Channel 10 news quoted the foreign minister as saying during his meeting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who was on his first state visit since he was elected last year.

The foreign minister noted the danger of how a small anti-Semitic comment can quickly mushroom into a larger phenomenon. As was reported in The Jerusalem Post last week, Grass has responded to his detractors, saying he stands by what he wrote but thought he needed to clarify that his criticism is of the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and not Israel as a state.

Grass told Süddeutsche Zeitung Netanyahu is "the man who damages Israel the most."


Grass poem, entitled "What Must Be Said," created a storm following its publication in the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung last Wednesday. In it, the author states that Israel seeks Iran's destruction, and questions Germany's sale of a submarine "equipped to transport nuclear warheads" to Israel, which is widely believed to be the Middle East's sole nuclear power.

Israel maintains a policy of ambiguity surrounding its nuclear program, and is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty.

Benjamin Weinthal contributed to this report

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