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Storm Continues After German Writer’s Poem Against Israel

It bluntly called Israel a threat to world peace for its warnings that it might attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. By supplying weapons to Israel, including submarines, Germany risked being complicit in “a foreseeable crime,” Mr. Grass wrote.

BERLIN — Günter GrassGermany’s most famous living writer, tried Friday to quell the growing controversy over a poem critical of Israel that he published this week,saying that he did not mean to attack the country wholesale but only the policies of the current government. However, three days of worldwide debate, including a stinging personal rebuke from Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, show no sign of subsiding.

The nine-stanza, 69-line poem, “What Must Be Said,” appeared Wednesday on the front of the culture section of the Munich-based newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. Mixing lyrical turns of phrase with discussions of the need for international supervision of both Israel’s and Iran’s nuclear programs, it bluntly called Israel a threat to world peace for its warnings that it might attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. By supplying weapons to Israel, including submarines, Germany risked being complicit in “a foreseeable crime,” Mr. Grass wrote.

“Why do I say only now, aged and with my last drop of ink, that the nuclear power Israel endangers an already fragile world peace?” his poem asks. “Because that must be said which may already be too late to say tomorrow.”

In an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung published Friday, Mr. Grass said he did not mean to attack Israel, but Mr. Netanyahu’s policies. “I should have also brought that into the poem,” he said.

Several leading publications reacted to the poem by calling Mr. Grass an anti-Semite, while others dismissed it as nonsense.

Israel reacted with widespread condemnation and fury. Mr. Netanyahu issued a statement on Thursday calling Mr. Grass’s comparison of Israel and Iran “shameful,” saying that it said more about Mr. Grass than about Israel.

“It is Iran, not Israel, that is a threat to the peace and security of the world,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “It is Iran, not Israel, that threatens other states with annihilation.”

Long a self-proclaimed conscience of the German nation, urging Germans to confront the Nazi past, Mr. Grass was branded a hypocrite after he revealed in 2006 for the first time that he served in the Waffen-SS at the end of World War II, when he was 17.

Referring to that admission, Mr. Netanyahu said it was “perhaps not surprising” that Mr. Grass “cast the one and only Jewish state as the greatest threat to world peace and to oppose giving Israel the means to defend itself.”

Germany’s strong support for Israel in its foreign policy is just one way that the country has tried to make up for the crimes of the Holocaust. But the lessons of World War II also made many Germans strongly pacifist and thus uncomfortable with the hawkish tone and threatening language emanating from Mr. Netanyahu’s government.

“He’s focusing the fears of Germans now around Israel as a danger,” Gary Smith, executive director at the American Academy in Berlin, said of Mr. Grass. “I’m afraid this could be a turning point in the way part of the German public speaks about Israel.”

Writing on the popular news Web site Spiegel Online, Jakob Augstein, the publisher of the weekly magazine Der Freitag, said that it was neither a great poem nor brilliant political analysis, but that “one should thank Grass” for starting the debate about the threat Israel poses to peace.

Others said that it was not a coincidence that Mr. Grass so often found himself at the center of controversy, but that controversy was instead his goal in the first place.

“He wrote this poem knowing from the way he wrote it that there would be condemnation,” said Frank Schirrmacher, co-publisher of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, who was interviewing Mr. Grass when he made his revelation about the Waffen-SS membership. “He needs the condemnation to move on to the next step, which is to say that it is impossible in Germany to criticize Israel.”

Mr. Grass, the author of plays and essays as well as novels and poems, was awarded the Nobel Prizein Literature in 1999. He admitted that he was a member of the Hitler Youth as a boy and believed at the time in the group’s aims, but long claimed that he was drafted into an antiaircraft unit, never mentioning the Waffen-SS until he was 78.

In the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Anshel Pfeffer, a weekly columnist, devoted his Friday essay to Mr. Grass under the headline “The Moral Blindness of Günter Grass.”

“Logic and reason are useless when a highly intelligent man, a Nobel laureate no less, does not understand that his membership in an organization that planned and carried out the wholesale genocide of millions of Jews disqualified him from criticizing the descendants of those Jews for developing a weapon of last resort that is the insurance policy against someone finishing the job his organization began,” Mr. Pfeffer wrote.

He added, “Having served in the organization that tried, with a fair amount of success, to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth he should keep his views to himself when it comes to the Jews’ doomsday weapon.”

Nicholas Kulish  and Ethan Bronner

April 06, 2012

Related link – http://tinyurl.com/7ycyk98


Grass’s poem in the text of

what needs to be said

04/04/2012, 12:03

The poem by Günter Grass

Günter Grass, warns in the “Sueddeutsche Zeitung” of a war against Iran. In his poem titled “What must be said” the Nobel literature requests, therefore, Israel should not get a German U-boats more. 

Why I am silent, silent about too long,
what is obvious and in simulations
was practiced, at the end as survivors
, we are at best footnotes.

It is alleged that on the first strike
of the enslaved from bullies
and to organized guided cheers
could destroy Iranian people,
because in the sphere of building
a nuclear bomb is suspected.

But why do I say to myself,
to call that other country by name,
in the years since – though secret –
a growing nuclear capabilities available
but out of control, because no test
is available?

The general concealment of this fact,
which my silence subordinate,
I find incriminating lies
and coercion, the penalty is in prospect,
if he is ignored;
the verdict of “antisemitism” is familiar.

But now, because in my country,
that of innate crimes
that are without comparison,
sought time to time and will be taken to task,
in turn, and purely commercial basis, even if
declared with nimble lip as reparation,
another U-boat to Israel
delivered should be, whose specialty
is all-destroying warheads
to be able to steer to where the existence
of a single atomic bomb is unproven,
but wants to be a fear of evidentiary value,
I say what needs to be said.

But why I kept quiet until now?
As I said, my background,
which is never subject to tilgendem blemish,
forbade this fact as a definite truth
to the land of Israel, whom I am connected
and want to stay, be expected.

Why do I say now only
: aged and last ink
the nuclear-armed Israel is endangering
the already fragile world peace?
Because it must be said
, what could already be tomorrow’s too late
– in part because we – as a German burden enough
could be suppliers of a crime are
the predictable, which is why our complicity
by any of the usual excuses
would be to pay off.

And admittedly, I am silent no more,
because I was the hypocrisy of the West
‘m tired, is also hoped
it might be a lot rid of silence,
the cause of the apparent danger
call to renounce violence and
are also sure
that an unfettered and permanent control
of Israel’s nuclear potential
and the Iranian nuclear facilities
by an international authority
of the governments of both countries will be allowed.

Only then is all, the Israelis and Palestinians,
more than that, all the people in this
region occupied by the delusional
enemies living cheek by jowl
, and ultimately to help us.

Related link – http://tinyurl.com/7fbw6h2


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