| Günter Grass’s Israel poem provokes huge inferiority complex rows!

Günter Grass’s Israel poem provokes outrage ~  and guardian.co.uk,

Germany‘s most celebrated writer’s lyrical warning of a looming Israeli aggression against Iran triggers international row!

During his long literary career, Günter Grass has been many things. Author, playwright, sculptor and, unquestionably, Germany‘s most famous living writer. There is the 1999 Nobel prize and Grass’s broader postwar role as the country’s moral conscience – albeit a claim badly undermined in 2006 when it emerged that the teenage Grass had served in the Waffen SS. But at the ripe old age of 84, Grass has triggered a furious row with a poem criticising Israel.

Entitled What Must Be Said and published on Wednesday in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the lyric warns of a looming Israeli aggression against Iran. It argues that Germany should no longer deliver nuclear submarines to Israel that might carry “all-destroying warheads”.

Grass also takes aim at Germany’s reluctance to offend Israel – reproaching himself for “my silence” on the subject, and acknowledging that he will inevitably face accusations of antisemitism.

Günter Grass

Günter Grass’s poem ‘What Must Be Said ‘was first published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Photograph: Graeme Robertson

During his long literary career, Günter Grass has been many things. Author, playwright, sculptor and, unquestionably, Germany‘s most famous living writer. There is the 1999 Nobel prize and Grass’s broader postwar role as the country’s moral conscience – albeit a claim badly undermined in 2006 when it emerged that the teenage Grass had served in the Waffen SS. But at the ripe old age of 84, Grass has triggered a furious row with a poem criticising Israel.

Entitled What Must Be Said and published on Wednesday in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the lyric warns of a looming Israeli aggression against Iran. It argues that Germany should no longer deliver nuclear submarines to Israel that might carry “all-destroying warheads”.

Grass also takes aim at Germany’s reluctance to offend Israel – reproaching himself for “my silence” on the subject, and acknowledging that he will inevitably face accusations of antisemitism.

He muses: “Why do I only speak out now/Aged and with my last drop of ink:/Israel’s nuclear power is endangering/Our already fragile world peace?” He supplies his own apocalyptic answer: it must be said because “tomorrow might be too late”.

Grass also calls for “unhindered and permanent monitoring of Israel’s nuclear facility and Iran’s nuclear facility through an international entity”. Ultimately, he suggests, this would help everybody in this “delusional” region, including the Germans – or “us”, as he puts it.

Hardly surprising, then, that Grass’s controversial late lyric has provoked indignation. The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahuled the attack on Thursday, asserting: “Günter Grass’s shameful moral equivalence between Israel and Iran … says little about Israel and much about Mr Grass.” Netanyahu described Iran as “a regime that denied theHolocaust and threatens to annihilate Israel”. He added: “It is Iran, not Israel, that is a threat to the peace and security of the world.”

Netanyahu’s attack then became more personal: “For six decades, Mr Grass hid the fact that he had been a member of the Waffen SS.

“So for him to cast the one and only Jewish state as the greatest threat to world peace and to oppose giving Israel the means to defend itself is perhaps not surprising.”

The Israeli embassy in Berlin took the format of Grass’s poem and flung it back at him: “What must be said is that it is a European tradition to accuse the Jews before the Passover festival of ritual murder.” It concluded that Grass’s ill-judged broadside sprung from Germany’s own guilty conscience – “part of the German people‘s efforts to come to terms with the past”.

German politicians from both left and right have traditionally been supportive of Israel, for obvious historical reasons. Several have criticised Grass, describing his work as “abominable”, “irritating” and “over the top”. The bestselling Bild, a paper better known for its topless models, complained of “confused poesie”. And writing in Die Welt, the Jewish writer Henryk Border dubbed Grass “the prototype of the educated antisemite”. He added, for good measure, that Grass was “completely nuts”.

All this forced Grass to offer his own pained reply. In an interview with North German Radio, the author complained on Thursday that the tone of the criticism “didn’t just concentrate on the contents of the poem” but amounted to a scurrilous campaign to say that his reputation “had been damaged for all time”. He added: “The old cliches are used. And to a certain extent they are damaging.”

Some commentators, however, offered a more convincing critique: that Grass wasn’t antisemitic, but simply didn’t know what he was talking about. True, the Nobel prizewinner describes Iran’s leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a “bigmouth”, or “Maulheld”. But otherwise, critics say, he offers a less than convincing analysis of the situation in the Middle East – failing to acknowledge, for example, Iran’s regular threats to wipe Israel out. Instead Grass raises the unlikely spectre of Israel “annihilating” the Iranian people – using a German verb, auslöschen, which comes dangerously close to evoking the Holocaust.

“The poem is more interesting to Grassologists than to stragetic analysts,” the Israeli historian Tom Segev, who has met and interviewed Grass, told the Guardian. Segev called the lyric “rather pathetic”.

He said it was “idiotic” to describe the writer as an antisemite, but said Grass would be better served expending his last ink on a different creative project. “He’s a great writer. He’s 84. I hope he uses his last drops to write a good book.” He added that the writer appeared to have “some inner psychological need to be accused wrongly”, adding: “He’s almost wishing people to say he’s an antisemite.”

The most interesting commentary, arguably, came from the Süddeutsche Zeiting, which published the poem – German title Was gesagt werden muss – in a supplement. Grass had been writing poems since 1955 but his late ones weren’t really poems at all, Thomas Steinfeld observed, and instead resembled pleas, complaints, or angry letters to the editor. Of one lugubrious chunk he writes witheringly: “The only lyrical things here are the arbitary line breaks.” Undoubtedly, the poem’s portentous tone doesn’t help the reader; an opinion page piece might have served Grass better.

Interestingly, Steinfeld suggests that the award of the Nobel prize for literature in 1999 may have contributed to Grass’s latest political intervention. The prize transformed Grass from a national figure – “Germany’s preceptor” – to an unashamedly global one – “a custodian of world politics”. He argues that Grass is the only winner who feels the urge to comment on global affairs. Gabriel García Márquez has not become a literary-political representative of South America, he notes, nor has JM Coetzee become the voice of South Africa, or Derek Walcott that of the Caribbean. Nor has Grass, it might be added, written a poem on Greece, a crisis nearer to Germany’s doorstep and wallet.

Grass last attracted this much attention back in 2006, when he revealed in his autobiography, Peeling the Onion, that he had briefly served as a 17-year-old in the Waffen SS at the end of the second world war. The admission in itself wasn’t remarkable: many other teenagers of his generation were forced to join the SS as the war entered its chaotic final phase. What irritated was the fact that Grass had taken so long to admit this – an inexplicable delay for someone who blamed others for their Nazi pasts and was seen to personify national atonement and self-criticism.

For some, this detail means that Grass forfeited the right to comment on the Jewish state. Ephraim Zuroff, director of the Nazi-hunting Simon Wisenthal Centre, described him as “totally compromised” and added: “The tin drum he is banging is not the one of moral conscience but of deep-seated prejudice against the Jewish people.” This is one view.

In fact Grass’s critical opinions on Israel have surfaced before. In an interview with Spiegel Online in 2001, he described the “appropriation” of Palestinian territory by Israeli settlers as a “criminal activity”, adding: “That not only needs to be stopped – it also needs to be reversed.”

It is certainly true that Germany’s relationship with Israel is a problematic one, with the Holocaust taught in schools and the issue of historical guilt never far beneath the surface.

According to Constanze Stelzenmuller, senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, it is hardly surprising that Germany has a moral obligation to the state of Israel, given the country’s past. “The German government has been very clear about this,” she said. Berlin has already supplied it with three Dolphin submarines, with two more being built, and a sixth in the pipeline.

But, Stelzenmuller says, Berlin has not been inhibited from criticising Israel, especially on the issue of Israeli settlements, last mentioned by Germany’s defence minister two weeks ago. Of Grass, she said: “There’s always been an anti-Zionist tendency in the European left, including in the German left. It isn’t pretty. Many modern thinkers on the centre-left deplore this.”

Amid the criticism, a few voices came forward to defend Grass – the author, after all, of The Tin Drum, the great German novel of the second world war and the rise of Nazism. “It’s got to be possible to speak openly without being denounced as an enemy of Israel,” said Klaus Staeck, the president of the Berlin academy of art. He called the “reflexive condemnation” of Grass as an antisemite inappropriate, and insisted that Grass was merely expressing his concern about developments in the Middle East. “A lot of people share this worry,” Staeck added.

Predictably, Iran warmly welcomed Grass’s poem. Press TV, Iran’s state-owned English-language satellite channel, hailed it as a literary sensation. “Never before in Germany’s postwar history has a prominent intellectual attacked Israel in such a courageous way,” it said. “Metaphorically speaking, the poet has launched a deadly lyrical strike against Israel.”

The Press TV report also observed: “Israel is the only possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East and it has never allowed inspections of its nuclear facilities nor has it joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty based on its policy of nuclear ambiguity.”

_________________________________

What Must Be Said by Günter Grass

_________________________________

But why have I kept silent till now?

Because I thought my own origins,

Tarnished by a stain that can never be removed,

meant I could not expect Israel, a land

to which I am, and always will be, attached,

to accept this open declaration of the truth.

Why only now, grown old,

and with what ink remains, do I say:

Israel’s atomic power endangers

an already fragile world peace?

Because what must be said

may be too late tomorrow;

and because – burdened enough as Germans –

we may be providing material for a crime

that is foreseeable, so that our complicity

wil not be expunged by any

of the usual excuses.

And granted: I’ve broken my silence

because I’m sick of the West’s hypocrisy;

and I hope too that many may be freed

from their silence, may demand

that those responsible for the open danger we face renounce the use of force,

may insist that the governments of

both Iran and Israel allow an international authority

free and open inspection of

the nuclear potential and capability of both.

 

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2 thoughts on “| Günter Grass’s Israel poem provokes huge inferiority complex rows!

  1. You wrote very informal post! I am German and our media never report about any critics against Israel from nowhere besides the “Axis of Evel”.
    But I have an interesting information too! The only people, which can speak out their opinion and even criticize Israel without to be prosecuted in Germany are Jews.
    And they did! While the reports of our zionist “leading media” (Springer/Bertelsmann) started a championship in mudslinging against Grass, the German Jewish Voice for Peace did the contrary!

    http://www.juedische-stimme.de/?p=687

    Like

  2. Below the Comment of the German Orthodox Jews to the Poem of Günter Grass in German at their association journal “Der Israelit”
    ______________________________________
    Here the translation from German:

    What has to been said – Solidarity with Günter Grass,
    by Reuven Jisroel Cabelman

    The excitement is scaring, because one of the greatest German writers of post-war Germany has actually dared to position himself politically with a peace poem, and thus – according to the published pro-Zionist opinion – attacked the above everything being “State of Israel”. This is of course the serious crime in general. At the very latest since the interests of the Zionist state is rated higher by the German government than the own German.
    Grass does not want war against Iran. Fine. And absolutely none that could be done with to the Zionist state delivered German submarines. Even better. As an Orthodox Jew one can only sustain this position. Because only in this way, Germany would really become conscious of its “historic responsibility” and give satisfaction to the German constitution and above all would provide to let themselves maneuver into a disastrous military adventure. The poet does not want that – this way we understand him at least – because completely correctly he does not recognize that a new world-fire provoked by the National Zionism the more should be created with German support.

    In the eyes of self-proclaimed Jewish spokesman of the Zionist embassy and the Central Council, the standard of the [german] Springer-press, or the of the federal “Wehrmacht”-academies [that, only a jew can say without to risk criminalisation, the “Wehrmacht was Hitlers’ military, the from today is called “Bundeswehr”] sustained Alibi-Jews, there is truly no peace to make with the peace poem of Grass, because they draw themselves their old-dusty and fanatical Zionist register from the bottom drawer when it is about to defame a great one of the german literary world as “anti-semitically” motivated.

    The poet himself is anything but a “Zionist” and if the poems’ content is to criticize from the perspective of authentic Orthodox Judaism in something, then that would be more the unreflected and with nothing justifiable swipe against the Jewish community of Iran supporting President of the Islamic Republic.

    But “Anti-Zionist”, ie in Zionist logic someone to count to the worst kind of creature, one does not even need to be for to get into the firing line of the nationalzionist lobby.

    A basically rather harmless “peace-joy-honeycake poem” is already sufficient and one finds oneself – so to speak – right in the middle in the verbal bullet- & bombing-rain of paranoid and yet self-righteous human-despisers of the Nationalzionism, who since long ago do not need no more to strive for the allpower of the opinion for to decide who is allowed what to speak, write or print in Germany.
    Because this [the allpower over the opinion] they have since long in the German banana republic, where everyone ducks as soon as the self-proclaimed wannabe and fake Flagship-Jews abuse the mass murder at the European Jewry for their dirty political agenda while (ab)using the decade-long fixed lie again and again to act purportedly on behalf of Judaism.

    It can hardly be another spectacle the vile and disgusting than this is, and finally only serves the purpose of to serve the anti-jewish rogue state in Palestine as the 5th Column and in the same step to legitimize the crimes against the arab-palestinian people as also the frontal attack on the jewish religion and Judaism.

    Poor Germany. Free expression and free speech have long been stunted, have increasingly become a farce. An aggressive type of zionist opinionterror is more and more webbing through the country, the political class and the supposedly free media landscape are since long in the grip of a self-imposed or imposed pro-Zionist control. A “same-phasing” of the worst kind, because the more sold as “free press”.

    Not only the nuclear power “Israel” with its arsenal is the who threatens world peace and with it humanity. It is the ideology of the Nationalzionism entirely, in all its facets. From the perspective of Jewish teaching, it is the greatest spiritual impurity on the planet and poisons the whole world.
    Only the end of this ideology and as a result of it the end of the zionistic rogue state will initiate the redemption of the Jewish people and thus the of the whole humanity.

    http://www.derisraelit.org/2012/04/was-gesagt-werden-muss-solidaritat-mit_06.html

    Like

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