Berlin — Last week, Germany’s most famous living writer called Israel the greatest impediment to world peace.
Eighty-four-year-old Nobel literature laureate Günter Grass penned a poem entitled “What must be said” for Munich’s liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, accusing Israel of planning a first strike on Iran to “extinguish the Iranian people.”
Grass, a social-democratic activist and admitted former member of the Nazi Waffen-SS, is not Israel’s most defensible critic.
While Israel has never threatened to obliterate Iran, the Islamic Republic often threatens to “wipe Israel off the map.” Grass airbrushes the Iranian regime’s statements out of history, and those of Iran’s supposedly moderate former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who said as early as 2001 that “the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything.”
David Pryce-Jones neatly captured Grass’s “poisonous poetry” last week.
#more#Since Grass published his tirade against Israel, German media have reported non-stop on the reactions it has evoked. This past Sunday, Israeli interior minister Eli Yishai barred Grass from entering Israel, invoking a 1952 law permitting Israel to prevent visits from members of Nazi organizations. In 2000, Israel applied the law to Austrian conservative politician Jörg Haider, who praised the Waffen-SS and died in office in 2008 as a member of the extremist xenophobic party Alliance for Austria’s Future.
The New York Daily News expressed support for Israel’s ban on Grass, while McGill University historian Gil Troy argues that it was unwarranted, in a Jerusalem Post piece entitled “Let Gunter Grass visit Israel — and encounter democracy.”
In addition to Grass’s baggage with respect to the Jews, his career has been marked by a deep disgust with the United States. In 2003, a mere three years before he revealed his membership in the Waffen-SS in an interview with the German daily FAZ, he wrote a Los Angeles Times piece arguing that President George W. Bush and his government “are diminishing democratic values.”
Grass wrote that Bush’s words — “those not with us are against us” — typified the barbarity of the times. “It is hardly surprising that the rhetoric of the aggressor increasingly resembles that of his enemy. . .” Grass stressed. He continued, “religious fundamentalism leads both sides to abuse what belongs to all religions, taking the notion of ‘God!’ hostage in accordance with their own fanatical understanding.”
In short, Grass equates American foreign policy with that of al-Qaeda.
He’s been singing the same song for decades. In 1983, he accused Ronald Reagan of seeking the “military superiority of the West,” which contributed in no small part to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet Union.
Grass bears strange beliefs for a German national hero, but his world outlook conforms to that of the European Left.
To quote an Israeli psychoanalyst, Grass belongs to that class of Germans who will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz. Apparently he’ll never forgive the Americans for a free Germany, either.
— Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a correspondent with the Jerusalem Post.