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Guenter Grass Being Labeled an Anti-Semite for Critical Poem of Israel

The New York Times like many newspapers will not print Guenter Grass’ anti-War poem, I wonder if the hatemongers are going to compare this to the Danish cartoons that were supposedly “silenced” in attacks on “free speech” as they claimed at the time?

Quite a few commenters are calling Grass an “anti-Semite” and making hay out of his being drafted into the Waffen-SS in the final two months of World War II which dented his moral authority in Germany. Grass, for his part claims to have never fired a single bullet.

An opinion article in Haaretz has termed the poem “pathetic” but exonerates Grass from being an “anti-Semite,” which if anyone has read his works knows he is not.

Perhaps Guenter Grass is not the most astute individual when it comes to commenting on the geo-political intrigues playing out with regards to the war rhetoric between Israel and Iran, but it is a mistake to censor his work, not to take his points about double standards and hypocrisy seriously and to label him an anti-Semite.

Laureate accuses Israel of plotting to ‘wipe out’ Iran Israel to build 1,121 settler homes – Hebron squatters evicted

BERLIN: German Nobel literature laureate Gunter Grass touched off a firestorm of protest yesterday with a poem accusing Israel of plotting Iran’s annihilation and threatening world peace. The 84-year-old longtime leftist activist wrote in “What must be said” that he worried Israel “could wipe out the Iranian people” with a “first strike” due to the threat it sees in Tehran’s disputed nuclear program. “Why do I only say now, aged and with my last ink: the atomic power Israel is endangering the already fragile world peace?” reads the poem, which appeared in the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung yesterday.

Grass answers that Nazi Germany’s “incomparable” crimes against Jews and his own fear of accusations of anti-Semitism kept him from openly criticising Israel. But now, “tomorrow could already be too late” and Germany could become a “supplier to a crime”, Grass wrote, referring to a deal sealed last month for Berlin to sell Israel a sixth nuclear-capable Dolphin-class submarine. “I admit: I will be silent no longer, because I am sick of the hypocrisy of the West”.

Israel slammed the poem, which also sparked a fevered debate on German-language news and culture websites. “What must be said is that it belongs to European tradition to accuse the Jews of ritual murder before the Passover celebration,” said Emmanuel Nahshon, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli embassy in Berlin, in a statement. “It used to be Christian children whose blood the Jews used to make matza (unleavened bread), today it is the Iranian people that the Jewish state purportedly wants to wipe out.” Nahshon said Israel was “the only state in the world whose right to exist is publicly doubted”. “We want to live in peace with our neighbours in the region. And we are not prepared to assume the role that Gunter Grass assigns us in the German people’s process of coming to terms with its history.”

The Israel director of the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Efraim Zuroff, accused Grass of making himself the spokesman “for anti-Semitic Germans sick of the Holocaust and seeking to rid themselves of any responsibility for its aftermath”. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle released a statement without mentioning Grass by name in which he warned against “making light of the dangers of the Iranian nuclear program”. “Iran obtaining nuclear weapons is not only a threat to Israel and the entire region but also a danger for the world’s security architecture,” he said, underlining Germany’s efforts to prevent Iran from having nuclear arms.

Grass, author of the renowned anti-war novel “The Tin Drum”, shocked his admirers in 2006 when he admitted, six decades after World War II, that he had been a member of the notorious Waffen SS – a revelation that severely undermined his until then substantial moral authority in Germany. Grass said he long kept silent on Israel’s own nuclear program because his country committed “crimes that are without comparison”, but he has come to see that silence as a “burdensome lie and a coercion” whose disregard carries a punishment – “the verdict ‘anti-Semitism’ is commonly used”.

Henryk M Broder, a prominent German Jewish columnist, accused Grass in light of his poem of having become “the prototype of the educated anti-Semite”. “Grass has always had a problem with Jews but he has never articulated it as clearly as with this ‘poem’,” Broder wrote in the daily Die Welt. The country’s most influential media commentators were unanimous in their criticism, saying Grass had offered up a one-sided portrayal of Israel as the aggressor and Iran as a victim of a mortal threat. “Never before in the history of the republic has a prominent intellectual waged a battle against Israel in such a cliched way,” wrote the website of news weekly Der Spiegel. Only Wolfgang Gehrcke of the far-left Die Linke party defended Grass in public, saying he had the “courage” to express “what is widely kept silent”.

Israel, the sole if undeclared nuclear power in the Middle East, has said it is keeping all options open for responding to Iran’s program which it says is aimed at securing atomic weapons, posing an existential threat to the Jewish state. Iran, whose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad frequently questions Israel’s right to exist, has consistently denied that its sensitive nuclear work is aimed at making weapons.

Separately, Israel’s government yesterday published tenders for 1,121 new settler homes as it faced settler anger over its decision to evict Israeli families from a disputed home in the Palestinian city of Hebron. Documents published on the Israeli housing ministry website showed the government had issued tenders for 872 new homes in Har Homa, a contentious settlement neighbourhood in the southern part of Arab east Jerusalem. Another 180 are to be built in Givat Zeev, just to the north of Jerusalem in the West Bank, while the remaining 69 are to be built in Katzrin in the occupied Golan Heights, the documents showed. Read rest here

The full text of the poem:

Why I am silent, silent for too much time,
how much is clear and we made it
in war games, where, as survivors,
we are just the footnotes

That is the claimed right to the formal preventive aggression
which could erase the Iranian people
dominated by a bouncer and moved to an organized jubilation,
because in the area of his competence there is
the construction of the atomic bomb

And then why do I avoid myself
to call the other country with its name,
where since years – even if secretly covered -
there is an increasing nuclear power,
without control, because unreachable
by every inspection?

I feel the everybody silence on this state of affairs,
which my silence is slave to,
as an oppressive lie and an inhibition that presents punishment
we don’t pay attention to;
the verdict “anti-Semitism” is common

Now, since my country,
from time to time touched by unique and exclusive crimes,
obliged to justify itself,
again for pure business aims – even if
with fast tongue we call it “reparation” -
should deliver another submarine to Israel,
with the specialty of addressing
annihilating warheads where the
existence of one atomic bomb is not proved
but it wants evidence as a scarecrow,
I say what must be said

Why did I stay silent until now?
Because the thought about my origin,
burdened by an unclearing stain,
had avoiding to wait this fact
like a truth declared by the State of Israel
that I want to be connected to

Why did I say it only now,
old and with the last ink:
the nuclear power of Israel
threat the world peace?
Because it must be said
what tomorrow will be too late;
Because – as Germans and with
enough faults on the back -
we might also become deliverers of a predictable
crime, and no excuse would erase our complicity

And I admit: I won’t be silent
because I had enough of the Western hypocrisy;
Because I wish that many will want
to get rid of the silence,
exhorting the cause of a recognizable
risk to the abdication, asking that a free and permanent control
of the Israel atomic power
and the Iran nuclear bases
will be made by both the governments
with an international supervision

Only in this way, Israelis, Palestinians, and everybody,
all people living hostile face to face in that
country occupied by the craziness,
will have a way out,
so us too

(The original German):

Warum schweige ich, verschweige zu lange,
was offensichtlich ist und in Planspielen
geübt wurde, an deren Ende als Überlebende
wir allenfalls Fußnoten sind.

Es ist das behauptete Recht auf den Erstschlag,
der das von einem Maulhelden unterjochte
und zum organisierten Jubel gelenkte
iranische Volk auslöschen könnte,
weil in dessen Machtbereich der Bau
einer Atombombe vermutet wird.

Doch warum untersage ich mir,
jenes andere Land beim Namen zu nennen,
in dem seit Jahren – wenn auch geheimgehalten -
ein wachsend nukleares Potential verfügbar
aber außer Kontrolle, weil keiner Prüfung
zugänglich ist?

Das allgemeine Verschweigen dieses Tatbestandes,
dem sich mein Schweigen untergeordnet hat,
empfinde ich als belastende Lüge
und Zwang, der Strafe in Aussicht stellt,
sobald er mißachtet wird;
das Verdikt ‘Antisemitismus’ ist geläufig.

Jetzt aber, weil aus meinem Land,
das von ureigenen Verbrechen,
die ohne Vergleich sind,
Mal um Mal eingeholt und zur Rede gestellt wird,
wiederum und rein geschäftsmäßig, wenn auch
mit flinker Lippe als Wiedergutmachung deklariert,
ein weiteres U-Boot nach Israel
geliefert werden soll, dessen Spezialität
darin besteht, allesvernichtende Sprengköpfe
dorthin lenken zu können, wo die Existenz
einer einzigen Atombombe unbewiesen ist,
doch als Befürchtung von Beweiskraft sein will,
sage ich, was gesagt werden muß.

Warum aber schwieg ich bislang?
Weil ich meinte, meine Herkunft,
die von nie zu tilgendem Makel behaftet ist,
verbiete, diese Tatsache als ausgesprochene Wahrheit
dem Land Israel, dem ich verbunden bin
und bleiben will, zuzumuten.

Warum sage ich jetzt erst,
gealtert und mit letzter Tinte:
Die Atommacht Israel gefährdet
den ohnehin brüchigen Weltfrieden?

Weil gesagt werden muß,
was schon morgen zu spät sein könnte;
auch weil wir – als Deutsche belastet genug -
Zulieferer eines Verbrechens werden könnten,
das voraussehbar ist, weshalb unsere Mitschuld
durch keine der üblichen Ausreden
zu tilgen wäre.

Und zugegeben: ich schweige nicht mehr,
weil ich der Heuchelei des Westens
überdrüssig bin; zudem ist zu hoffen,
es mögen sich viele vom Schweigen befreien,
den Verursacher der erkennbaren Gefahr
zum Verzicht auf Gewalt auffordern und
gleichfalls darauf bestehen,
daß eine unbehinderte und permanente Kontrolle
des israelischen atomaren Potentials
und der iranischen Atomanlagen
durch eine internationale Instanz
von den Regierungen beider Länder zugelassen wird.

Nur so ist allen, den Israelis und Palästinensern,
mehr noch, allen Menschen, die in dieser
vom Wahn okkupierten Region
dicht bei dicht verfeindet leben
und letztlich auch uns zu helfen.

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  • http://oskarfreysingerwatch.blogspot.mx/ Garry Ladouceur

    Sir David,

    i LINKED My comment to this article because I think states that are vulnerable are more likely to do crazy things. The UK is pretty isolated up there and yes I agree that Argentina will not be effective for a long while— but it has time. How long can the UK keep a nuclear sub in south atlantic waters etc. without causing some reaction from other south american neighbours and all of that. Living in the area, I dont see this as a short term thing, i,e, gaining points for economic issues, but a strong feeling rooted in humiliation on the part of the Argentinians. Perhaps the Falkland Islanders will become a protestant island in a sea of catholics. UK will start a form of Aliyah…..

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 16.69

    Garry
    I know its off topic but the Argentine airforce still has the same planes it had at the end of the first falkland conflict. Port Stanley has up todate fighters,, last time their were no planes based at Port Stanly . Argentine could not invade the falklands because it has not the military power to invade a bus stop. Its trying to whip up a diplomatic storm to distract its population from their economic problems .
    Any way back to the loons

  • seljuq

    “Israel may have the right to put others on trial, but certainly no one has the right to put the Jewish people and the State of Israel on trial.”

    Ariel Sharon 25 March, 2001

  • Young & Free

    Oops! Just saw this.
    Yesterday I was watching a video about Israeli ministers demanding that Iran starts exporting its fine uranium. Just so weird how they can bully Iran. Seems out of line considering their history!

  • http://oskarfreysingerwatch.blogspot.mx/ Garry Ladouceur

    A last point promise. Paparatzi and Gunther are cut from the same cloth. One hides now behind belowing holy robes the other behind literature. I dont like these guys and i might forget them being soldiers but I cannot ever ever pardon a genocide that these guys helped out with. Sorry.

    ABOUT THE nuclear bombs… Once one starts raising the possibility of nuclear then the game has changed. It just gets easier for everyone. Look at the UK in the Falklands. They have a nuclear submarine in the waters there as the ultimate threat. They cannot hold the line against Argentina this time. Folks know that. Logistics will kill them but pride needs that they win and hence the nuclear card. It seems easy and logical now and that scares the poop out of me. I dont want to die just now. No room for cutesy arguments about mean arabs and maligned jewish people. These nuts out there are getting ready to use the nuclear bomb, one anytime now, the other given time. These dogs of war have to be put back in their pens. Soon.

  • crow

    It was a good poem…..if Zionists don’t like it they should stop. Being murderous bastards

  • Garry Ladouceur

    If it is the state of israel or mother theresa, I am sure shaking in my boots now. This is more than name calling. If nuclear weapons are used we are all in heap big trouble. Nuclear weapons are never good guy weapons or bad guy weapons. Whoever intends to use these things has to be stopped. Regardless of history. No free passes on this one sirs.

  • Palestinian

    I liked the poem. Zionists have no taste in art anyway.

  • Believing Atheist

    @Nur,

    I hardly understand anything you say Nur, since your words are wrapped in ambiguity and it seems like you are engaged in Obscurantism. For instance, I don’t have a clue about what you said to me on this thread.

  • NurAlia

    @beliving athiest.

    The current Pope of the Catholic Church was once a supporter of the Nazis.

    Perhaps the man’s experiences, perhaps seeing things from the other side, he knows that Nazis dont own hate and bigotry, and that, simply changing the name of the victim, and the villian…the same narrative that leads to destruction is the same.

    Perhaps this is what you need to understand, rather than over analysing the situtation.

  • Believing Atheist

    @Ibn Rushds’ Ghost,

    I think you have a distorted definition of what entails being a Nazi. It just doesn’t mean party membership. Check out definition 2

    often nazi An adherent or advocate of policies characteristic of Nazism; a fascist.
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Nazi

    Grass at the age of 17 he had volunteered for submarine service, was not accepted and instead drafted into a Waffen-SS Panzer Division.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%BCnter_Grass#2006_Waffen-SS_revelations

    I can understand being forcefully drafted, but why volunteer if you have no sympathy to the cause?

    Having said about advice from a friend, I will say this I want to both withdraw my criticism of him but paradoxically do not want to.

    I am suffering from a moral dilemma. On the one hand I do not wish to hold him accountable in perpetuity for his mistake as a teenager, but on the other hand I cannot seem to forgive a man who volunteered for submarine service was not accepted and then did not resist a draft to the Waffen SS.

    However, I realize that I am a hypocrite because I too would not want to be held in perpetuity for my mistakes as a youth or after I have repented for my transgressions and sought to correct my mistakes in the future by helping human beings.

    Perhaps is Walesa can forgive him then so can I…but I am just not completely sure.

  • Isa

    ““What must be said is that it belongs to European tradition to accuse the Jews of ritual murder before the Passover celebration,””

    Huh?? What does the poem have anything to do with “Jewish ritual murder”?

  • mindy1

    I’m Jewish, there was NOTHING anti semitic about that poem. People can agree or not, but that was not anti sematic :(

  • Averroes’ Ghost

    At Believing Atheist, you know he wasn’t a member of Nazi party though right? So calling him a Nazi is not factual. Will you take it back that he was a “nazi”?

  • Al

    Good on Grass. The Waffen-SS, in the final throes of the great war were primarily tasked with defending Germany from the advancing Soviet hordes, who history shows engaged in more pogroms, genocide, and forced relocation than any other group at the time. Just ask the Slavs and the Poles. The Waffen(fighting) SS weren’t the same as the political SS and would be akin to modern special forces like the Navy SEALS. Some divisions like the Totenkompf (or “Death’s Head Division)were involved in police actions and as concentration camp guards, but most Waffen SS divisions were clear of atrocities. Waffen SS divisions included Bosniak Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus seeking to throw off the yolk of encroaching Soviet and Brittish colonialists. WWII is far more complex than Zionist NAZIS and Amerikkkan Exceptionalists would like the plebeian masses to think. What the German people did to the Jews was horrible and unfounded, but in the wake of the Versailles treaty of WWI and aggression from Poles against Germans in the Silesa region of Germany/Poland PRIOR to the German invasion in 1939, the Germans were not entirely incorrect in their military manuvers.

    Zionist, Hasbara, trolls would have you think otherwise though…

  • Believing Atheist

    What do you mean by my comments are favorable to Israel? Have I not condemned Israel several times on this site? Have I not stood up for the Palestinians several times on this site?

    Regarding the Pope, he is a Nazi in my opinion and a liar. Joseph Ratzinger’s claims about the Hitler Youth are not true. Compulsory membership was first defined in 1936 and reinforced in 1939, not in 1941 as he says. Ratzinger also says that he was “still too young” at the time, but he was 14 in 1941 and not too young at all: between the ages of 10 and 14, membership in the Deutsche Jungvolk (a group for younger children) was mandatory. Yet there is no mention of Raztinger belonging. If he had managed to avoid the required membership in the Deutsche Jungvolk, why did he suddenly join the Hitler Youth in 1941?

    I see Grass the same way I see Silone.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignazio_Silone#Controversy

    I have no respect for a man who agrees to perpetuate the misery of others just so that he many live another day. In this regard many ordinary illiterate Germans are more heroic and ethical than Grass, they have resisted being drafted, they have sheltered Jews and Gypsies,they have decided to go to their deaths rather than kill another innocent human being.

  • Believing Atheist

    @Ibn Rushd’s Ghost,

    What do you mean by my comments are favorable to Israel? Have I not condemned Israel several times on this site? Have I not stood up for the Palestinians several times on this site?

    Regarding the Pope, he is a Nazi in my opinion and a liar. Joseph Ratzinger’s claims about the Hitler Youth are not true. Compulsory membership was first defined in 1936 and reinforced in 1939, not in 1941 as he says. Ratzinger also says that he was “still too young” at the time, but he was 14 in 1941 and not too young at all: between the ages of 10 and 14, membership in the Deutsche Jungvolk (a group for younger children) was mandatory. Yet there is no mention of Raztinger belonging. If he had managed to avoid the required membership in the Deutsche Jungvolk, why did he suddenly join the Hitler Youth in 1941?

    I see Grass the same way I see Silone.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignazio_Silone#Controversy

    I have no respect for a man who agrees to perpetuate the misery of others just so that he many live another day. In this regard many ordinary illiterate Germans are more heroic and ethical than Grass, they have resisted being drafted, they have sheltered Jews and Gypsies,they have decided to go to their deaths rather than kill another innocent human being.

  • Just Stopping By

    @Believing Atheist says, “@JSB, I actually disagree with you on this one.” I guess you are entitled to be wrong once in a while. Let’s find out why.

    @BA says, “It is not ‘some,’ but a wide concentrated effort…”

    some: adjective. Definition 4: “unspecified but considerable in number, amount, degree, etc.”; http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/some?s=t.

    I don’t think we disagree if you use that dictionary definition of “some” rather than assuming it means “unspecified but few in number, amount, degree, etc.” Anyway, that’s some issue you have with the dictionary definition. ;-)

  • Believing Atheist

    @JSB,

    I actually disagree with you on this one. It is not “some,” but a wide concentrated effort to shut down the discussion on Israeli human rights violations, by labelling individuals and groups that disclose such violations as Anti-Semites or by pushing them out of mainstream discourse and/or hurting their status both economically and by a assault on their reputation.

    One great example is Norman Finkelstein’s tenure dispute with DePaul University. That effort was lead by people like Alan Dershowitz and he was successful in enabling DePaul to deny Finkelstein tenure.

    Now I disagree with many things Finkelstein said (and I disclosed this to you privately) but he has the academic freedom to say these things. To hold him guilty of a thought crime means shutting down the debate on Israel because common sense dictates that others will not want to get their reputation smeared or lose their jobs as Finkelstein has and they will keep their mouth shut for the sake of self-preservation.

    That’s why Edward Said and Joseph Massad have noted that many intellectuals do not speak out against Israel’s human rights record becasue of this fear

    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v22/n11/edward-said/diary

    http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2003/623/op33.htm

    [Note: I am not a fan of Joseph Massad and I believe he is a crackpot theorist, but he does get this right in my humble opinion].

  • MasterQ

    @Believing Atheist

    You really should read this:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20040901062012/http://www.wujs.org.il/activist/campaigns/propaganda_devices.shtml

    It’s a guide for Jewish students on how to delegitimize critics of Israel via “Name-Calling” and “Word Association”

  • Averroes’ Ghost

    I don’t think it is right to term Grass a Nazi. He was a German soldier, he was drafted not of his will into the Waffen-SS, I think he should have fled or joined the resistance, but he was 17 years old. He was not a member of the Nazi party.

    I wonder believing Atheism if you would be quick to call the current Pope a “Nazi” it seems more so that you are favorable to Israel and so your comment is designed to look objective but the language betrays that.

    Have you read the Tin Drum? Do you know what Grass has said about Germany’s past and its violence against the Jews?

  • Just Stopping By

    @Believing Atheist says, “that I don’t like the fact that criticism of Israel is equates to Anti-Antisemitism.” It doesn’t. It shouldn’t. It’s just that some people say that, and some people pre-emptively worry that others will say that.

    However, perhaps the place to make your point may not be on a website that has stated that the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan are two examples of “the Greater Islamophobia.” ;-)

  • Robert P

    @Believing Atheist

    It is precisely because of his own complicity in crimes against Jews that he says he has been so slow to speak out against Israel.

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 16.69

    I agree with Believing Atheist . Its the equating of disagreeing with a political viewpoint and Isreal is a political entity , they even have elections and a pârliament with having a hatred of a race of people or religion .
    THEY ARE NOT THE SAME.
    ( rant over sorry for shouting )

  • Believing Atheist

    I am not sure if Grass is an anti-semite but he was a Nazi in the past. A member of the Nazi Waffen-SS in fact.
    http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1226380,00.html

    http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/gesellschaft/0,1518,431823,00.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%BCnter_Grass#2006_Waffen-SS_revelations

    Having said that I don’t like the fact that criticism of Israel is equates to Anti-Antisemitism. Criticism of Pakistan is not Anti-Muslim, criticism of Japan is not Anti-Shinto and criticism of Italy is not Anti-Catholic, so there appears to be a double-standard with Israel.

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