´Grass´ poem continues European tradition of blood libel´ (ISRAEL HAYOM) Eli Leon, The Associated Press and Israel Hayom Staff 04/05/12)
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Israeli Embassy official in Germany issues harsh response to German
Nobel laureate´s poem that calls Israel a threat to "fragile world
peace" Grass, 84, says he spoke out after Germany´s decision to
sell Israel a nuclear-capable submarine.
German Nobel literature laureate Gunter Grass drew sharp rebukes at
home and from Israel after he labeled Israel a threat to "already
fragile world peace" in a poem published Wednesday.
In the poem titled "What must be said," published in the German daily
Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Italy´s La Repubblica, among others, Grass
criticized what he described as Western hypocrisy over Israel´s own
suspected nuclear program amid speculation that it might engage in
military action against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear
"´What must be said´ belongs to the European tradition of accusing
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
matzah [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 neighbors 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," he
"Gunter Grass is turning the situation upside-down by defending a
brutal regime that not only disregards but openly violates
international agreements for many years," said Deidre Berger,
director of the American Jewish Committee in Berlin.
"Iran is the threat for world peace and Israel the only democracy
in the entire region, and at the same time the world´s only [country]
whose right to exist is openly questioned," said Charlotte Knobloch,
a former leader of Germany´s Jewish community.
Efraim Zuroff, who leads the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center in
Jerusalem, called Grass´ poem "outrageous," adding it appeared to be
a sign of Israel "becoming the whipping boy for the frustrations of
those who are sick of hearing about the Holocaust."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a staunch ally of Israel, and her
spokesman reacted coolly to Grass´ remarks.
"There is artistic freedom in Germany, and there thankfully also is
the freedom of the government not to have to comment on every
artistic production," Steffen Seibert said.
The head of the German Parliament´s foreign affairs committee
lawmaker Ruprecht Polenz, a member of Merkel´s Christian Democrats
told the daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung that Grass is a great
author "but he always has difficulties when he speak about politics
and mostly gets it wrong."
"The country that worries us is Iran," he was quoted as saying,
adding that "his poem distracts attention from that."
Grass´ assistant Hilke Ohsoling told German news agency dapd
Wednesday that the author will not explain or defend his poem, nor
does he plan to comment on the reactions in the near future because
of health issues.
The 84-year-old Grass said he had been prompted to put pen to paper
by Berlin´s recent decision to sell Israel a submarine able to "send
all-destroying warheads where the existence of a single nuclear bomb
"The nuclear power Israel is endangering already fragile world
peace," he wrote. His poem specifically criticized Israel´s "claim to
the right of a first strike" against Iran.
Grass also called for "unhindered and permanent control of Israel´s
nuclear capability and Iran´s atomic facilities through an
Israel views Iran as a threat to its existence, citing among other
things some Iranian calls for its destruction and fears that Iran
aims to produce nuclear weapons.
Grass did not mention those calls, which have been made by Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but obliquely referred to the Iranian
people being "subjugated by a loudmouth."
Israel is widely believed to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons but
has never admitted to it, pursuing instead an official policy
of "ambiguity" to deter potential attackers.
Israel currently has three Dolphin submarines from Germany one half-
funded and two entirely funded by Berlin two more are currently
under construction, and the contract for a sixth submarine was signed
last month. Dolphin-class submarines can carry nuclear-tipped
missiles, but there is no evidence that Israel has armed them with
The West sees Iran´s nuclear program as designed to develop an atomic
bomb, but Tehran denies the charge, saying an expansion of its
enrichment program is meant only to provide nuclear fuel.
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."
The left-leaning Grass established himself as a leading literary
figure with "The Tin Drum," published in 1959, and won the Nobel
Prize in 1999. He urged fellow Germans to confront their painful Nazi
history in the decades after World War II.
However, his image suffered a bruising when he admitted in his 2006
autobiography that he was drafted into the Waffen-SS, the combat arm
of the Nazis´ paramilitary organization, in the final months of World
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