Israel no longer taboo in Germany? (YNetNews.Com -Yedioth Internet) Aviel Magnezi Published: 04.09.12, 00:24)
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Former Israeli ambassadors to Germany disagree over whether Guenter
Grass´s controversial poem breaks German taboo in criticizing Israel
From José Saramago to Roger Waters, Israel is no stranger to
criticism from artists, writers and philosophers worldwide. But the
magnitude of the response to a poem by German author Gunter Grass
grew beyond the usual soft condemnation usually practiced in
situations like this.
Did 84-year-old Grass break a taboo in the way Germans allow
themselves to publicly criticize Israel? Is Germany finally shaking
off its sense of commitment toward the Jewish people, 67 years after
War World II? Or was this taboo broken many years ago? Two former
ambassadors to Germany are in disagreement over this question.
"No taboo has been broken," says Shimon Stein, Israeli ambassador to
Germany in 2001-2007. Stein claims criticism on Israel has been
voiced by many German politicians, including the Chancellor, for
several years now. In recent years, Stein adds, many politicians
publicly disapproved of Israeli policy regarding the peace process,
the settlements and the Israeli response to the Arab spring.
In his poem, published in the daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung,
Grass condemns the plan to deliver a Dolphin submarine to Israel, a
vessel with nuclear capabilities, and calls to supervise Israel´s
nuclear facilities. "I am silent no longer, because I am tired of the
West´s hypocrisy," writes Grass.
According to Stein, Grass´s poem is a typical expression of someone
trying to evince courage. Others, Stein argues, have been daring for
many years. Only three weeks ago, the German defense minister spoke
following the visit of his counterpart, Ehud Barak, saying he is very
concerned about a possible Israeli attack on Iran. In fact, Germans
oppose any use of force in resolving political problems, an opinion
they express time and again with regard to Israel."
Stein is convinced that the attention to the poem is a result of the
author´s history. Grass was a member of Hitler-jugend in his
past. "He lost his legitimacy a long time ago," Stein says. According
to Stein, the poem is partially anti-Semitic, especially the claim
that Israel endangers world peace. According to Stein, had Grass been
more specific, without using semi-Nazi expressions, his poem would
not have become an issue in Germany.
Primor: Don´t link to Nazi pat
Avi Promor, a former ambassador to Germany, thinks differently. He
claims that the poem is a serious violation of a taboo in the German
public discourse. According to Primor, German public opinion
criticizes the poem´s massage that Israel threatens world peace, but
many still identify with the poem´s title: "What Must Be Said."
There is a hidden anger in Germany regarding the fear of criticizing
Israel, Primor says, referring to the tendency to dub any attempt of
criticism as "anti-Semitism". Grass is not the first to say these
things, but his voice is louder, Primor argues adding that the author
criticizes this hypocrisy of criticizing Israel behind close doors,
but not in public.
Primor wishes to exclude Grass´s past in the Waffen SS from the
discussion on his poem. "It is a mistake to link this to his Nazi
past," he says, arguing that although Grass joined the Nazi youth
movement like many at the time, he did not remain loyal to Nazi
ideology, and all his books are anti Nazi. Primor insists that there
is no anti-Semitism in Grass´s speeches and publications, and he
doesn´t even hate Israel. "It is important to pay attention to the
message of the poem," Primor says. (Copyright 2012 © Yedioth Internet
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