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Israeli ban on Gunter Grass ´infantile,´ says Salman Rushdie (ISRAEL HAYOM) Israel Hayom Staff 04/10/12)Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=3910 Israel Hayom Israel Hayom Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Author of "The Satanic Verses," who was the subject of an Iranian fatwa, says it´s okay to be disgusted with Grass´ poem calling Israel "threat to world peace," but banning him is wrong • Dershowitz: Yishai´s ban "foolish and self-defeating."

Following the publication of Nobel laureate Gunter Grass´s poem "What must be said," Israeli politicians and Jewish leaders lashed out at the German author for saying that Israeli warnings about striking Iran threaten "the already fragile world peace." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the poem "shameful," while Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Sunday said Grass would be considered a persona non grata in Israel.

By Tuesday, however, a backlash to such reactions appeared to emerge, with Grass´s poem (published last week in German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung) and his freedom of speech being defended not only by German ministers and the German public, but also by the likes of author Salman Rushdie and staunch Israel supporter Professor Alan Dershowitz.

German Health Minister Daniel Bahr chimed in on the debate over Grass´s poem, calling Israel´s decision to ban him from entering the country "completely exaggerated," in an interview with daily Die Welt´s Tuesday edition.

"I can hardly imagine that Mr. Grass has any interest in showing up in Israel," said Bahr, a member of the FDP liberal party. However, Bahr also criticized Grass for not being open to others´ opinions.

Author Salman Rushdie, himself the subject of literary controversy in 1989 when Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for his death, also joined the fray about the reactions to Grass´s poem.

Rushdie, an Indian-born British novelist who was accused of insulting Islam’s founder in his novel “The Satanic Verses,” posted several comments on his Twitter feed about the Grass affair and Israel´s reaction.

"OK to dislike, even be disgusted by #GünterGrass poem, but to ban him is infantile pique," Rushdie wrote. "The answer to words must always be other words."

Rushdie also referred to Grass´s Nobel-winning novel "The Tin Drum" and other works of his, saying, "Let´s not forget that #GünterGrass is the author of the greatest literary responses to Nazism, The Tin Drum, Cat and Mouse, Dog Years."

His final tweet, as of press time, was "Nobody can seriously believe #GunterGrass is anti-Semitic. The issue today is a bad poem and Israel´s bad response to it."

Alan Deshowitz, one of Israel´s greatest supporters and defenders in the international community, published a piece on the Grass controversy on the Huffington Post on Monday, calling Yishai´s decision to bar Grass from entering the Jewish state "both foolish and self-defeating."

Dershowitz called Grass´s poem "absurdly ignorant and perversely bigoted" but said he should be welcomed in Israel "and shown the real facts on the ground: that Israel is a tiny country doing its best to defend itself against existential threats posed by Iran´s determination to develop nuclear weapons and by the increasing radical Islamization of Israel´s neighborhood."

Grass "should be made to feel shame for misusing his literary talents in the interests of bigotry and falsehood," wrote Dershowitz.

He went on to say that Grass´s ideas should be discussed and debated, but that "Israel need not fear poets or polemicists. It should certainly not use its security apparatus, which includes control over its borders, to exclude has-been octogenarian writers with whom it disagrees."

Dershowitz accused Yishai of weakening Israel´s "otherwise strong case for excluding individuals who pose genuine threats to the physical security of Israeli citizens. Border controls should be reserved for real security threats."

Meanwhile, Grass was also defended by peace activists in Germany Monday, who voiced support for the author.

"It is unacceptable," Willi van Ooyen, a spokesman for a group that organizes traditional peace marches held each year on Easter weekend in Germany since 1960, told French news agency AFP of Israel´s ban.

"Threats and preparations for war poison the political climate," said Ooyen, echoing Grass´s concerns that Israel might launch a strike against Iran´s nuclear facilities to stop a suspected weapons program.

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