German Jews agree with travel ban on author Grass (JERUSALEM POST) By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT 04/11/12)
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BERLIN – Leading German Jewish intellectuals expressed support on
Tuesday for Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s decision to ban Günter
Grass from visiting Israel because of the writer’s anti-Semitic poem.
The Munich-based Jewish historian Michael Wolffsohn told the daily
Tagesspiegel that the ban was “absolutely legitimate.” Wolffsohn, a
contemporary history professor at the Bundeswehr University in Munich
and Israeli native, said it is important to show the world that
criticism is permitted ”but not from former SS people.”
It is unacceptable that an author who was silent about his history
for over 60 years and has not really processed it “is now elevated to
a moral authority in general and over the descendants of the victims
of the Nazis in particular,” he said.
Grass covered up his WWII membership in the SS – a unit that played a
key role in murdering Jews – for six decades until 2006 when he
confessed in an interview that he was a member of the Nazi
The Jewish journalist and author Ralph Giordano told the Frankfurter
Rundschau newspaper that he could “absolutely understand the
Netanyahu government” and its reaction to Grass. Giordano survived
the Holocaust in hiding and has authored books on Germany and its
failures and successes in working through its Nazi history.
Giordano justified the ban because of the existential threat that the
Jewish state faces from the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In his poem, published in various newspapers last week, Grass
asserted that Israel seeks to “extinguish the Iranian people” and
that Israel is the principal threat to world peace.
In contrast to Giordano and Wolffsohn, Harvard University law Prof.
Alan Dershowitz wrote a Huffington Post opinion piece titled “Günter
Grass Shouldn’t Be Barred From Israel.”
Dershowitz argued that the interior minister’s decision is “both
foolish and self-defeating.”
“Grass’s poem has also been effectively critiqued by Israelis across
the political and literary spectrum. That is as it should be in an
open, vibrant democracy, accustomed to rancorous public debate. But a
great nation, committed to freedom of expression and dissent, should
not bar a critic, even a critic as bigoted as Grass, from its
territory,” he wrote.
“Günter Grass has always had a problem with Jews, from his early days
as a member of the Hitler youth and Nazi SS to his most recent
application of a nasty double standard to the Jewish state. But his
ridiculous poem doesn’t pose any security threat to Israel that would
justify his physical exclusion from the country.”
Dershowitz wrote he believes that Grass “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. He should also be
shown why Israel’s submarines, which provide a second-strike
capacity, serve as a deterrent to a possible nuclear attack by Iran.
He should be made to feel shame for misusing his literary talents in
the interests of bigotry and falsehood.”
Author Salman Rushdie also criticized the Israeli government decision
on Tuesday, calling it “infantile.”
It is “OK to dislike [or] even be disgusted by the poem, but to ban
him is infantile pique,” the Indian-born writer posted on his Twitter
feed. “The answer to words must always be other words.”
Rushdie has been under an Iranian fatwa, or death threat, since 1989,
after he published The Satanic Verses, which critics claim depicts
the prophet Muhammad in an irreverent manner.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report. (© 1995-2011, The
Jerusalem Post 04/11/12)
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