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PM, in German interview, defends decision to bar Grass: He ‘went too far toward untruths and slander’ (TIMES OF ISRAEL) By RAPHAEL AHREN 04/22/12)Source: http://www.timesofisrael.com/pm-defends-decision-to-bar-grass-he-went-too-far-towards-untruths-and-slander/ TIMES OF ISRAEL TIMES OF ISRAEL Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
As Netanyahu slams Iran poem, surveys bringing conflicting reports about whether Germans agree with the author

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday defended Israel’s decision to bar German writer Günter Grass from entering the country after the Nobel laureate published a poem accusing Israel of endangering world peace.

“I think what Grass says is an absolute outrage,” he said in an interview with the German daily Die Welt. “That it comes from a German Nobel laureate and not from a teenager in a Neo-Nazi party makes it all the more outrageous. And it demands a very strong response. I think what Grass said shows a collapse of moral clarity.”

The newspaper also published a new survey that shows that the German public generally agrees with Netanyahu that Iran is the real threat to peace in the region.

Earlier this month, Grass, a popular but controversial writer who served in the Waffen-SS at the end of World War II, published a poem in which he lamented that Israel was seeking to annihilate the Iranian people and admonished his German compatriots to dare speak the “truth” about the Israeli-Iranian issue. The poem – entitled “Was gesagt werden muss,” or “What needs to be said” – also implied that Germans hesitate to criticize Israel because they fear being labeled anti-Semites. Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai consequently decided to bar Grass from entering the country, a move that was widely criticized as exaggerated.

When the German journalists asked Netanyahu if it wouldn’t have been smarter to invite the 84-year-old writer to “a critical discussion in Israel” instead of declaring him persona non grata, Netanyahu responded: “Sometimes things are so outrageous that they have to be responded to in a different way. He went too far toward untruths and toward slander. And I think that reaction expresses it.”

“He has created a perfect moral inversion where the aggressor becomes the victim and the victim becomes the aggressor,” the prime minister added. “Where those who try to defend themselves against the threat of annihilation become the threat to world peace. And where the firefighter and not the arsonist is the real danger.”

Netanyahu stopped short of calling Grass’s thinking anti-Semitic, saying instead, somewhat cryptically, that there “is something very deep there, because it’s not the normal criticism of Israel.”

While Israel is used to criticism, Grass’s poem is a “fundamental reversal of the truth,” Netanyahu said. “And coming from someone with Grass’s stature in Germany it is very upsetting, very disconcerting. Now the question is: Do people accept this or not?”

In the interview, which Die Welt conducted in Jerusalem on Holocaust Remembrance Day last week, Netanyahu also said that every German must ask himself whether he would have supported or opposed the Hitler regime, and whether he would have believed the anti-Jewish propaganda spread at the time. “And today the issue is not the attacks on the Jews but the violent attack on the Jewish state, which is accompanied by the same vilification, the same slanders,” he said. “And those now who agree with Günter Grass about the Jewish state should ask themselves if they wouldn’t have agreed with the slanders against the Jewish people in the time of the Holocaust.”

Also on Sunday, Die Welt published a survey claiming that “a clear majority of Germans are on Israel’s side” in the debate over the Iranian nuclear program. According to the poll, 58 percent agree with Netanyahu that it was Iran who threatened Israel, and not vice versa, as Grass’s poem suggested. Only 18% said that the Jewish state was a greater world threat to world peace than the Islamic Republic, according to the survey.

Three quarters of respondents said that Israel could be criticized in German “like any other country,” disagreeing with another claim made by Grass. Only two out of 10 respondents said it was taboo to say “certain things regarding Jews and Israel.”

These findings are in stark contrasts to earlier surveys, which suggest that the majority of Germans actually agree with Grass.

In a recent online survey by the German edition of the Financial Times, 57% found Grass’s “theses about Israel” correct. Only 8% percent of the 21,773 respondents found them to be either “anti- Semitic” or “lunatic.”

Another online survey, conducted by Germany’s national television ARD, had 51% percent saying they “completely agree” with Grass. (© 2012 THE TIMES OF ISRAEL 04/22/12)

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