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Günter Grass, persona non grata in Israel

Now Interior Minister Eli Yishai has declared Grass to be persona non grata while Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has accused the German author of being ”willing to sacrifice the Jewish people on the altar of crazy anti-Semites for a second time, just to sell a few more books or gain recognition.”

Yishai and Lieberman are the two most outspoken racists in the Israeli government, so if one of the ways to know a person is by his enemies, I’d say Grass is looking pretty good.

And in a way, he’s getting off easy; when ex-Mossad boss Meir Dagan started criticizing Netanyahu and Barak’s plan to bomb Iran, his diplomatic passport was revoked and some cabinet ministers demanded he be investigated for endangering national security.

So it doesn’t matter if Grass was in the Waffen SS (drafted at age 17 at the end of WWII). That makes him an easy target for Israel’s enforcers, but when you’re dealing with antiwar critics, any excuse will do: he’s a German, he’s a gentile, he’s a Jew who doesn’t live in Israel, he’s a fifth-column Jew living in Israel. Whatever. The point is to shut up criticism of Israel’s right to make war whenever and wherever it wants.

I find it hard to believe that any honest, intelligent person looking at the Gunter Grass affair doesn’t see that.

More on this issue: Larry Derfner, Yossi Gurvitz  earlier on Gunter Grass’s poem “What must be said.”

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Jack

      Oh I bet Grass is in tears now that he will never enter Israel.
      This childish fascist behavior of Israel is probably something just Soviet practiced.

      Reply to Comment
    2. caden

      At the risk of sounding repetitious when you put on the uniform of the SS and take an oath of loyalty to Adolph Hitler you don’t get to dump on Jews and Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Jack

      People like Finkelstein, Chomsky, Grass, Mairead Maguire are all banned from entering Israel. It clearly shows what people Israel cant tolerate. Peace activists, people who criticize israeli politics and human rights violations and who shed light on israeli crimes. In fact this is just another way to keep the brainwashing and myths alive in Israel. Thats not a democracy, in fact dictatorships of today dont even practice such childish antidemocratic behavior.

      Reply to Comment
    4. aristeides

      Caden – you’re sounding repetitious. To the spammish point, in fact.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Julia

      The argument you make is simplistic. Unfortunately you cannot judge a person by their enemies. Grass is an instigator and he has managed to hodge the headlines of all German newspapers wiht his accusations and one-sided portrayal. The problem is not that Grass is purportedly anti-war. The problem is that he uses this as a shield to express ideas that have in Germany been identified to belong to the discourse of secondary anti-semitism, an antisemitic discourse arranged around the middle eastern conflict. Even the title of his ‘poem’, ‘what had to be said’ draws on this discourse. His accusations include Israel attempting to annihilate the people of Iran, a country which he claims does not hold any nuclear weapons. So, the current debate about Grass is not a debate about the war against Iran, but about contemporary forms of antisemitic discourse in Germany. If you read the German feuilleton, you will pick up on this quickly.

      Reply to Comment
    6. caden

      I know your a fan of the SS. But I can’t believe that a Jew. Even somebody has left wing has Derfner. Gives this guy a pass.

      Reply to Comment
    7. The word is stronger than the sword. What more proof does one need.

      Reply to Comment
    8. caden

      How about this, Its been a long time and most of them are dead. But some are still alive. New Rule, SS and Gestopo veterans are barred from Israel. Would that be Ok.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Robert

      To keep things in perspective in this case. The old Grass has more or less castrated himself in public with this “poem”. Apart from Germany’s far far Left ( the communists and the neo nazis of course ) the verdict is unanimous that he did wrong.
      Grass is getting hammered by the entire German language MSM press in a drumming not scene in decades. Maybe pedophiles get a similar press.
      The Titan of German literary critique Reich-Ranicki, who also just happens to be a Survivor, calls the poem ” politically and literally worthless “. Similar things may be read in Swiss and Austrian papers.
      Grass’s TV interview’s are confused and banal. He speaks of a ‘conspiracy’, not unlike your average Arab.

      This may be hard to understand outside Germany but someone who lied about his SS membership for 60 years and then criticizes Israel by distorting the facts and lying touches a third rail not only within Germany.
      I have not read of one German speaking author who has come out in Grass’s defense.

      Grass is now a persona non grata in Germany as well.

      Reply to Comment
    10. aristeides

      Did wrong? Hardly. The reaction of the German press proves exactly how right he is. They’re behaving exactly as the poem predicted.

      What must be said – can’t be said.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Jack

      Robert,
      Who cares what the pro-israel Germany thinks or rather its more pro-Israel msm? The german left is even bearing the german guilt supporting israel to the fullest compared to virtually all other leftists group all over the world. Unfortunately the germans guilt could very likely give rise to a new holocaust with german weapons and support, a complicity germans deep down dont want to support or know of therefore what we see is denial. Grass said what must be told. When Israel attack Iran, Israel will prove Grass was correct and those today criticize him will have to acknowledge and pay him back.
      Also 2 facts. He never lied about his past, in fact he ackonwledge his past himself. Another fact, arabs and conspiracy arent synonymous, good riddance with your prejudice.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Robert

      Jack and Aristides,

      Since grass was one of Germanys most important post war authors the German speaking press and the German political public have every right to voice their position on this man’s words, after all he published them in the nations second largest broad sheet, front page no less. Further, he was for decades a very vocal and popular political player for the goody goo social democrats. Champagne socialist love a bit of celebrity. Many a photograph of him on beer benches at party meetings rubbing shoulders with the good and the great ( on the left ).

      You two are utterly ignorant of German culture as a whole and it’s dynamics, never mind it’s post war political history.

      Like I had written earlier the only people within the German speaking world who support grass are the neo nazis and the communists who would like to see a return to stalinism .

      I take note of your support of these two groups positions and find my opinion of the antizionist movement validated.

      Regarding Grass’s past, we may certainly conclude that he lied about his SS past. Sitting on that little nest egg for sixty years as others are shamed in public certainly gives room for pause. I suppose one should be gratefull to this man that he lowered himself to mentioning his membership in the Waffen SS in a newspaper interview sixty years after the deed.
      There were plenty of opportunities to sign up for more ‘mundane’ fighting forces in Nazi Germany. The fact he held out for the SS should make one wonder. No great conspiracy here. Just lies. Like his recent ‘poem’.

      In life it is always wise to leave the stage gracefully while one still can. And not get boo’d off with egg on ones face.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Jack

      Robert,
      Your first paragraph reads: “Grass is only looking for fame”.
      Your second paragraph reads: “Only communists and nazis support Grass”.
      Your third paragraph reads:” You are either nazis or communists”
      Your fourth paragraph reads:”I repeat that he “lied” and therefore ignore anyone claiming differently”.
      -
      You see, people like yourself are so predicable using the israeli propaganda lingo (nazi, communists, fame, socialist, nazi), and it was exactly this hypocrite mentality Grass criticized, you are living proof. Thanks!

      Reply to Comment
    14. aristeides

      Robert – certainly the German press has the right to prove Grass right by predictably sounding the “antisemitism” horn. Everyone has the right to be wrong in public.

      .
      Speaking of which, Grass did volunteer at age 16 for the submarine service and was turned down. Being German and the expert on all things German, you would be expected to know this.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Lee

      @ Caden. Should a German SS conscript have the same status as a member of the Jewish Order Police?

      Reply to Comment
    16. Robert

      At 16 you would have been too young to join any front line unit. Hilter did of course draft children as the two fronts were closing in on his dream right at the end. Like Al Shabab just did recently in Mogadicu with a 16 your old suicide bomber in the cities new theatre, sorry no great novelist will come out of that dude.
      The submariners we’re of course heroic fighters, sinking passanger ships and unarmed merchant mariners. Machine gunning allied sailors in the water after torpedoing their navy ships. The glory of it all. The infamous ‘Wolf Packs’ conceived by ueber Nazi Admiral Doering.
      Enough said about Herr graSS.

      Aristeides , shouldn’t you be in some dark room on mondoscheiss?

      Reply to Comment
    17. Joseph

      Julia,

      You say: “So, the current debate about Grass is not a debate about the war against Iran, but about contemporary forms of antisemitic discourse in Germany. If you read the German feuilleton, you will pick up on this quickly.”

      It’s not true.

      Because (foreign) readers get – for reasons of censorship – easily the wrong impression.

      The published opinion in germany is almost NEVER the opinion of the questioning the official opinion people.

      That may sound funny, but there really exists a synchronization (Nazi-terminus: “Gleichschaltung” of published opinion, nowadays voluntarily (seriously!) from the sides of Chief Editors of Newspapers, press-agencies and TV-stations, as Guenter Grass also remarked in an interview, shortly after the publishing of his poem.

      For these reasons, the possibilities of contributing commentaries on their websites are strichtly limited, if not closed.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Alan Polak

      For Grass’s so-called bravery in admitting to his membership of the Waffen SS, see Michael Hofmann’s review of Grass’s ‘Peeling the Onion’
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/jul/07/featuresreviews.guardianreview19
      He hid the truth even from his own children until he was about to be exposed. Like Watergate, it is the cover-up rather than the deed itself which is most significant in this instance.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Joseph

      It’s the easiest way to end discussions about the content of a poem by trying to discredit the author.

      Yes, Guenter Grass was a member of the Waffen-SS at the age of seventeen by the end of the war.

      I have no idea how I would have felt and reacted in times when 15-year-old-boys like Grass were drafted for the troops.

      Reply to Comment
    20. [...] Writing on the +972 website, Larry Derfner said: “Günter Grass told the truth, he was brave in telling it, he was brave in admitting that he’d been drafted into the Waffen SS as a teenager, and by speaking out against an Israeli attack on Iran, he’s doing this country a great service at some personal cost while most Israelis and American Jews are safely following the herd behind Bibi [Netanyahu] over the cliff.” [...]

      Reply to Comment
    21. [...] rapporterat om Mellanöstern för amerikansk-judiska publikationer, försvarar också Grass på sin webbsida +972: ”Günter Grass säger modigt sanningen, liksom han var modig när han berättade om hur han [...]

      Reply to Comment
    22. [...] that things are still terribly wrong and he is, in fact, part of the problem.  There is still blame-laying, for example, from an Israeli government arguably too quick to use the word [...]

      Reply to Comment
    23. Danny

      Gunter Grass has been barred from entering Israel… How will the poor man sleep at night??
      .
      On a lighter note, yet another world thinker and Nobel laureate has been barred by a borderline iliterate who doesn’t even know where Germany is on a world map. Pretty ironic.

      Reply to Comment
    24. caden

      Maybe he can put on some SS marching songs. They’re pretty snappy.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Robert

      Joseph,
      It could also be that the majority of the people disagree with grass. The idea that in a democracy of 80 million free citizens with hundreds of papers and radio stations and tv networks all are “synchronized” is absurd. But absurdity is 972′s daily bread.
      Regarding the limited opening of threads in the comment sections this may have something to do with the 20% of the population which has anti-Semitic leanings and the papers not wanting to spend the next two weeks censoring/cleaning (just like here at 972 , Lisa Goldman et al ) anti-Semitic remarks which are of course illegal in Germany.

      I myself have written to the German police about a US activist who has published on this website and lives in Germany.

      Reply to Comment
    26. aristeides

      So, I see the honorable tradition of the police informer in Germany is still alive in Robert. The Gestapo would be proud of you.

      .
      It is no surprise to me that Grass was reluctant to reveal his conscription into the SS, given the reaction here.

      Reply to Comment
    27. ToivoS

      Another hysterical Israeli reaction. This is a hasbara inspired attack against one of the world’s greatest living writers. This is shifting world opinion and it will not get better until Israel starts to behave as a civilized nation. Hysterical screams of protest will not change Israel’s declining respect until it changes it’s theft of Palestinian lands.

      It is very simple.

      Reply to Comment
    28. caden

      Whats hysterical about not taking crap from an SS VETERAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. You know blck uniform, exterminate the Jews and all that. hard not to take that one personally.

      Reply to Comment
    29. A

      Eli Yishai is an idiot, looking for political capital. All the Israeli righ politicians competed in the last week who will get the headline in the post-poem newspaper stories, and Eli Yishai won. Grass poem make me sick, Israeli politicians make me sicker.

      Reply to Comment
    30. A

      Any intellectuals should be welcome in Israel, no matter what their opinions are. I’m really ashamed of this policy, and agree with Yoram Kanyuk who said it is one step from burning books.

      Reply to Comment
    31. caden

      How about any intellectuals that were not veterans of the SS or the Gestopo. Would that be Ok.

      Reply to Comment
    32. The submariners we’re of course heroic fighters, sinking passanger ships and unarmed merchant mariners. Machine gunning allied sailors in the water after torpedoing their navy ships.

      Umm, that goes for both sides on that conflict. Ask the Japanese fishermen who received the same treatment.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Janos Szegedi

      In this world nothing is that, what it seems to be.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Joseph

      Robert, sorry, but I have to disagree seriously.

      An effective synchronization of opinion leaders in the Federal Republic of Germany is reality, imho.

      And the absurd thing about it really is, it all happens voluntarily in the very middle of a western democracy. Some critics in Germany already have begun to call this strange observation a “democratic theatre”.

      Sure, Robert, You are right in telling about the impossibility to control hundreds of papers, tv- and radiostations in the western worls, especially in times of worls wide web.

      But what counts, is the effect.
      And the effect is, the three most influential tv-channels are almost under absolute control of the parliament, same with the radio stations…

      A look into the papers shows us that there are three groups that build public opinion: Springer, Gruner+Jahr and BMG.

      The rest is for (intellectual) minorites.

      Reply to Comment
    35. Leen

      They always say that Germany’s real opinion is almost always expressed by Austria. So one must look at Austria’s critique and reaction to judge how the Germans actually feel.

      Reply to Comment
    36. PAT

      How sad that this man’s poem, full of a desire for peace, is willfully misinterpreted by commentators full of hate.
      Where is the willingness to forgive?
      Must we not allow this man the right to transcend from a sordid past to something else? He is after all warning us for history, a history he has admitted being a part of, repeating itself. He does not talk about the victims from the past, but of the powerful men to whom innocent lives mean little, if anything.
      I for one share his fears, and is not hopeful that conditions will change before it is too late. Not in a society where it is comme il faut to always be on the side of the strongest.

      Reply to Comment
    37. Moot

      How sad that this man’s poem, full of a desire for peace, is willfully misinterpreted by commentators full of hate.
      Where is the willingness to forgive?
      Must we not allow this man the right to transcend from a sordid past to something else? He is after all warning us for history, a history he has admitted being a part of, repeating itself. He does not talk about the victims from the past, but of the powerful men to whom innocent lives mean little, if anything.
      I for one share his fears, and is not hopeful that conditions will change before it is too late. Not in a society where it is comme il faut to always be on the side of the strongest.

      Reply to Comment
    38. Thomas

      I believe Israel is surrounded by enemies. But bombing its neighbours won’t change that (exept they were bombed to extinction), since it will – if anything at all – only fuel the existing hatred. A hatred originated from the very beginning of Israel, when Jewish settlers – backed by the British – understandably decided never to be suppressed again and by so casted out the people living there.

      Some might argue that Israel might be wiped out, if they become stronger. But with global politics as they are I believe every country (as Iran is said to do with a nuclear warhead) would commit suicide by doing so. None of them has any strong allies, so they would not be protected of any conventional or – if they go nuclear – even apocalyptic counter attack.

      So – in my opinion – not only would a war be pointless, but also hurtful to Israel, because it has to live with its neighbours. Also for me an attack war is almost never justifyable.

      This is what I – as a German – think of the situation and reading German forums many Germans have similar thoughts, althoght the second point of wars being wrong is normally stressed more. But the first point actually is even more important, since it explains why people see Israel as warmongers.

      I, as well as almost every other German – including Günther Grass -, do not deny Israel the right to be, but deny its right to attack its neighbours, if not absolutely necessary. And I am shocked by both the aggressive response in German media, as the political response of declaring him a persona non grata, which is for me a bit to close to censorship.
      And concerning Grass’ membership in the WaffenSS: He was 11 years old when the war started and I believe he joined, because wanted to defend his country as a soldier and not because he felt an obligation to slaughter Jews.

      Reply to Comment
    39. kevin king

      Grass was drafted into the SS when he was 17 at the tail end of the war.
      It has absolutely no bearing on his criticism of israel which is legitimate and
      long over due. I saw the interview with him on the tagesschau. Thank god
      he didn’t give an inch on any of the points he raised in the poem. Mind you
      the behavior by the interviewer showed the same spineless political correctness
      we are used to seeing at the BBC. Shame on you ARD.

      Reply to Comment
    40. A

      Grass’s SS past is irrelevant. The poem as an argument is weak in its own accord, and there is absolutely no need to use this fact as a shield. And if my grandparents, Auschwitz survivors, welcome Grass in Israel, so can I.

      Reply to Comment
    41. Dave

      Banning a person from entering your country for having had the temerity to criticise you is hardly behaviour likely to uphold the hackneyed “only democracy in the Middle East” myth for very much longer. Grass deserves praise not just for his courage – aware though he is that the media-manufactured “Sturm der Entrüstung” (wave of indignation) against his comments expressed by the spineless German establishment does not reflect the views of the majority – but for shedding some light on Israel’s totalitarian nature into the bargain.

      Reply to Comment
    42. [...] Writing on the +972 website, Larry Derfner said: “Günter Grass told the truth, he was brave in telling it, he was brave in admitting that he’d been drafted into the Waffen SS as a teenager, and by speaking out against an Israeli attack on Iran, he’s doing this country a great service at some personal cost while most Israelis and American Jews are safely following the herd behind Bibi [Netanyahu] over the cliff.” [...]

      Reply to Comment
    43. Joseph

      Kevin, You’re right.
      ARD is number one of the bloc party’s broadcasters, directly followed by ZDF.

      To PAT MOOT: It’s been fresh air, reading Your comment, knowing that peace is from the same kind of delicate little plants like freedom of speech, opinion and choice.
      Heartfelt thanks to You from a different corner of the planet.

      Happy Easter and Pessach, our God bless You all!

      Reply to Comment
    44. kevin king

      For anyone who doubts how prevalent the effects of “Gleichschaltung” can infect a modern western democracy that is not driven by overt conspiracy , I suggest they read “Manufacturing Consent” by Noam Chomsky.

      Reply to Comment
    45. My guess is that this will be a PR debacle for Israel. I think Grass poem had little to do with giving an account of judaism or of middle-eastern politics. In fact, the joys of victimhood expressed in reaction to Grass poem in the usual voices of the Jewish community and the Israelis as inheritors of the camps as justification for anything as well as the idiots on the Israeli left like Tom Segev who seems to think that Grass is trying to do strategic work seem to have overlook the most obvious and salient point: we should not be coward into silence by bullying and accusations of antisemitism or nazism. The point of this poem is not about the manner in which Israel foreign policy deals with Iran but the way that Israel deals with those who criticize its policies. Not only Grass was right in his assessment. The state of Israel just proved his point. You are not free to speak because Israel will defame you and slander you for the sake of preserving its unbridled militarism.

      Here is my post as a response to the poem: http://theradicalsecularist.com/gunter-grass-is-right/All comments are welcomed.
      Martin

      Reply to Comment
    46. aristeides

      I suspect that if Grass had declared, “I strongly support the right of Israel to bomb the hell out of any other nation it decides to call a threat,” there would be a lot fewer voices declaring he has no right to speak.

      Reply to Comment
    47. Martina

      I fully sympathize with Larry Derfner’s view. As I am German I red the poem in the original, and albeit it surely isn’t a literary masterpiece all I perceive is an old man, hestitantly and probably not very wisely uttering what he feels no one else dares to say? I spent some months in a kibbuz in Israel as a volunteer in the 80s and utterly fell in love with the country and its people then. But I have since watched with growing unease how Israeli politics changed direction and especially how Palestinians are being treated and it sure made me sad. – The country’s official reaction to an old man’s unwise words is certainly understandable, but it’s not very wise either. No wonder Grass hesitated to publish the poem but I’m glad that he did – and that he could, being the citizen of a state granting him the right to do so.

      Reply to Comment
    48. chsangfeng

      Hée Caden,

      (excerpt) The Betar Movement (???”?, also spelled Beitar) is a Revisionist Zionist youth movement founded in 1923 in Riga, Latvia, by Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky. Betar has been traditionally linked to the original Herut and then Likud political parties of Israel, and was closely affiliated with the pre-Israel Revisionist Zionist splinter group Irgun Zevai Leumi. It was one of many right-wing movements and youth groups arising at that time out of a worldwide emergence of fascism.[1] Some of the most prominent politicians of Israel were Betarim in their youth, most notably Prime Ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin, the latter of whom idolized Jabotinsky.[2]…
      . . . The group initially praised Mussolini for his anti-communism and fascist principles, leading it to adopt the black uniform shirt of Italian fascism for a short period. Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia, however, was seen as “cowardly” by Betar and led them to break with him shortly after.[8]…
      Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betar

      Reply to Comment
    49. delia ruhe

      Typical Israeli hysterical over-reaction — no, not typical, unusually over-hysterical. And when Israel is exceeding even its own hysteria record, we know that there must be a lot of truth in the target of that hysteria.

      Who but a former SS should know better the consequences when a hyper-militarized nation, feeding on its own paranoid fantasies and drinking from its seemingly bottomless wells of testosterone, is appeased by leaders of other countries who should know better?

      Quoting a Saramago quotation in Gideon Levy, “Living under the shadow of the Holocaust and expecting forgiveness for everything they will do in the name of their suffering seems coarse. They have learned nothing from the suffering of their parents and their grandparents.”

      Reply to Comment
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