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A further defense of Gunter Grass

The only way you can think of the poem ‘What must be said’ as anti-Semitic is if you think of Grass as an anti-Semite. His history as well as the poem itself point in the exact opposite direction.  

If Gunter Grass had ever said or done anything that showed hatred of Jews or of Israel, then I, too, might take a very uncharitable view of his warning in the poem “What must be said” that this country, or even this government, is liable to nuke Iran and “annihilate the Iranian people.” Like I wrote before, that’s a misleading suggestion; for all the past reports about “bunker-busting” bombs and future scenarios about a regional WMD war, Israel is not planning to attack Iran with nuclear weapons.

But Gunter Grass not only has never said an anti-Semitic or Israel-hating thing in his life that anyone’s aware of, he’s spent his career confronting Germany over its Nazi past, he’s visited Israel at least a few times, he’s a classic European liberal whose criticism of this country is that of a pained, disappointed friend, and he even speaks in the poem of “the State of Israel, to which I am bound and wish to stay bound,” concluding it with a wish for peace that includes Israelis.

No, Grass is not an anti-Semite or hater of Israel – he’s a liberal friend of the Jews and of Israel who wants this country to turn away from all the things liberals naturally dread – extreme nationalism, militarism, ethnocentrism, paranoia – the very things, unfortunately, that Israel has come to stand for.

So if I don’t think Grass is anti-Israel or anti-Semitic, how do I explain his writing such a thing as that Israel is liable to nuke Iran? Given his record on Jews and Israel, and given the context of the poem, I think he just got carried away – not by his hatred of Israel, which doesn’t exist, but by his hatred of war. Hatred of war is the theme of Grass’s career as a political activist and, by the way, of the poem “What must be said.”

But most people weighing in on Grass don’t agree – Jeffrey Goldberg, The New Republic, a host of German writers and, of course, the Israeli and American Jewish establishment, are accusing him basically of neo-Nazism.  And what’s their evidence (besides the poem’s critical tone, exagerrated claim and so-called “moral equivalence,” all sure indicators of Israel-hatred)? Grass’ time in the Waffen SS.

He was 17. He was drafted. He was in for a few months at the end of the war, and he says he never fired a gun. I agree that it was wrong and cowardly of him to hide that history for so long – but I also think he atoned for it when he admitted it publicly at age 78. That was an act of bravery. From  his 2007 New Yorker essay, “How I spent the war – A recruit in the Waffen S.S.”:

What I accepted with the stupid pride of youth I wanted to conceal after the war out of a recurrent sense of shame. But the burden remained, and no one could alleviate it.

True, during the tank-gunner training, which kept me numb throughout the autumn and winter, there was no mention of the war crimes that later came to light. But the ignorance I claim cannot blind me to the fact that I had been incorporated into a system that had planned, organized, and carried out the extermination of millions of people. Even if I could not be accused of active complicity, there remains to this day a residue that is all too commonly called joint responsibility. I will have to live with it for the rest of my life.

This is not the enemy. In a Jewish state that stood for the principles Jews traditionally stood for, not the anti-Jewish principles of extreme nationalism, militarism, ethnocentrism and paranoia, Gunter Grass, in his honesty and humanism, would be seen as one of us.

Related: Grass’ essay “How I spent the war”

Jeffrey Goldberg’s column in Bloomberg

Jeffrey Herf’s essay in The New Republic

English translation of “What must be said”

Yossi Gurvitz’s post on +972

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    1. A

      So Grass is not anti Semitic, his poem is (or in your words, he got carried away). Ok, I agree with that.

      Reply to Comment
    2. A, you think I wrote that Grass’ poem is anti-Semitic? You might want to take up a different hobby; I don’t think reading is for you.

      Reply to Comment
    3. caden

      You say that he was drafter and never fired a gun. Why because he said that’s what heppened. There was plenty of fighting between Nov 1944 and the end of the war.

      When you put on the black SS uniform and swear loyalty to Adolph Hitler you don’t get to dump on Jews and Israel later. You don’t

      Reply to Comment
    4. sh

      Gunter Grass is primarily an artist and not only in the literary field, he draws and sculpts too. Journalists and politicians should try to remember that. What I mean is that it’s wrong-headed to chastise him for imagining something unlikely when it’s you who’ve made the mistake of flattening him into a political activist.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Jack

      You have repeated this many times on this site now. Enough. Also its hard and stigmatizing to not do the military service in Israel just as it was in Germany. Its long overdue, but critizing the israeli policy is legitimate you need to accept this by this time.

      Reply to Comment
    6. He’s not dumping on Jews or Israel – he’s saying an Israeli war on Iran would be immoral and possibly catastrophic, which so many people who never served in the SS believe is true and needs to be said. And about him lying about his war service, if he’s a liar, why did he admit he was in the SS in the first place?

      Reply to Comment
    7. A

      “..Grass is not an anti-Semite or hater of Israel … So if I don’t think Grass is anti-Israel or anti-Semitic, how do I explain his writing … I think he just got carried away… ”
      You say that the reason the poem can not be a result of antisemitism is your acquaintance with Grass’s writings and opinions. That means that the poem in and by itself IS at least in some part problematic antisemitism-wise.
      If you have a problem with your own words, maybe you should find another hobby, since writing is not for you.

      Reply to Comment
    8. delia ruhe

      You’re banging your head against a stone wall, Larry. The identity — the very soul — of many Jews is as dependent as a crack addict on a view of Germany (not to mention the rest of the world) as filled with nothing but Jew-haters. That’s the only way they can safely stand on the right side of the victim/perpetrator, innocent/guilty divide. Take that lovingly-tended illusion away from them, and they will crumble.

      Save your breath for cooling your soup.

      Reply to Comment
    9. scotty boy

      1) That the poem is crap devoid of sublime and figurative language:
      Should Richard Wagner be performed in Israel?
      Now, old Wagner turned to the prose essay for polemics. Polemic poetry though? Cannot Deutschland, nay, a Nobel-prize pinner, produce a more aesthetical lyricist?

      2) The irony of Gunther’s politics. Once an SS fascist, now an accuser of the Jewish state and supporter of ANOTHER FASCIST REGIME, that is the post-Islamic revolution Iran.
      Larry: to understand Gunther’s politics, you MUST read this book:

      (and do recall the Green Revolution in Iran, whatever happened to Iran’s young liberal voice?…It must have soaked up with that Iranian girl’s brains spilling onto the streets of Tehran on YouTube)Probably reminds old Gunther of his youth!

      Reply to Comment
    10. Dhalgren

      If you would be so kind, explain how a poem such as Grass’s, one that does not ever refer to “Jews” or “Jewishness” and only once speaks of Israelis (as people) and then only to link them with Palestinians and “all people” in a hope for peace, is antisemitic. Please, define what antisemitism means to you.
      “When you put on the black SS uniform and swear loyalty to Adolph Hitler you don’t get to dump on Jews and Israel later.”
      It may interest you to note that for a very long time Grass agreed with you. You might show the tiniest bit of intellectual curiosity and wonder what would make someone in Grass’s position change his mind (at least in terms of “dumping” on Israel).

      Reply to Comment
    11. Scotty Boy, where on earth do you get that Grass supports the Iranian regime? In the poem he refers to the thug/buffoon/loudmouth Ahmadinejad whipping the crowds up – again, just the opposite, he has contempt for the Iranian regime.

      Reply to Comment
    12. aristeides

      Another ignorant-Caden moment: Grass never wore a black uniform. The black uniform had been phased out for the Waffen SS long before he was drafted.

      It’s amazing that a person would persist in comenting on a subject about which he is demonstrably butt-ignorant.

      Oh, and there is no evidence that he killed any Jews, either.

      Reply to Comment
    13. aristeides

      A writes: You say that the reason the poem can not be a result of antisemitism is your acquaintance with Grass’s writings and opinions. That means that the poem in and by itself IS at least in some part problematic antisemitism-wise.

      No, it doesn’t mean that at all. I think that logic is not for you.

      Reply to Comment
    14. A

      DHALGREN, I’ll give you (again) the long answer: I DON”T think Grass is antisemitic. I DON’T think his SS (or Nobel) past has any relevance here. I DO think anyone can have an opinion about the Israel-Iran thing. I’m also not very much fond of the idea of attacking Iran. However, reading Grass’s poem made me angry. It didn’t feel like criticism.
      Let say it like that: if Grass would have published an op-ed in which he would say he think it is a mistake to sell a U-sub to Israel, that attacking Iran is a mistake, and Israel should put its nuclear weapons under international supervision, there was nothing antisemitic about it.
      But a poem as a poem, has many layers. It has a text and and subtext. It uses carefully selected words and phrases. In its text, the poem accuses Israel of a secret plan to exterminate the Iranian people. Where do this accusation come from? Some secret sources of Grass? Larry said it got carried away. To me it looks like he wanted to draw a poetic picture of an evil country that threaten a peaceful country (which happen to be ruled by a loudmouth. why loudmouth? to downsize the importance of Ahmadinejad’s open threats and holocaust denial). It is “suspected”, that in this country territory (not BY Iran, but in its territory) an A-bomb is being built. Notice all these qualifications. No qualification when he describes Israel: it is on its way to make a crime (that is “foreseeable”): exterminate the Iranians. Not attacking a military site. Not maybe.
      On a second, more hidden layer, Grass accuses Israel (probably through world jews) of terrorizing world media. He no longer “fears” of this power, but others do.. Doesn’t matter that there is not a single supporter of an attack on Iran in Europe, doesn’t matter that Israel is the most criticized country in any international forum. Why not put some heroic aroma in a banal anti-attack column?
      In short, there is nothing wrong or antisemitic in the criticism itself, but when it is decorated with false accusations, biased phrasing and for desert some hinting persecution and conspiracy, it smells like antisemitism.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Lorraine Conley

      I used Günter Grass’s poem to PEACE with. Günter Grass is old enough to have dished out, he is old enough to take it. Günter Grass poem didn’t upset me it was an opening to let him know that it maybe him silencing others also, and I did let him know, I posted to his facebook page . Sharia Law – “She’s buried chest high” http://youtu.be/vOIbgd5qcrg

      By TXE Moderate

      “They are crucifying our First President” by TXE Moderate. The Moderate’s only words.” They are crucifying our First President.”

      First President to bow to Shari Law, “They are crucifying our First President.” by TXE Moderate.

      ‘She’s buried crest high’. “They are crucifying our First President.” by TXE Moderate.

      First President crucified on his. Neither his right nor left. ‘She is buried crest high’.

      By Lorraine Conley, Standing Tree Spirit Woman, February 10th 2012
      Related story, – Adolf Hitler was a Austrian, and before he returned to Austria to committed his crimes they had sent 4 years doing the theatrics to the German people – How the US uses sexual humiliation as a political tool to control the masses http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/apr/05/us-sexual-humiliation-political-control

      Reply to Comment
    16. Jack

      “. In its text, the poem accuses Israel of a secret plan to exterminate the Iranian people”

      Not true. What he says that as a nuclear power Israel could wipe iranians off the map.

      “Ahmadinejad’s open threats and holocaust denial”

      What threats? I havent seen him deny it. Even if he did dont we have free speech? israeli gov. deny the Nakba for example.

      “Not attacking a military site. ”

      Dont be naive, an israeli attack will unleash a full blown war and civilians will be killed.

      “Doesn’t matter that there is not a single supporter of an attack on Iran in Europe, doesn’t matter that Israel is the most criticized country in any international forum.”

      Not true, EU are the lapdog to the US. Also Israel are probably the only nation that get away with its crimes, THIS is the vital point of the poem.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Dhalgren

      Well, I have no problem with you interpreting the poem however you so desire. That is one of the most powerful aspects of poetry, that it can speak to readers in different ways based on personal experience. However, there has to be a certain objectivity if we are to discuss the poem’s meaning.
      Nowhere does Grass speak of a “secret plan” to “exterminate” the Iranian people. He speaks of an “alleged right to first strike / that could annihilate the Iranian people.” He later speaks of Israel’s nuclear program developing in secret. To conflate the two is disingenuous. As Derfner said, Grass can certainly be accused of hyperbolic language, but he does not come anywhere near an attempt to “draw a poetic picture of an evil country.”
      You say his descriptions of Israel are “unqualified.” This is simply false. There is the most significant qualification of the entire poem, when Grass describes Israel as the state “to which I am bound /
      And wish to stay bound…” One hardly binds oneself to an “evil country.”
      To what do you refer when saying that “Grass accuses Israel (probably through world jews) of terrorizing world media”? I see no language coming close to your interpretation. He speaks of the accusation of antisemitism being “familiar,” which I interpret as connoting overuse. You might disagree. He speaks of his hope that his speaking out on the issue “will free many from silence.” I perceive a fear of being called antisemitic in Grass’s language. I do not see an accusation of Israel for terrorizing world media via whatever you mean by “world jews”? Please explain what language you see as supporting your interpretation here.
      Overall, I have to say, your interpretation of Grass’s poem is incredibly loose and based on much misunderstood and sometimes nonexistent language. I respect your right to understand the poem in your own way, but if you wish to speak to others about it, you might want to check how objective an understanding that is.

      Reply to Comment
    18. caden

      Not all Germans Delia, Just SS and Gestopo veterans. The kind of guys who are hero’s to the mondoweiss crowd

      Reply to Comment
    19. Henry Weinstein

      Just one thing, and I hate to have to explain this, being who I am, born in 1959 in France: the Waffen SS were the equivalent of the Marines in the German Nazi army, in other words the elite units with the best weaponry & military training. Sure they were Nazi, but they were not the SS.
      What I mean is there were no Waffen SS in the extermination camps.
      The Waffen SS were the Nazi warriors, their enemy was the Red Army.
      In 1945 Gunther Grass was an Eastern Prussian teenager who wanted to defend his homeland against the Red Army – Eastern Prussia was already lost at that time, then given to Poland at the end of WWII.
      He didn’t fight, it was too late, total chaos.
      The old man knows more than a thing or two about brainwashing & warmongers.

      Reply to Comment
    20. aristeides

      A’s critique of the poem as a poem has validity, but it doesn’t add up to antisemitism, and A doesn’t demonstrate that it does.

      Reply to Comment
    21. zayzafuna

      I dont think that Gunter Grass should visit isreal. He should visit Palestine and avoid the zionist entity as a matter of principle.

      Reply to Comment
    22. caden

      I stand corrected aristedes. What about the swastika tatoo on his ass

      Reply to Comment
    23. Henry Weinstein

      Because I said explicit words about historical facts, my comment is still awaiting initial confirmation, 3:45 pm.
      Meanwhile some commenters are free to post delirious comments about Gunther Grass.
      C’est obscène, shame on you Israeli censorship monitoring system.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Henry Weinstein: +972 does not have a large, paid staff. If your comment takes time to approve, it’s because we are busy; no-one is censoring you.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Henry Weinstein

      @ Lisa Goldman
      Listen, I know what censorship & filtering & monitoring is, being friend with Iranians long before I started to try to understand what’s going on in Israel. So when strange things happen every time I post explicit words about Iran, Palestinians in jail, Gunther Grass, I cannot help but think there is a monitoring & filtering system.
      In Iran it’s far worse since 2009 crackdown, and I wouldn’t even try to post anything knowing what I know, and I’m grateful that my friends stay connected with me even if they cannot share with me.
      Explain me, Lisa, why Caden’s comments are ‘PC’ compared to what I have posted at 3:45 pm.
      I certainly don’t think +972 is censoring me: I’m speaking about the Israeli censorship monitoring system.

      Reply to Comment
    26. A

      @DHALGREN (and JACK),
      Poetry can not be read the same as an op-ed or an academic article. The “what the writer meant” can not be solely based on explicit words, or “where does he say it”. Poetry does not work on textual logic, but uses other tools. The art of poetry is to imprint a perception in the reader mind by using a very limited number of words, and relying on subtext and context, and connecting to our past experience. I read the poem few times, trying to be as objective as possible (as of course can not be done). I always ended with the same picture in mind: a ‘bad’ criminal powerful country, who threaten its peaceful neighbor with extermination (or annihilation or wiping out, depends on translation). This country also frighten people like the poet from freely speaking.
      You don’t need to go far to look for similar perceptions in readers minds: just follow the comments here in the site on subject, and you can see how the picture of Zionist (or Jew) control over world media and politics immediately pops to mind, in both pro-Israel and anti-Israel commentators. It doesn’t have to be spelled out.
      Whether it adds up to antisemitism or not depends on definitions and thresholding. I agree its not hard core middle-ages-like antisemitism, but it is definitely on the grey zone.
      And Jack, please refer me to a pro-attack op-ed in a European newspaper. I can refer you to dozens that say what Grass say without the envelope. Nobody of those was accused with antisemitism. So to say Grass is a brave voice in the dark is absurd.

      Reply to Comment
    27. sh

      Pffffffttt! The man says something that people find unthinkable, i.e. that Israel could nuke Iran, and he’s an antisemite. Was Israel’s not respecting its own declaration of independence unthinkable? It happened. Was murdering its own prime minister unthinkable? It happened. Was entering Beirut unthinkable? It happened. Was occupying half Lebanon for around 20 years unthinkable? It happened. Was carpet-bombing it or allowing the carnage at Sabra and Shatilla to go on under our own eyes unthinkable? They happened. Was refusing to fulfil signed undertakings aimed at granting Palestinians independence unthinkable? It happened. C’mon folks, contribute your own unthinkables and understand that we can no longer consider anything unthinkable. When that sinks into Israeli heads, we’ll stop worrying about whether Grass is an antisemite or not and start attending to our own onions, as the French say. Our Minister of the Interior has closed our gates to an artist who has enunciated an imagined unthinkable. How thinkable is that?

      Reply to Comment
    28. Jack

      “And Jack, please refer me to a pro-attack op-ed in a European newspaper. I can refer you to dozens that say what Grass say without the envelope. Nobody of those was accused with antisemitism. So to say Grass is a brave voice in the dark is absurd.”

      Its not hard to find european op-ed that is hawkish on Iran. There is however very hard to find op-ed hawkish on Israel or rather its hard to find wellknown/famous people like Grass doing these important statements, dont you agree?

      Reply to Comment
    29. caden

      I don’t care if he was a cook for 5 minutes. SS veterans don’t get the benefit of the doubt on anything. Why is that so hard to understand.

      Reply to Comment
    30. A

      No Jack, I don’t agree.
      Lets start from the Guardian, searching ‘Iran’ in the comments section. All are anti-attack ope-eds, not much different from Grass. One of these is David Grossman, the Israeli writer who recently became active in the anti-attack talk. Didn’t find even one voice sympathetic to Israel’s concerns, not even one who supports sanctions, let alone an attack. I don’t have time to look further, but I don’t think things are much different in other media. You are welcome to show me wrong.. Anyhow, the only thing unique about Grass is his Nobel prize and his superb writing, which is irrelevant to the issue as much as his past uniforms.

      Reply to Comment
    31. Jack

      There are pleny op-eds hawkish on Iran. It also got the western perspective which is uncritical and aggressive and often warmongering and also taking the israeli perspective on Iran. Even your own sources in some cases proved this.

      Reply to Comment
    32. A

      OK Jack, so lets agree there is a variety of opinions in world media. The point is there is nothing special in Grass’s criticism, he is not a lonely brave intellectual who dare to face the “punishment” that come to those who criticize Israel. This false picture is exactly why his poem is a bit smelly..

      Reply to Comment
    33. Jack

      There is something very special with Grass just because he is a wellknown person venting this important topic. Grass views arent ‘new’ they are aired constantly however the difference is that he as a well known person do this because only then it get the attention it deserves.

      Reply to Comment
    34. A

      The attention is not because the fame of Grass, it is because of its controversial past and provocative writing. In a very crooked way, it is used here to make Israel look war mongering by stimulating its stupid reflexive response. I think that maybe the general anti-Israeli campaign got some more points here , but as an act of preventing war and promoting peace it is pointless and even a step backward.

      Reply to Comment
    35. Jack

      It has primary to do with it but of course israeli hawks are going to shift attention from the legit criticism to spin his past to delegitimize his legit concern.

      It brings up a topic that is taboo, it makes people think and could start something bigger. Its not longer ok to claim Israel act in self-defense everytime and its good, because they arent. This point have been repeated many times however it got emphasised with Grass input.

      Reply to Comment
    36. Jack

      “It has primary to do with it but of course israeli hawks are going to shift attention from the legit criticism to spin his past to delegitimize his legit concern.


      “It has primary nothing (his past) to do with it but of course israeli hawks are going to shift attention from the legit criticism to spin his past to delegitimize his legit concern.

      Reply to Comment
    37. HerbertB

      @A, @JACK It may be true that some international media criticize Israel, but virtually all German media outlets don’t. You are constantly fed the narrative of poor Israel surrounded by aggressive irrational Arabs/Iranians who want Israel off the map. To point out the aggression of Israel really is a tabu here in Germany, and if you do bring up some facts, you are considered an anti-semite. As I’ve pointed out in an earlier posting even +972mag would be considered anti-semite by lots of German people or government agencies. I’m almost ignoring the German media because they are gleichgeschaltet to a very high degree.

      Reply to Comment
    38. Maya

      @ Larry Derfner: Why is Grass’ peom anti-Semitic?

      The anti-Semitic overtones of Grass’ poem are evident in at least four points:

      1. The choice of the metaphor or image depicting Israel as a threat to “world peace” Grass could have written “peace in the region”, or any other term from the host of figures of speech about war and peace that are available in German, but he picked “world peace”. Depicting the Jews as a threat to world peace is one of the long-lasting and widespread features of modern anti-Semitism in Germany (and elsewhere in Europe).

      2. The narrative around which the entire poem is built: the narrative of (pretend) silence-breaking by the speaker; of the (pretend) courage to stand up against an allegedly powerful mechanism of censorship that silences public opinion and conceals ‘the truth’. Grass could have just tell us what he thinks, without making use of this narrative, which again is typical of modern anti-Semitic discourse in Germany (and elsewhere in Europe) throughout the 20th century.

      3. The choice of expression “wipe out the Iranian people” to describe the threat that Israel poses to Iran. Again, a host of ways to describe severe damage is available in German, but Grass uses a very typical, widespread and long-standing feature of demonization of the Jews – the allegation that they are a threat to the very existence of others, first as parasites later on as colonialists.

      4. The context: Grass writes in a country where a significant part of the population still holds anti-Semitic prejudices against the Jews. For example, nealry 50% of respondents in Germany affirmed in a recent study that Israel is conducting “a war of extermination” (I repeat: extermination) against the Palestinians. In another poll conducted in the EU15 countries, some 10 years ago, Israel was picked by nearly 60% of the respondents as the biggest threat to world peace.

      I think that this answers the question what is anti-Semitic about Grass’ poem. Maybe this is all lost in translation. I don’t know, but in the original the poem has loud anti-Semitic background noise – regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with Israel’s current policies on Iran.

      Reply to Comment
    39. Jack

      1. Of course its fully legit to say its a world threat. You think an attack will end between 2 states? Take a good look on the oil price for example, who push for sanctions to begin with? Who want the world to attack Iran thus not only create chaos not on in Iran but the region and world in general? He never mentioned ‘jews’ in his poem, he criticized Israel. It seems that you WANT Grass to be antisemitic.
      2. Dont you understand? If there were a free speech in Germany regarding Israel Grass would of course would never have written the piece.
      3. Again he never mention jews. Also where were you when netanyahu and Israel makes the claim about “wiping off” regarding Iran? This too must be racist according to you?
      4. There is a ethnic cleansing of the palestinians and de facto extermination of them from the occupied territories.

      Conclusion, I guess you are a fine example of whom Grass targeted.

      Reply to Comment
    40. “For it is the right of the Nation of Israel to finally shut the gates to the world after it leaves this place (not of its free will!), and we have the right to say, at the price of the 3,000 year old fear: “If you force us yet again to descend from the face of the Earth to the depths of the Earth – let the Earth roll toward the Nothingness.””

      And Grass was just talking about Iran…

      Reply to Comment
    41. Dhalgren

      I do not grant you the premise of this perfectly sub rosa subtext you seem to be referring to. There is no subtext in poetry without a link to text, and you have provided very little textual basis for your subtextual interpretation, and even then, what little you have provided is contradicted by the text and subtext of other portions of the poem. Let me ask you this: do you think it is possible that the overblown language regarding the nuclear threat of Israel is due, not to some hidden antisemitism, but to the irrational fear of nuclear conflict that one might see in someone who has spent most of his adult life in the thick of the Cold War? Why did that subtext not occur to you?
      You are merely repeating the same misrepresentations and mendacious selectivity that A has. Grass never depicts “the Jews as a threat to world peace.” He refers only to Israel’s nuclear capabilities. Neither does the language of his poem tie into that used in traditional antisemitic propaganda. Please, point us all to that bit of antisemitic literature where the author wishes peace for a Jewish community and considers himself “bound” (verbunden) to said Jewish community.

      Reply to Comment
    42. If Grass hints at an Israeli plan to attack Iran with nuclear weapons and wipe out the Iranian people(without the slightest base in fact), if he calls ISRAEL a threat to world peace while ignoring the far more likely threats of nuclear powers such as North Korea, Pakistan, and other former Soviet states, if he claims Ahmedinajad is just a bigmouth who doesn’t mean what he threatens to wipe Israel off the map – this is not merely a general fear of nuclear war on his part. When he concentrates so obsessively on Israel, singling out the only Jewish state in existence (a tiny one at that), despite all the other much more likely dangers, this IS indeed indicative of antisemitism. It may be subconscious antisemitism, he may have convinced himself that “some of his best friends are Jews”, but it is antisemitism nonetheless.

      Reply to Comment
    43. Jack

      There is a chance Israel would use its nukes and then people will die. Israel thought of using its nukes in the 70s. They are indeed a threat to world peace because a regional war will extend beyond middle east borders.
      Also “wipe off” is a myth.

      Reply to Comment
    44. Piotr Berman

      Ivan Prado was branded terrorist by Israeli government for making such plans:

      “A red-nosed army against Israeli military occupation and for humanity will fight with the only weapons of laughter and clown noses.” (FestiClown Palestina).

      When Israel as the state and the apologists for that state, the propaganda and security institutions use words like “terrorism” “antisemitism” “existential threat” they may be sincere, but their language is different.

      In the meantime, the only explanation someone offered why Israel needs Dolphin class submarines was “first strike capability”. Israel does not need submarines against Hamas or Hezbollah or to defend Golan. Is there an explanation other than planning a nuclear war?

      Reply to Comment
    45. Robby

      Regarding Grass’ draft into the SS: this issue was actually not unknown and he didn’t hide it. He spoke openly about it in the 50s and 60s but not many people were interested in this issue at that time, partly because he was a young writer at this time and didn’t have the moral authority he hardly worked for during his career and partly because in these times the German public was anyway not very much interested in such past issues. Then other eras came and then, as an old man, when German public had indeed become very sensible to the issue of the “Third-Reich”-past of its (older) politicians and artists, then he mentioned it again. The view: “Grass is and has been a secret Nazi since his youth and he by purpose worked hard to hide it” is simplistic, too simplistic, primitive even. Second, he didn’t volunteer, he was drafted. Of course one can now criticize: “Why didn’t he oppose” – but this is neither an argument since live at the end of WW II was much more complex and difficult that the people criticizing him can imagine.

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    46. @Jack

      “There is a chance Israel would use its nukes and then people will die.”
      There is a chance that ANY country with nuclear missiles might use them. Why is Israel any more of a danger to world peace than any other nuclear power? To focus on Israel to the exclusion of all other nuclear powers, is indicative of an obsession with Israel which can only stem from antisemitism. The idea that Israel would use nuclear missiles in a first strike, is inconceivable. (As a 2nd strike – possible – but that’s only if iran used them first.Which would mean Iran is a greater threat to world peace than Israel.)
      In addition, “People would die” is hardly equivalent to claiming that Israel would eradicate the Iranian people.

      There is rather more than a chance that North Korea will use her nukes on South Korea. There is is rather more of a chance that Pakistan would use its nukes on India. In both cases – as a first strike. I don’t hear Grass – or you – calling either of those countries “a threat to world peace”. Furthermore, you offer no evidence for your claim that Ahmedinajad’s threat to wipe Israel off the map is a myth.

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    47. Jack

      “There is a chance that ANY country with nuclear missiles might use them. Why is Israel any more of a danger to world peace than any other nuclear power?”

      Because compared to other states there are no one as aggressive, warmongering today. Not to mention israels constant violation of international law and initiaton of wars.

      “To focus on Israel to the exclusion of all other nuclear powers, is indicative of an obsession with Israel which can only stem from antisemitism”

      That must mean israeli gov is vehemently anti-persian, anti-arab, anti-palestinian. Do you agree? This is not a good argument either because what you are doing is blocking ANY criticism on Israel as illegitimate. Thats dangerous and the reason why Grass wanted to raise the topic before it may be too late.

      “The idea that Israel would use nuclear missiles in a first strike, is inconceivable”

      Grass never said Israel would use nuclear weapons in a first strike.

      “In addition, “People would die” is hardly equivalent to claiming that Israel would eradicate the Iranian people.”

      You are naive if you think it will end when Israel have attacked Iran (if they are going to do that). There may be a situation where Israel is cornered by all fronts. In that situation Israel will very likely use its nukes against civilian targets.

      “There is rather more than a chance that North Korea will use her nukes on South Korea. There is is rather more of a chance that Pakistan would use its nukes on India.”

      No it isnt. First of all in Pakistan/India the MAD – mutual assured destruction. Have been established. North korea doesnt pose a real threat to South Korea or vice versa because anyone using nukes will get punished itself (unless you are a western state + Israel). You are trying to shift attention, just the thing Grass complained about.

      “Furthermore, you offer no evidence for your claim that Ahmedinajad’s threat to wipe Israel off the map is a myth.”

      You have to go back 6 years. Have you really missed this?

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    48. Jack

      ah, the above message should be directed to Shimona.

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