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Despite Israeli charges, Gunter Grass is not an anti-Semite

German author Gunter Grass has been accused by Israel of spreading blood libel and being an anti-Semite. That is not true; he simply opposes the Netanyahu government

Gunter Grass, the famed German author, got himself into hot water recently. He wrote a controversial poem (unfortunately, I failed to find an adequate English translation, though I did see an adequate Hebrew one), which accused Israel of possessing nuclear weapons, plotting an attack against Iran, possibly using nukes against it and possibly using German-supplied nuclear submarines to deliver those weapons. For his trouble, the Israeli Embassy in Berlin denounced him, saying, “What must be said is that it belongs to European tradition to accuse the Jews of ritual murder before the Passover celebration… It used to be Christian children whose blood the Jews used to make matza (unleavened bread), today it is the Iranian people that the Jewish state purportedly wants to wipe out.”

Impressive use of the anti-Semitism charge, which is diplomatic Israel’s first line of defense these days. But is it true? Let’s pick it apart, beginning with Grass’s claims.

Does Israel have nukes?  According to just about every source in the world, the answer is yes. Shimon Peres is widely credited as the father of the Israeli nuke plan and has never denied it. John Crossman (formerly Mordechai Va’anunu) served 18 years, many of them in solitary confinement, in an Israeli prison for exposing this truth.

Are those weapons supervised? Of course not. Israel is above such petty laws.

Is Israel plotting an attack against Iran? Yes. Netanyahu and his ministers have said so time and time again. Recently, Netanyahu said that an attack on Iran is not an “if” question but rather a “when” question. His Minister of Security, Ehud Barak, said openly that in case of such an attack, Israel expects 500 casualties (Hebrew). This week, the government ministers were informed that this number has been notched down to 300 (Hebrew).

Is Israel considering using nukes against Iran? Yes, or at least it gives good reason to believe it does. Netanyahu has said time and time again that “all options are on the table,” and that means the nuclear option is on the table as well. Reuters has reported that Israel considers using tactical nukes, as did a Fox News commentator, quoting an Israeli source claimed to be knowledgeable and accurate (here, around the 2:15-2:25 mark). One could plausibly make the claim that this is just psychological warfare on Israel’s part, and that not even Ehud Barak is that insane; but can one blame Grass for falling victim to Israel’s psychological offensive? When you’re playing the regional madman, don’t blame people if they think you’re actually barking mad.

Will German-provided submarines be used to deliver those tactical nuclear weapons? Quite possibly. Israel’s Dolphin-class submarines, provided by Germany, are widely assumed to be armed with nuclear weapons.

Is Netanyahu considering wiping out the Iranian people? Considering some of his statements, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. One of Netanyahu’s aides claimed Netanyahu thinks of the Iranians as Amalek, the mystical people who are the enemies of God and who are to be wiped out to the last. Netanyahu never formally retracted this genocidal comment, and he never paid a public price for it. He also keeps referring to the Iranians as Nazis – and to Nazis and Iranians as Amalekites.

So, basically everything said by Grass is plausible, at least within the frame of the psychological warfare waged by Israel. The truth is never anti-Semitic. There was no blood libel here, no anti-Semitism, no claim of children’s blood used for ritual purposes. Furthermore, criticism of Israel’s intended policy has nothing whatsoever to do with Judaism or Jews. The claim (often made by Israeli officials) that Israel represents world Jewry, and that hence any attack on it is an attack on them, is a claim that Jews everywhere owe allegiance to a country of which they are not citizens and to which they never made any formal vow of loyalty, and thus can credibly be considered to be itself anti-Semitic.

Had the Israeli Foreign Ministry any shame left, it would not use the phrases it did against Grass. But, unsurprisingly, it did. The good thing which may come out of this affair is that people may learn to discount screeches of anti-Semitism from Israel with a sigh of “there they go again.”

More on this issue:
Günter Grass, persona non grata in Israel
More power to Gunter Grass for ‘What must be said’

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    1. Jack

      Its the typical counter-measure. Label everything antisemitic to suppress any freedom of expression, especially when its the truth.
      There is no denial that Israel pose a threat to world peace, I would say the biggest threat to world peace.

      Reply to Comment
    2. HerbertB

      @Joel – Haven’t you read this article? Yossi acknowledges most of Grass statements. And well informed Germans without a Nazi past agree with Grass.

      Reply to Comment
    3. I am not a great fan of the Israeli policies, but this analysis has much lack of intellectual honesty. It is amazing how the analyzer sees the world upside down, exactly like the Waffen- SS veteran Gunter Grass.
      So let’s get off the headstand:

      Is Iran doing everything to get nuclear weapons? Yes.

      Has Iran proclaimed that it desires to destroy Israel?

      Does Israel have the right to defend its people against genocide?
      According to the analyzer and to the Waffen-SS veteran – No.

      Reply to Comment
    4. A

      Sorry Yossi, to say that because some source said Netanyahu once compared Iran to Amalek, then Israel is planning to nuke and wipe out the Iranian people, and on the other hand insisting to ignore the open threat to destroy the Zionist entity that is made every time Ahmenijad opens his mouth, and the known Iranian support to almost any terrorist movement in the world?
      Never mind if you support an attack on Iran or terrified of it, I hope you agree that nuclear Iran is a world threat. To say otherwise is either stupidity, ignorance, or pure hatred to Israel as a Jewish state.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Jack

      Oh please.
      Israel have threatened to attack Iran for decades publicly. They have supported terrorists groups that have carried out terror inside Iran.

      Iran has never threatened to destroy Israel. They have urged regime change and also a state for all people. Likewise were the blacks in South Africa against the “white regime” as were the world. The world was also against the german “nazi regime” and its occupation in europe. By the way, try finding Palestine on a map in Israel. Cant see it? Neither do I, its wiped off.

      Why would Iran be a threat to peace? Who occupy and reject peace? Who possess anything from 25 to 400 nuclear warheads?

      Reply to Comment
    6. A

      Oh please yourself, Jack.
      There are mutual threats of attack between Israel and Iran since the Islamic revolution. But Grass referred to Israeli intention for “wiping the Iranian people”. Yossi referred to plans to Nuke Iran based on the statement “all options on the table”. But Ahmedinijad? He just wants a peaceful “regime change” in Israel. Zionism is a cancer. Zionism is on its way to annihilation. Zionism will be wiped off the map. Zionists are germs. Israel is the small satan. Israel will be eliminated. (just google ahmenijad and Israel). These are not threats?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Jack

      Yes Israel pose a realistic threat to use nuclear weapons. They almost did it back in 60-70s, add this with how Israel rejecting international law and how they treat civilians in war and you know Israel is a obvious threat.

      Now Israel get more and more nuclear subs that are placed in the persian gulf, THATS a threat to the region and to world peace. That Israel could start World war 3 is very real and why Grass made the poem.

      Yes Iran seek regime change in Israel but they havent leveled any threat against Israel compared with Israel, against Iran.

      Reply to Comment
    8. A

      Iran has chemical and biological arsenal, and long range missiles to cover all of Israel. It has hisbulla and Islamic jihad terror organizations at her command on Israeli borders. It carried out terrorist acts against Israelis (and non Israeli Jews) all over the world. And it is now doing it best to get nuclear weapons. Iran has an agenda against the existence of Israel (aka the Zionist regime). Israel does not have an agenda against the existence of Iran. Israel has an agenda against the existence of an existential threat from Iran. Grass claims Israel intend to wipe out the Iranian people. It is a blood libal. Grass claims Iran is no threat to Israel. That is just a lie.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Jack


      “Iran has chemical and biological arsenal”
      – No they havent. However I understand that you dont bring up the israeli arsenal.

      “and long range missiles to cover all of Israel.”
      -So? Israel missiles not just reach Iran but the whole world.

      “It has hisbulla and Islamic jihad terror organizations at her command on Israeli borders.”
      -Israel have IDF, Jundallah and M-e-k.
      Also Hizbollah is not a terrorist organization according to 95% of the world. Calling occupied people is also highly immoral.

      “It carried out terrorist acts against Israelis (and non Israeli Jews) all over the world.”
      -Really? Whats the proof? I could give countless of times that Israel have used terror not only against Iran.

      “And it is now doing it best to get nuclear weapons. Iran has an agenda against the existence of Israel ”
      – Despicable liar. Have you no shame?

      “Israel does not have an agenda against the existence of Iran. ”
      -Who are you fooling? Israel not only call openly to threat to attack Iran (illegal according to international law), they have also threatened and attacked their neighbour countless of times.

      “Grass claims Israel intend to wipe out the Iranian people. It is a blood libal. ”
      -What do you think war do? Didnt you learn anything of Hirshima and Nagasaki. Again note how Israel treat civilians during war and you cant deny them are a threat.

      Reply to Comment
    10. directrob

      “Grass claims Israel intend to wipe out the Iranian people” no he does not. Show me the German text were he claims that.

      Reply to Comment
    11. A

      I don’t know German, directrob. I have to trust the reports. But since everyone, including the writer the post above report it, I guess its correct. If you know better, please give a better translation.

      And jack, I’m a bit tired and this goes in circles, and you are not strong with logic, so good night.

      Reply to Comment
    12. caden

      It’s good to know what the Waffen SS veterans association thinks.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Jack

      I take you’re not a german speaker. Auslöschen means to ‘exterminate’. Once again the “wipe out” pops up for proapgandistic reasons…

      Reply to Comment
    14. Leen

      @Joel, ‘Maybe Mr. Grass would have more credibility if he hadn’t been a former SS Nazi’.
      I do hope you understand that he was around the age of 15-17, that is very, very young. I noticed that he was drafted at 17 forcibly during 1944-1945. That I cannot fault him, since most if not all German males around the age of 14-18 were forcibly drafted. If he was around the age of 20-25, then I would question it. But he was never high ranking or anything close to that.

      Reply to Comment
    15. noam

      Jack, I do happen to speak German.
      Auslöchen would usually be translated as “wipe out”. “Exterminate” would be ausrotten.
      But they’re rather interchangeable. What seems to be your point, Jack?

      Reply to Comment
    16. Jack

      My point is it means exterminate, there is no such phrase as “wiping out” in the german languange, likewise there is no such thing in farsi neither.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Bianca

      I think it’s wrong to protect Günter Grass and his poor “poem” for the purpose of criticizing the Israeli government. Not because it’s wrong to criticize the Israeli government, but simply because this solidarity fails to recognize that Grass’s poem takes up a common anti-Semitic logic within the German discourse.

      Grass states that it is not allowed to criticize Israeli policies and therefore he, the self-reflected German, has to take the courage and the responsibility to do exactly that. German media criticizes the Israeli policies, German parliament members and NGO’s do the same. In fact, it is a real commonplace and bar-room cliché to say that Israel is a threat to world peace, as Grass points out in his “poem”.

      The Israeli left deserves morally more upright support that this former SS-member and hypocrite poet so full of self-righteousness.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Rika Chaval

      “auslöschen” does mean exactly “wipe out”
      And I happen to be a germsn speaker.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Rika Chaval

      His piece, which has neither literary quality nor the minimum political depth and expertize that you would expect from an an op- ed that gets intercontinental attention – it is just pathetic. Tom Segev got it right in Haaretz. It is repleate with factual wrong statements, omissions (no mention of years of iranian threats of destruction, no mention of iranian- fed milicias waring with Israel) inversions of cause and consequence. And it overflows with a very german, silly (espec. Coming from an ex- Waffen-SS) sentimentality, with Grass ‘good heartedness’ hovering obove the apocalyptic abysses. Tom knows Grass well: this piece is mostly an homage that Grass is writing to his own withering glory.

      Reply to Comment
    20. aristeides

      Wow! Such an eruption of ad hominem rationalization as I’ve ever seen! Zionists leaping on the SS thing like flies at a slaughterhouse. Grass was in the SS, he’s an EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEVil Nazi! He spent the war shoveling Jews into the ovens!

      If you people were capable of any thought, you might consider what the situation was for a teenager in 1944 Germany when your conscription papers come and you have to go. You might consider that Grass’s experience might have given him a firsthand view of the evils of the Nazis that surpasses what you read in history books or see in museums.

      Here is Grass’s memoir of his SS service: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/06/04/070604fa_fact_grass?currentPage=all

      Reply to Comment
    21. Piotr Berman

      Anti-Europeanism in Israel (and related circles) is a norm, but ridiculous even so.

      Salvo one: blood libel. Given the context, I would cite “They say those bad things about me. Let them watch. I will not even kill that fly” (last words of Psycho).

      Salvo two: ex Waffen SS. Rinse, repeat. It is not like Israeli are not familiar with the concept of conscription, one can also surmise that in 1944 Germany the procedures for conscientious objectors were even more deficient than today in Israel. Basically, young Grass was a canon fodder for 6 months.

      Salvo three: silly. Compared with the standard fare in Israeli newspapers (exceptions are reviled even more than Guenther Grass), Grass is a monument of accuracy and acuity. The main thrust is what is Germany doing plying Israel with submarines that are capable of starting WWIII? Two world wars were not enough? Why does Israel need submarines?

      Reply to Comment
    22. XYZ

      Typical of the Liberal/Left/progressives…..”udnerstanding” for someone with the Nazi, racially-pure Waffen SS, but immediate, total condemnation for Israel and its supporters.

      Piotr Berman-
      Invulvernable second-strike capability.

      Reply to Comment
    23. caden

      The Waffen SS was a volunteer organization. People were grabbed for the volksturm in the last days of the war. He also said that he only witnessed racism while has a POW. Never before that while growing up in nazi germany

      Reply to Comment
    24. sh

      Would Grass have written this poem at all if his country with a heavy history concerning Jews were not providing Dolphin-class submarines to Israel?

      Reply to Comment
    25. Typical

      Antisemitism is the hatred of Jews JUST because they are Jews. I see none of that in this poem, he criticizes Israelis not because they are Jews, but because they are Israelis.

      As usual the attempts to smear the speaker and spout rhetoric is more important than rebuking the points he raises.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Jack

      If one reads the poem, it clearly goes beyond any subs, however the fact that Germany sell and support Israel while threatening Iran is a vital point in the poem, especially for the germans.

      Reply to Comment
    27. caden

      I think that some who was in the FREAKING SS has lost the right to be critical of Israel. That’s an acceptable red line.

      Reply to Comment
    28. Jack

      You imply that because of the Holocaust Israel have the right to do whatever. Unfortunately for your argument, this is the exact position of not only Grass but many more that view Israel a threat to world peace. The point is, it doesnt matter who wrote the poem, the facts are true no matter who wrote it which this article cleary conclude after analyzing the text.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Susan

      When I read essays like this, I understand why the left is out of power in Israel now. I say this is as a person who thinks that Israel should not attack or Iran or try to blow up any potential nuclear sites.

      Reply to Comment
    30. caden

      Jack, not saying that. What I am saying is that when you’ve worn the uniform of the fucking SS!!!!!!!! Yes, you lose the right to be critical of Israel and Jews.

      Reply to Comment
    31. aristeides

      I think that promulgating OBVIOUS LIES as Caden does is a clear red line for dismissing anything else he says.

      Caden is simply, flatly wrong about conscription to the SS. Teenagers of prime military age were NOT sent to the Volksturm, which typically enrolled men above the usual military age.

      In Grass’s memoir of the war, he does note the fate of the Jews, as his mother lamented the loss of a Jewish neighbor.

      He also states that, “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, I think, might give him a particular ability to recognize that same residue in those of us connected with other war-criminal states.

      Reply to Comment
    32. caden

      How do you know he was conscripted, because he said so.

      Reply to Comment
    33. caden

      He also said his first encounter with racism was when he was a POW concerning black American soldiers. A pretty astounding statement for someone who grew up in Nazi Germany.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Jack

      Thats makes no sense (ss uniform argument).
      The poem is factually still correct whoever wrote it.

      Reply to Comment
    35. A

      Typical, antisemitism does not relate to hatred. It is relating to Jews in different terms and standards than treating non Jews. This is exactly what Grass did. He does not criticize Israeli policy, but attribute some primordial desire to wipe out (or exterminate,I don’t see the difference in this context) the Iranian people (not military facilities, not even the Iranian regime. It’s entire population). Proofs? Arguments? No need. This is a blood libal. This is opposing Israel because it is Israel.
      And why is the rest of the world go a long and put sanctions against Iran? Why the world agrees that nuclear Iran is dengerous? Of coarse,it is because the Zionist dominate the world. Because the Jews hold the west in its balls with their money. Because there is a secret plan of the Zionist elders council to take over the world..

      Reply to Comment
    36. Jack

      Typical approach by people like you who use the holocaust for everything. You didnt even bothered to proceed with our discussion.
      Critizising a government for giving a regime that threats, occupy amongst other things as antisemitism, is not only morally corrupt, its dangerous for the world peace.

      If its antisemitism to say Israel is a threat, well then its also racist to say Iran, North Korea, Iraq is a threat. Not? Well then you just proved my point.

      Reply to Comment
    37. Marc

      Bianca & Rika got it right. thanks, you two. Yossi, neither of us need Günter Grass to make a solid case against a war. He hurts the anti-War movement.

      Reply to Comment
    38. aristeides

      Why does the world go along and put sanctions on Iran? Yes, because Israeli propaganda has demonized Iran beyond all rational limits, and – exactly as Grass says – no one will point out this naked emperor, either.

      Why is it, of all aspiring nuclear states, only Iran’s nuclear program is singled out for condemnation? Why not India? Why not Pakistan? Why not Israel?

      Reply to Comment
    39. A

      I didn’t proceed with our discussion because I was tired and my daughters gave us a hard evening if you must know.
      It’s not antisemitism to criticize Israel (or I would be a big one). It not antisemitism to not like Israel. It’s not antisemitism to think Israel is a threat, as it is not racist to think Iran is a threat. I don’t have a problem with cricism, and not with people who don’t like my country. However, unbased accusation like a desire to exterminate (using yout term) of an entire nation, saying Israel is dengerous because of it mere existence, applying double standards to saying of leaders and politicians, this is crossing the grey zone between political criticism and antisemitism.
      I oppose attacking Iran. But reading poems like Grass’s and posts like Yossi’s, make me sick.

      Reply to Comment
    40. Jack


      “However, unbased accusation like a desire to exterminate (using yout term) of an entire nation, saying Israel is dengerous because of it mere existence, applying double standards to saying of leaders and politicians, this is crossing the grey zone between political criticism and antisemitism.
      I oppose attacking Iran. But reading poems like Grass’s and posts like Yossi’s, make me sick.”

      Its not “unbased”, it may become a reality. Why for example else does Israel need nuclear possessing subs in the gulf? Its not a fine look for germans, united states that sell/give Israel weapons and nuclear weapons technology if they use them in warfare.

      “saying Israel is dengerous because of it mere existence”
      -Where does he say that in his poem?

      “applying double standards to saying of leaders and politicians, this is crossing the grey zone between political criticism and antisemitism.
      – What double standards?

      Reply to Comment
    41. Garibaldi

      Israel practices a sacred terrorism against palestinians ed arabs. Ir rejects any criticism, it is always infallible. Anyone who is criticing is antisemitic (arabs are semitic people, but Israel forget it). Israel owns about 500 nukes hidden in Dimona undergrounds by meams threatens all the people of Meddle East. What is the reason why Iran shall not have its own nuclear power? Easy: because Israel doesn’t accept a limitation to its arrogance. Long life to Guenter Grass!!!

      Reply to Comment
    42. Leen

      @Caden, you clearly ignored this man’s memoir, historical facts AND people’s life experience. Yes there were people in Nazi Germany who were anti-semites, yes there were people who did want to see the Jews exterminated, but that does not mean every individual in Germany shared the same thoughts. Yes Hitler was an evil man along with Goebbles and other Nazi officers that were responsible for the holocaust, he was so evil that at the end of Nazi Germany’s reign, he conscripted every German male from the age of 13-18 into the army. 14 year old boys were sent to fight the Russians on the front line. Nazi Germany was a totalitarian state at the end of it. And judging from Grass’s memoir, he takes a very important stance that there needs to be acknowledgement of Germany’s dark past and what has happened. Furthermore, he was only 17 when he was conscripted, I do not believe that he was an antisemite at all, in fact a lot of Germans who came out of the Nazi regime despise Hitler for exterminating not only Jews, but Poles, Gypsies, homosexuals and handicaps, destroying Germany, and sending 14 year old boys to their graves.

      Reply to Comment
    43. caden

      Ok, I’ll take him at his word that he was conscripted. Although its only his word. He went into the Waffen SS in November 1944. Before the battle of the bulge. And before the Russians got to Germany. And the only reason the people despised Hitler in the end. Which they didn’t really. Its because they were losing. They were more then happy to collect the wins in the beginning. And more then happy to take everything the Jews had when they were shipped off to the camps. But it still comes down to this. I don’t think a veteran of the Waffen SS is a last word on morality. And considering the record of that organization they especially don’t have the right to dump on Israel. You give that up when you swore an oath to Adolph Hitler.

      Reply to Comment
    44. aristeides

      Why’s that, Caden? Adolph Hitler never heard of Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    45. Leen

      @Caden, He is hardly a veteran of the Waffen SS, he was 15 when he was first conscripted.
      Even the closest to Hitler tried to assassinate him, Hitler was a totalitarian leader.

      And no the Germans began to despise hitler after they began to learn of the crimes. It is ridiculous that you would paint the entire German population because of Hitler. Like I said, I won’t deny that there were antisemites in Germany, and there were Germans who did really believe in the Nazi and White supremacist ideology, however after it became clear that Hitler was massacring the Jews, the Poles, the Gypsies, the homosexuals, the handicaps, the mixed raced, etc, many people definately realized the dangerous ideology, however it was too late because by that time Germany was a totalitarian state.

      Reply to Comment
    46. Leen

      Caden, I don’t think you know what it means to be in a totalitarian state.

      Reply to Comment
    47. Jack


      “But it still comes down to this. I don’t think a veteran of the Waffen SS is a last word on morality”

      Couldnt you focus on what he said? The poem is filled with facts and obvious correct analysis. It doesnt matter who wrote it, the argument is very legitimate.

      Reply to Comment
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