BERLIN, Oct. 22 (JTA) — Gunter Grass, Germany’s Nobel Prize-winning author, has come under sharp criticism from the head of Germany’s Jewish community for recent comments about Israel.
Grass is “on a level with radical enemies of Israel,” Paul Spiegel, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in a newly released interview with Focus magazine.
On Oct. 10, Grass told the news magazine Der Spiegel that “Israel must not only get out of the occupied areas. Its occupation of Palestinian land, and its settlements, are all criminal acts. This must not only stop, but it has to be retroactive. Otherwise, there will be no peace.”
Spiegel said that if one “looked closely at Grass’ words, one could read the message: Get rid of Israel.”
It is unacceptable to deny that “Israel is the victim and not the perpetrator in this bloody war of terrorism,” Spiegel said, concluding that Grass had allied himself with “other non-Jewish intellectuals in Germany who, directly or indirectly, for years have been questioning Israel’s right to exist.”
Grass reportedly did not mention Palestinian acts of violence in his interview. He characterized his criticism of Israeli and American politics as helpful remarks from a friend.
Speaking in support of Grass, German Parliament member Jürgen Koppelin of the liberal Free German Party told the German news agency DPA that “Paul Spiegel just has to accept that criticism of Israel’s politics is not the same as criticism of the existence of Israel.”
Grass also has drawn criticism from Germany’s Interior Minister, Otto Schily, for his comments about the United States’ campaign against terror in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Grass said he identified with “American writers like Norman Mailer, who after” the attacks in Washington and “New York said ‘We have to ask ourselves why Arab terrorists hate us so much.’ ”
Schily described a “really terrible” anti-Americanism in certain German intellectual circles. He was lambasted for this remark by, among others, the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk.
“If Schily wants to go down in history as the German McCarthy, he should continue saying such things,” Sloterdijk said, referring to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the American postwar anti-Communist crusader.