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Nobel Prize-winning writer slams Israel in poem

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(JTA) — Gunter Grass, Germany’s Nobel Prize-winning author, published a poem claiming that Israel is endangering world peace by threatening Iran.

Critics including Jewish leaders and politicians have charged Grass, 84, with turning the truth on its head with his prose-poem claiming that "the nuclear power, Israel, is endangering our fragile world peace."

Published Wednesday in Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and other international papers, the poem — titled "What Must Be Said" — condemns the German government of Chancellor Angela Merkel for agreeing to subsidize the sale of additional submarines "from my country" to Israel "justified as reparations."

Grass also said that his reluctance until now to speak out against Israel was due to his own sense of connection with the Jewish state and that "the charge of anti-Semitism" is easily flung at those who criticize Israel.

In 2006, Grass admitted in an interview that he had joined the Waffen-SS as a teenager at the end of World War II, and was accused at the time of having hidden the truth for decades while at the same time pointing the finger at others for hiding their Nazi past.

Critics have countered that the Iranian regime is threatening world peace. The German media reported that the Central Council of Jews in Germany called the text "an aggressive pamphlet of agitation," and that Hermann Grohe, the general secretary of Germany’s leading party, the Christian Democratic Union, was horrified by the tone and orientation of the poem.

German Jewish writers also have weighed in: Ralph Giordano said the poem is an attack on Israel’s right to exist and Henryk Broder called Grass a "prototype of the cultivated anti-Semite, who means well by the Jews" but is pursued by feelings of guilt and shame over the past and thus is driven by a desire to clear the bill of history.

Micha Brumlik, a German Jewish expert on Holocaust education, told SWR radio that he found it extremely sad that Grass "abused his poetic creative powers to publicize a rather idiotic agitprop poem."

Israeli Embassy deputy chief of mission Emmanuel Nahshon said the poem was another example of anti-Semitic stereotypes in the European tradition that "charges Jews with ritual murder just before the Passover holiday."

Some have stood up for Grass, including the head of the German Pen Center, Johano Strasser, who told the German radio broadcaster NDR that he also was vehemently  opposed to the delivery of German weapons to Israel, which he accused of claiming that war against Iran was inevitable.

 

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