Israel declares German poet Gunter Grass persona non grata

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai has declared German Nobel prize-winning poet Gunter Grass a persona non grata in Israel. 

Grass, who last week published a poem claiming that Israel is endangering world peace by threatening Iran, will be barred from visiting Israel.

Yishai said in a statement that Grass’ poem titled "What Must Be  Said," published in Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and other international papers, was his "attempt to inflame hatred against the State of Israel and people of Israel, and thus to advance the idea to which he was publicly affiliated in his past donning of the SS uniform.

"If Gunter wants to continue publicizing his distorted and false works, I suggest he do it in Iran, where he will find a supportive audience.”

Grass in an interview published in Germany over the weekend said that his poem should have been phrased differently to make it clear that his poem targeted the current Israeli government, not Israel as a whole.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement condemned Grass, winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in literature.

"Gunter Grass’s shameful moral equivalence between Israel and Iran, a regime that denies the Holocaust and threatens to annihilate Israel, says little about Israel and much about Mr. Grass," Netanyahu said.

Grass, 84, wrote that Israel is "endangering world peace" and he criticized the German government for its support of the Jewish state.

In 2006, Grass acknowledged that he had served in a division of the Waffen-SS.
 

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