Gunter Grass: Israel’s response to poem akin to dictatorship

(JTA) — German literary giant Gunter Grass said Israel’s decision to bar him entry following publication of his controversial poem resembles the behavior of a dictatorship.

Writing in the German Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Grass said the decision puts Israel in the company of Communist-ruled East Germany and junta-ruled Myanmar — the only two regimes that ever have barred him entry.

Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai declared the Nobel Prize-winning writer persona non grata this week after Grass published a short poem that suggested that Israel’s saber-rattling on Iran was a greater threat to world peace than the prospect of a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic.

"It’s the alleged right to a first strike that could destroy an Iranian people," Grass wrote in his poem. "Why only now, grown old, and with what ink remains, do I say: Israel’s atomic power endangers an already fragile world peace?"

After the poem sparked a firestorm of criticism in Israel and Germany, Grass said he should have phrased the poem differently to make it clear that the current Israeli government was his target, not Israel as a whole.

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