Israeli PM accuses Gunter Grass of being anti-semitism
Israel attacks German novelist Günter Grass accusing him of anti-semitism
Benjamin Netanyahu has led Israeli officials in a vitriolic denunciation of Günter Grass, accusing the German novelist of anti-semitism after he wrote a poem attacking the Jewish state’s nuclear programme.
By Adrian Blomfield, Jerusalem
12:23PM BST 06 Apr 2012
The Israeli prime minister accused Grass of “shameful moral equivalence” after the Nobel laureate, who is 84, alleged that Israel, with its significant but undeclared nuclear arsenal, posed a greater threat to world peace than Iran.
While expressing his solidarity with Israel, he suggested that it could annihilate the Iranian people and criticised Germany for providing Mr Netanyahu’s government with submarines capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
The poem, published in the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, called on both Iran and Israel to open up their nuclear programmes to nuclear inspection.
Mr Netanyahu, reflecting widespread outrage in Israel, launched a withering broadside against the author’s character, claiming that his views stemmed from the year he spent in the Waffen-SS during the Second World War.
“For six decades Mr Grass hid the fact that he had been a member of the Waffen SS,” Mr Netanyahu said. “So for him to cast the one and only Jewish state as the greatest threat to world peace and to oppose giving Israel the means to defend itself is perhaps not surprising.
“But decent people everywhere should strongly condemn these ignorant and reprehensible statements.”
The Israeli embassy in Berlin went one step further, accusing the poem of perpetrating a blood libel, a reference to the medieval slur that Jews dipped unleavened bread in the blood of a murdered Christian child at Passover.
“What must be said is that it belongs to European tradition to accuse Jews of ritual murder before the Passover celebration,” the embassy said. The Jewish Passover week begins on Friday evening.
Grass was long seen as one of Germany’s leading moral voices, frequently urging the country to face up to its Nazi past and even countenancing against reunification, fearing it could pose a threat to the rest of Europe.
But his reputation was tarnished by his belated admission in 2006 that, as a 17 year old in 1944, he had been drafted into the Waffen-SS, the armed wing of the Nazi party’s SS paramilitary unit, after being rejected by the submarine service.
In his poem, entitled “What Must Be Said”, Grass suggested that he had agonised about speaking out against Israel, saying he was aware that – particularly as a German with a Nazi-linked past – he would be accused of anti-semitism.
But he insisted that it was time for Germany, Israel’s closest ally in Europe, to speak out before it was too late.
“Why only now, grown old,/And with what ink remains, do I say:/Israel’s atomic power endangers/an already fragile world peace?” he writes, before answering his own question: “Because what must be said/may be too late tomorrow.”