Thursday, 5 April 2012

Günter Grass

In a poem published yesterday, Günter Grass has informed the world that he is worried about Israel’s possible use of German supplied U-boats to fire nuclear missiles at Iran. I hope that the Iranians share his worry, although, I also would not want Israel to initiate an attack on Iran.

At a time, when Iran is being pressurised to give up its nuclear ambition, an important question is whether it is morally right for Israel to possess nuclear weapons. Not one of the (other) eight countries that currently have nuclear weapons has enemies threatening them with extinction. Yet, Israel, from the first day of its existence, has been under the threat of destruction. The world stood by when Arab countries threatened to wipe out the “Zionist entity”, as they used to call Israel, and it stands by with Iran promising that the Jewish state would disappear.

Israel has never conceded to having a bomb and therefore has never threatened anyone with its nuclear power. But, would it not be legitimate for Israel to make it clear that before its existence would be in jeopardy, it would use its nuclear weapons?

Grass speaks of Israel the nuclear power that endangers world peace; of Israel that could in a pre-emptive strike wipe out the Iranian people. He does not define Iran as a country that endangers world peace. Iran, whose existence is not in danger nor has it been threatened, is working towards becoming a nuclear power. Why?

Grass makes much of what he says was his own difficulty in speaking out against Israel. In his own version of “some of my best friends are Jews” Grass assures us that he is committed to the Land of Israel (mind you, he speaks of the land not the state). I have no idea and that is not the issue, but there have been suggestions that anti-Semitism is rearing its head out of the Grass.

He would have been on safer ground had he attacked Israel on its occupation of the West Bank and the settlement of Israelis in the occupied territories. Unlike the Iranian question, this is an issue that has nothing to do with survival or security. It is just morally wrong. But in his poem, Grass dealt with his own angsts rather than with issues of morality.


  1. Grass is and has ever been a writer seeing himself as a moral authority, as a wise man guiding political leaders. This "last poem of an old man written with the last of his ink" seems like some other stunts he pulled, not all of them admirable.
    The only thing pertinent here is the - I think legitimate- fear that a preemptive strike will lead to a chain reaction, as one can't say the middle east is consolidated or even striving for peace and harmony of all ethnicities and religions, ask the Iraki christians for instance. Everything else speaks of a man not interested in facts as the very real existing danger to all of Israel.
    I think one should not give Grass, the hyper moralist that only informed about being a SS-Member when he wanted to launch his last autiobiographical book more importance than to say he isn't informed about the real situation.("Meine Meinung steht fest, bitte verwirren Sie mich nicht mit Tatsachen.")
    On the other hand, stunts like the mobilization of three israeli navy ships as April's fool are not ok or acceptable, it's like some people want to provoke desaster or are blind to facts, not only Grass...

  2. What a good piece you wrote !
    Regards from Chicago where the Grass is Gruener….

  3. Your comment is excellent. Apart from Grass, I am with David Grossman when it comes to Israel-Iran.

  4. אהבתי את הבלוג שלך היום. יום טוב ונעים לך! דרך אגב הלילה נועד לשינה ולא לישיבה מול המחשב בשעות "משונות" - מיכאל

  5. When I saw the story about GG´s poem I immediatly wondered how you would respond.

    To interpret GG properly it would be good to know if he is a crypto- anti-Israelite - but is interpreting GG more relevant or interpreting the questions he writes about?

    The uninvolved world´s concern, Israeli "Angst" and Palestinian frustration are easy to understand.

    How to reduce Israeli "Angst" to a point where the rulers can reconsider their prevailing paradigms and begin to look for ways to reduce tension rather than protect their country by intimidation is the problem. Solve that and you solve many things. (The Arabic/Muslim countries will need to contribute but I don not believe they can really start the process themselves)

    Iranian nukes and "wipe of the face of the earth"threats are a quite seperate set of questions probably mostly rhetorically related to the State of Israel - it is not believable that many Iranians care. It can , however, not be ignored that to much propaganda can lead to ill considered action. Thus developments might in fact rmake a "surgical strike" inevitable, but certainly a nuclear one would reopen Pandora´s box which I prefer closed.


  7. What I think of Günter Grass' poem? First it is not a poem and second it is none of his business..... he has lost touch with politics and especially our german politics in this part of the world.

    But it is yet again stupid - and the historian Moshe Zimmermann who was on german TV this morning (Morgenmagazin) said something right: Günter Grass was born long before 1945!!!

    And: It is not up to us in Germany to judge Israel - it is an independent country - who are we?

  8. Plus ca change ....

  9. The man was a member of the Waffen-SS, but he kept quiet about it for half a century, until it was safe to reveal the secret.

    His poem, if that is what it is, is certainly not about settlements in and around Jerusalem.
    It isn`t really about atomic bombs either.
    It isn`t even about world peace.
    It is about Günther Grass and the Jews.
    The man has a hangup.
    Once an antisemite, always an antisemite!

    Alexander Mitscherlich observed a long time ago that antisemitism permeates all walks of life, irrespective of social class, standard of education and ethnicity. Although it exhibits similarities to a neurosis, it cannot be treated.
    Here, somewhat astonishingly nevertheless, we see a specimen who is even a Nobel Laureate in literature, and yet who remains an antisemite, just as he was in the days of his long distant youth.

    Who are his supporters on this particular occasion? The far Right presumably, the far Left at least partly, and the Iranian Government, definitely. Nobody else.
    Need one say more?

  10. Keep up the provocative work - it is on my list of stimulating reads.

    I suspect Ranan is now on another list - of words which trigger automatic global email surveillance by our security Friends!

  11. Herzlichen Dank für Deine Sicht der Dinge.

  12. ich habe all die Tage gedacht, wann wohl eine Stellungnahme von Dir zu Grass auf meinem Schirm erscheinen würde. Ich danke Dir für die differenzierte Sicht, die ich teile.
    An der Reaktion auf das „Gedicht“ kannst Du aber auch sehen, dass es hierzulande schwer ist, ein kritisches Wort über die aktuelle Politik Israels zu verlieren. Avi Primor hat in der Frankfurter Rundschau eine Deiner ähnliche Haltung eingenommen. Da kann ich mich gut wiederfinden.

  13. He is getting old, confused and somewhat irrational -

    Your argument resonates with me.