There is a very good piece by Christina Patterson in the Independent about the ridiculous accusations of ‘anti-semitism’ by the Israel Lobby that have been flung at the German writer Gunter Grass this week for writing a poem in which he drew attention to the utter hypocrisy of the leading Western powers in their approach to nuclear weapons in Israel and the alleged nuclear programme in Iran.
“Günter Grass’s poem, “What Must Be Said”, which was published in a German newspaper last week, hasn’t gone down well with critics, or journalists, or politicians. It hasn’t gone down well with German politicians, who have called it “abominable”, and “over the top”, and “irritating”. And it hasn’t gone down well with Israeli politicians, who have decided not to pretend they’re literary critics, but focus, instead on the content. Which, it’s clear, they didn’t like.
“His declarations,” said Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, “are ignorant and shameful, and every honest person in the world must condemn them.” It was, said the Israeli embassy in Berlin, “a European tradition to accuse the Jews before the Passover festival of ritual murder”. It was, said Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, an example of the “egoism of so-called Western intellectuals who are willing to sacrifice the Jewish people on the altar of crazy anti-Semites for a second time, just to sell a few more books or gain recognition.”
“It’s possible, of course, that Günter Grass, who is Germany’s most famous living writer, and who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1999, feels he isn’t famous enough. It’s possible that he wrote his poem, about the balance of nuclear power in the Middle East, because he felt he hadn’t sold quite enough books, and might not have all that many more years left to sell more. It’s possible that he thought that the best way to celebrate Easter, in his 85th year, was to wreck the reputation he’d spent a lifetime building up, and get himself branded an anti-Semite. But it’s also possible that he didn’t.
“It is, for example, possible that when he asked, in the poem, why he had “stayed silent” for so long about the “hypocrisy of the West” in relation to the Middle East, and why he had “forbidden” himself to name the country whose nuclear weapons he regarded as a threat to world peace, he was actually asking himself why he had stayed silent. It’s possible that when he said he hadn’t spoken out before because he came from a country with “a stain” on its history that was “never to be expunged”, and knew that if he did speak out he would be called an anti-Semite, what he meant was that he didn’t particularly want to be called an anti-Semite. And not that he did.
“And it’s possible that when he said that he had decided to speak out anyway, because he was old and might not have many more opportunities, and because he thought that Germans, already “burdened” with a terrible past, might be “complicit” in future horrors if they didn’t, that is exactly what he meant.”
You can read it in full here.