Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday slammed German Nobel laureate Günter Grass, who on Wednesday published a new poem in which he criticized Israel for endangering world peace by threatening to attack Iran.
“Günter 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 in a statement. “For six decades, Mr. Grass hid the fact that he had been a member of the Waffen-SS. 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,” the prime minister added.
Grass, 84, won the 1999 Nobel Prize in Literature. Seven years later, after decades of admonishing Germans for their Nazi past, he revealed that he himself had been a member of the Waffen-SS.
Grass’s poem, entitled Was gesagt werden muss, or “What needs to be said,” castigates Israel for “endangering world peace.” He also criticizes the German government for selling Israel “another submarine whose specialty is to direct warheads that can destroy everything toward a place where the existence of a single nuclear bomb has never been proven.”
‘It is Iran, not Israel, that threatens other states with annihilation. It is Iran, not Israel, that supports terror organizations that fire rockets on innocent civilians’
In the poem, Grass also expresses regret for his lengthy silence about Germany’s support for Israel, which he maintained, he said, because of his guilty conscience over his past and because he didn’t want to be branded an anti-Semite. He is “tired of Western hypocrisy” and hopes that people will join him in demanding “unrestricted and permanent control of the Israeli nuclear potential and the Iranian nuclear facilities through an international body.”
The poem was immediately criticized by senior German politicians, the head of the Council of Jews in Germany and numerous cultural commentators in Germany and Israel, some of whom accused Grass of anti-Semitism. Emmanuel Nahshon, an Israeli envoy to Berlin, felt reminded of “blood libels,” which historically took place before Passover.
Netanyahu said, “It is Iran, not Israel, that is a threat to the peace and security of the world. It is Iran, not Israel, that threatens other states with annihilation. It is Iran, not Israel, that supports terror organizations that fire rockets on innocent civilians. It is Iran, not Israel, that is supporting the Syrian regime’s massacre of its own people.”
On Thursday, the elderly poet responded for the first time to the the stormy reactions his poem caused. In an interview with a German television station he said that most critics did not look at the content but were only keen to start a campaign to ruin his reputation. He mentioned that one commentator had called him “the eternal anti-Semite” in a newspaper article.
“That’s a reversal of the eternal Jew. That is hurtful and unworthy of a democratic press,” Grass said.