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Sun Apr 8, 2012, 01:05 PM

Israelis can be angrywith Gunter Grass but they must listen to him(Gideon Levy, HAARETZ) [View all]

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/israelis-can-be-angry-with-gunter-grass-but-they-must-listen-to-him-1.423194


After we denounce the exaggeration, after we shake off the unjustified part of the charge, we must listen to the condemnation of these great people.


By Gideon Levy



The harsh, and in some parts infuriating, poem by Gunter Grass of course immediately sparked a wave of vilifications against it and mainly against its author. Grass indeed went a few steps too far (and too mendaciously ) - Israel will not destroy the Iranian people - and for that he will be punished, in his own country and in Israel. But in precisely the same way the poem's nine stanzas lost a sense of proportion in terms of their judgment of Israel, so too the angry responses to it suffer from exaggeration. Tom Segev wrote in Haaretz: "Unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently confided in him, his opinion is vacuous." ("More pathetic than anti-Semitic," April 5 ). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned Grass' Nazi past, and Israeli embassies in Germany went so far as to state, ridiculously, that the poem signified "anti-Semitism in the best European tradition of blood libels before Passover."

It is doubtful that Grass intended his poem to be published on the eve of Passover. It contains no blood libel. In fact, it is the branding of it as anti-Semitic that is a matter of tradition - all criticism of Israel is immediately thus labeled. Grass' Nazi past, his joining the Waffen SS as a youth, does not warrant shutting him up some 70 years later, and his opinion is far from vacuous. According to Segev, anyone who is not a nuclear scientist, an Israeli prime minister or an Iranian president must keep silent on the stormiest issue in Israel and the world today. That is a flawed approach.

Grass' "What Must Be Said" does contain things that must be said. It can and should be said that Israel's policy is endangering world peace. His position against Israeli nuclear power is also legitimate. He can also oppose supplying submarines to Israel without his past immediately being pulled out as a counterclaim. But Grass exaggerated, unnecessarily and in a way that damaged his own position. Perhaps it is his advanced age and his ambition to attract a last round of attention, and perhaps the words came forth all at once like a cascade, after decades during which it was almost impossible to criticize Israel in Germany.

That's the way it is when all criticism of Israel is considered illegitimate and improper and is stopped up inside for years. In the end it erupts in an extreme form. Grass' poem was published only a few weeks after another prominent German, the chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Sigmar Gabriel, wrote that there is an apartheid regime in Hebron. He also aroused angry responses. Therefore it is better to listen to the statements and, especially, finally, to lift the prohibition against criticizing Israel in Germany.














(note: my own view is that the poem went wrong-as Grass himself has now stated, admitting he should have rewritten it, but that the man doesn't deserve the total vilification he's received. He did not step over the line and cross into antisemitism).

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Reply Israelis can be angrywith Gunter Grass but they must listen to him(Gideon Levy, HAARETZ) [View all]
Ken Burch Apr 2012 OP
Scurrilous Apr 2012 #1
aranthus Apr 2012 #2
King_David Apr 2012 #3
Bodhi BloodWave Apr 2012 #4
aranthus Apr 2012 #6
shira Apr 2012 #7
oberliner Apr 2012 #5