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Israel bans Günter Grass over poem

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Photo: DPA
12:05 CEST+02:00
German writer and Nobel laureate Günter Grass has effectively been banned from Israel after a poem he published accused the country of endangering world peace sparked a global firestorm of criticism and counter-criticism.

Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai confirmed that Grass had been declared Persona non grata, and would not be allowed to go there again.

Yishai's spokesman said on Sunday that Grass' poem which he published last week had been aimed at, “fuelling the fire of hate against the State of Israel and the People of Israel.”

Grass wanted to, “further the idea that he had openly supported earlier as he had worn the uniform of the SS,” the spokesman said.

The poem said that Iran was in danger of a preventative nuclear attack from Israel which had the potential to wipe out the Iranian people and that this endangered world peace.

Grass was immediately attacked from all sides, and accused of being anti-Semitic.

A monument he backed in the Lower Saxony university town of Göttingen to commemorate a group of pro-consitution professors was this weekend covered in grafitti reading "SS-Günni, shut your mouth".

Yishai said “If Günter Grass wants to continue to spread his outlandish and lie-filled works, he should do that from Iran – he can certainly find himself an enthusiastic audience there.”

Iran has in fact lauded the poem, calling it a “literary work of human and historical responsibility”.

And Grass found some support among the Easter peace marchers on German streets at the weekend with banners in Bremerhaven reading “Günter Grass is right” and “Thankyou Günter Grass”, while speeches in Stuttgart were made supporting him.

In an interview with Munich daily Süddeutsche Zeitung which published the poem, Grass hit back at "hordes of journalists" who would allegedly rein in his freedom of expression.

“I hope that with time passing the debate will become more rational," he told the paper.

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But he admitted that if he had to rewrite the poem he would "avoid the generic term 'Israel' and show more clearly that this is above all about Netanyahu's current government"

DPA/AFP/The Local/hc

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