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'Right motive but wrong tone' Grass splits critics
Photo: DPA

'Right motive but wrong tone' Grass splits critics

Published: 10 Apr 2012 11:04 GMT+02:00
Updated: 10 Apr 2012 11:04 GMT+02:00

German writer and Nobel laureate Günter Grass has been banned from Israel over his latest poem. But as The Local’s media roundup finds, pundits are split over whether what he said was justifiable or not.

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.

Commentaries about anti-Semitism and artistic license flooded the media over the Easter weekend, and while Iran piled accolades onto the 84-year-old, many denounced him.

The argument has become so tangled, that one Israeli author wrote in the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Monday that it would be anti-Semitic to not allow a German to criticise Israel.

“Israel wants to be treated like any other country,” said Uri Avnery. “Any approach that suggests Israel receive special treatment is anti-Semitic.”

And while other Jewish academics agreed that criticism of Israel should be allowed, they were more interested in the role of art in politics.

“It is not politician’s place to complain about artistic work and use it as justification to abuse the enforcement of political power,” said Mosche Zimmermann, a lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in a guest commentary for news magazine Spiegel.

He opened on the idea that banning Grass from Israel was not only “absurd” but an empty gesture as Grass was unlikely at his age to be visiting the country and has not since he was pelted with tomatoes there 40 years ago.

The bond between art and politics was also a hot topic in the regional press. A commentary in the Flensburger Tageblatt suggested that people should not take Grass so seriously, and that he could be ignored as easily as he could be criticised.

“There is no duty to recognise the Nobel prize winner as a ‘moral authority’. His poem was just the concoction of a left-wing intellectual busybody,” the piece read.

The Stuttgarter Zeitung was similarly unforgiving, calling Grass “not only a moral failure but an intellectual one.” Germany encourages intellectuals to comment in political discourse to give an open-minded view and Grass did not deliver.

A commentary from left-leaning taz newspaper was more positive, reasoning that Grass had “the right motive but the wrong tone,” and that warning about Iran’s military power a legitimate topic but it was executed with “a lot of ego and little sobriety.”

The Saarbrücker Zeitung said the conflict in the Middle East was a global issue that affected everyone, and so Grass too had a right to share his opinion.

"His warning shot may have backfired now, but only time will tell just how absurd his fears actually are," the commentary read.

The Local/jcw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

12:32 April 10, 2012 by Sayer
To paraphrase a beautiful piece of American prose, "We hold these truths to be self evident: everything Gunther Grass has said about the Israeli political entity is 100% true." And again, that he has generated such a response means he's come far too close to the truth of this matter for those warmongers' comfort.

He never criticized people because of their faith or other religious beliefs. He never criticized anyone for being who they are. He just criticized abhorrent political and military behavior. That is free speech, based on sound observation and high ethical values. The "Good Germans?" Gunther Grass is a good German in this case. The meaningless slur of anti-Semitism is well and truly laid to rest here as fallacious.
13:40 April 10, 2012 by captainkidd
Grass simply does not know much about history. Look, he had forgotten until 2006 that he was in the Waffen SS.

When Saddam Hussein was developing a nuclear weapon and long range missles to deliver it- the Israelis warned the scientists, not to participate- when some continued, eg Cdn Gerald Bull, Mossad assassinated him in Brussells.

But that was not enough- so the Israelis launched a surgical air strike against their nuclear reactor at Osirk.that put their program back years- there were few Iraqui casualties.

Now we repeat the same story with Iran- Israel warns the scientists- the scientists don't listen- so a few of them have been assassinated.

Next step- Israel will launch a surgical air strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.

there will be few casualties. end of story.

But Grass wishes to exaggerate- he says Israel will launch a nuclear war against Iran-he wants to depict Israelis as some modern Nazis. thus he presents a ridiculous scenario as if Israel will bomb Iran and turn Tehran and other cities into another Hiroshima and Nagasaki. absurd.

More Iraquis are killed when a Shiite bomb targets Sunnis ( or vice versa) than were killed in Israel's bombing of Osirk.
15:37 April 10, 2012 by Peepopaapo
Dear captainkidd,

I can understand that the people of Israel are afraid of Iran having nuclear weapons, especially because it is Iran or to be more precise the Iranian government which continues to threaten to destroy Israel, not Israel threatens to destroy Iran. (in this case Grass was wrong, nevertheless declaring him a persona non grata is not right because he should have had the opportunity to come to Israel to dicuss with the people face to face as I stated in another article here on the local).

I don't know whether Grass is an anti-semite or not (but to be honest I don't think that he actually is one). Some things he wrote in his poem were wrong, but I think he did that on purpose because by doing that he knew that the entire world would talk about his open.

Bringing his in deed questionable past into the discussion might be an attempt to get away from the "core" of his poem: In my opinion he wanted to emphasize that especially in Germany you are not allowed to criticise Israel without being called an anti-semite by Jewish people and non-Jewish Germans - and in my opinon he is right.

Thequestion is how crazy are the religious freaks called ayatollahs? I think they know that Iran would actually cease to exist if they gave nuclear weapons to terroristson purpose or if the directly attacked Israel. The U.S. American and Israeli answer would be devastating. Now the question is whether these religious freaks love their live on earth or prefer to end up in a nuclear winter or - as they believe - with as many virgins as they want.

Best regards to you.
21:03 April 10, 2012 by vonSchwerin
Germans can criticize Israel all that want. But at least make the argument grounded in facts.

Israel is threatening a so-called surgical strike attack against the Iranian government's nuclear facilities. This may be a bad idea, but it is not the same as the preemptive nuclear Holocaust against the Iranian people that Grass accuses Israel of threatening. No serious Israeli politician is threatening the first-strike use of nuclear weapons on Iran. Moreover, the submarines provided by Germany are designed as a passive deterrent, in case Israel suffers from a massive military attack crippling its ability to respond. No one has said that the submarines are intended for preemptive attack.

Yes, Israeli critics of Grass completely over-reacted -- probably for domestic political reasons. But Grass's line of reasoning was also completely faulty. He is a cranky, self-righteous New Left old man with a conflicted past and possibly a conflicted conscience. It's unfortunate that he won't just shut up. But since we won't, we should all ignore him.
22:42 April 10, 2012 by Ronald_West
American (and by extension, Israeli) policy has had much to do with the radicalization of Iran. There are no good guys here, but if you explore the root of the problem, it goes to the 1953 CIA cold war crime of overthrowing Iran's elected government. America and Israel's subsequent closeness to the Shah of Iran, who oppressed his people brutally, plays here, there is no escaping history.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran­Israel_relations

Now, we have seen new evidence of crimes (assassination) directed against Iran

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/04/mek.html

What is the impression of the common Iranian? 1) Israel is allowed nukes and Iran is not. 2) There is a persistent history of persecution of Iran grounded in factual history. 3) Both the USA and Israel cannot be trusted for sound reasons.

Allowing the USA and its satellite Israel to simply bear down on Iran only entrenches the ayatollahs in power with their ability to point the finger at historical and ongoing fact, keeping the man on the street focused on the outside threat. The policies are stupid, probably bigoted, and in the end, likely the entire geo-political community loses. It is a sad day that it is Grass bring this discussion into the light when in fact it should be the responsibility of the German leadership.
00:17 April 11, 2012 by Lorraine Conley
I used Günter Grass's poem to PEACE with. Günter Grass is old enough to have dished out, he is old enough to take it. Günter Grass poem didn't upset me it was an opening to let him know that it maybe him silencing others also, and I did let him know, I posted to his facebook page . Sharia Law - "She's buried chest high" http://youtu.be/vOIbgd5qcrg

By TXE Moderate

"They are crucifying our First President" by TXE Moderate. The Moderate's only words.¦quot; They are crucifying our First President."

First President to bow to Shari Law, "They are crucifying our First President." by TXE Moderate.

'She's buried crest high'. "They are crucifying our First President." by TXE Moderate.

First President crucified on his. Neither his right nor left. 'She is buried crest high'.

By Lorraine Conley, Standing Tree Spirit Woman, February 10th 2012

Related story, Adolf Hitler was a Austrian, and before he returned to Austria to committed his crimes they had spent 4 years doing the theatrics to the German people - How the US uses sexual humiliation as a political tool to control the masses http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/apr/05/us-sexual-humiliation-political-control
02:43 April 11, 2012 by starsh3ro
even my friends from israel say that his critics against their government where appropriate.

i dont get what all the drama is about, if people are not able to understand what he says they shouldnt open their mouth and tell their pointless opinions.
15:13 April 11, 2012 by Lenny1941
Dear starsh3ro,

This is exactly where the problem is - Mr. Grass entered a political minefield:

- Israeli Left is now using it along with the response by the current Right coalition government in their political agenda like they would use any other small or big case to bash the government

- Iran Government and Israel enemies is using it for delegitimization of very existence of the state of Israel

- Neo Nazis and others with anti-cemitic agenda view this as a new blood libel published right on the Easter/Passover eve

No matter what Mr. Grass have intended, this is the result of his poetical enterence in the Middle East politics.
14:45 April 12, 2012 by ITAMAR
Lenny1941

I do agree with every word you wrote.

I do think Grass is a talent Author but he did a mistake by jumping into the political water of the middle east,and the results are exactly as you describe very well.

Israel
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