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Grass calls Israel nuke whistle-blower a hero

Published: 01 Oct 2012 08:25 GMT+02:00

In one of a collection of 87 new pieces, Grass hails whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu, who served 18 years in prison for leaking Israeli nuclear secrets to a British newspaper, in a poem entitled "A Hero in Our Time".

He describes former nuclear technician Vanunu as a "hero" and a "role model", according to extracts published by the German news agency DPA.

Earlier this year, Grass, 84, angered Israel after publishing a piece entitled "What Must Be Said", in which he voiced fears that a nuclear-armed Israel "could wipe out the Iranian people" with a "first strike."

Israel has since barred him from visiting the country.

Vanunu himself said that he was pleased to be mentioned by a writer of Grass's stature.

"I am very happy to be in the league of Gunter Grass," he told AFP, speaking in English. He compared Israel's ban on a Grass visit to its refusal to let Vanunu leave the country.

"Vanunu would be happy to get from the interior ministry of Israel the title 'persona non grata' and they can send me out of Israel," he said, speaking of himself with his customary use of the third person.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor mocked Grass's poem as "surely no Schiller" adding that at least Grass had found in Vanunu one Israeli worthy of praise.

"There is at least one Israeli who finds grace in his eyes," Palmor said.

Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear-armed power in the Middle East, with between 100 and 300 warheads, but has a policy of neither confirming nor denying it has an atomic arsenal.

It has refused to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or to allow international surveillance of its Dimona plant in the Negev desert in the south of the country.

Vanunu served 18 years behind bars for disclosing the inner workings of Dimona to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper in 1986.

He was released in 2004 but banned from travel or contact with foreigners without prior permission. He has since been sanctioned more than 20 times for breaking the rules.

Grass, one of Germany's most influential intellectuals, sparked a firestorm of criticism at home and abroad in April for "What Must Be Said".

Outraged commentators said while criticism of Israeli government policies was legitimate, Grass had published a one-sided portrayal of Israel as a bloodthirsty aggressor against Iran which frequently issues diatribes against the Jewish state.

Grass achieved world fame with his debut novel, "The Tin Drum" in 1959, and has pressed his country for decades to face up to its Nazi past.

But he saw his substantial moral authority undermined by his 2006 admission, six decades after World War II, that he had been a member of Hitler's notorious Waffen SS as a 17-year-old.

AFP/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

09:11 October 1, 2012 by IchBinKönig
Keepin' it classy, Grassy!

What was it that got you all fired up again, Old Timer? Was it the terror attack on the US and German embassy on 11/9-12/9, that got your old man juices flowing? Was it the speech at the UN where Ahmadinejad called for the 'Elimination of Israel', that sent your heart aflutter? Or maybe, was it that you finally found somebody in Mahmoud who smells even worse than you do?
16:55 October 1, 2012 by bernie1927
As we all know, the constantly quoted remark by Ahmadinejad was a misquote of a faulty translation. Israel has the warheads and does not permit an official inspection. Israel has harassed Iran by murdering scientists in broad daylight and is constantly threatening Iran. So, who is the aggressor and war monger? I salute Mr. Grass for his honesty. I am sure that an agreement could be reached with Iran if Israel were to allow inspections and would give up its nuclear arsenal. They always have the US as backup anyway. If Iran were to have a non-aggression pact with China or Russia the whole matter could be set to rest and stability would be the result.
18:40 October 1, 2012 by IchBinKönig
@bernie1927

Constantly quoted remark? He just made the remark last week... how can a quote made last week already be constantly quoted? and misquoted on top of that? I think you better get back to your Farsi newscast.
19:10 October 1, 2012 by bernie1927
@IchBinKönig

Sorry about the misunderstanding. I was talking about the quoted remark, that they want to wipe Israel off the map. That remark, based on Google searches, originated in a purposely false translation.
20:01 October 1, 2012 by Hendrich Stein
We would do well to distance ourselves from a horrific past, this is not Germany today. Worst yet, deny it or rekindle any rogue support for it. Move on, the world has changed and so has Germany's support for the mass orchestration of exterminating Jews.
20:18 October 1, 2012 by joysonabraham
Who can blame Jews for stocking up everything for their defense. They are the most tortured and persecuted people in the whole world. Its just common sense for them not to trust anyone around and stockpile what ever they can. If anyone can have nuke then the first right goes to them,.
21:02 October 1, 2012 by ovalle3.14
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
21:29 October 1, 2012 by steel jaws
Seeing how large numbers of Moslems, in Islamic countries, spend most of their time fighting wars against Moslems of other sects, Israel needs no atomic weapons.

Grass is one of those people who obviously really believes his opinion is so important, that it is beyond reprehension. Now that he is old, this man appears to have forgotten that he was once a fully conscious follower of the Hitler doctrine. It is therefore quite understandable when he is not liked by Jews.

On the other hand, there can be little doubt, that Israel does little to seek a just peace with its Arab neighbours. The country was and still remains the biggest danger for a calm future in the Middle East.

To claim that Jews have always been victims and are the most persecuted people in the world, as Joysonabraham has written, is also not true. Much of the trouble they have derives from the attitude towards others. A more than four thousand year history of disputes and wars is bound to result in a great deal of suffering, but the whole history of mankind is tainted with injustice. Cain and Abel were no exception.
21:31 October 1, 2012 by guliver
ovallie 3.14

we shell defend ourselves,and our right to exsist as a Jewish state even if you do not like it, and even if your arab friends try over and over for 64 years to erase our state from earth.

Now the Iranians joint and support our enemies they will face the same resistence.

No matter if you European or an arab your gentile "treatment" of the Jews we have allready learnt.
22:11 October 1, 2012 by sonriete
I have to say I think it very unfair to describe Grass as a conscious follower of the Hitler doctrine because he was conscripted into the Waffen SS as a 17 year old in the last months of the war in 1945. He had no choice, the Pope and Helmut Kohl both had the same experience as teenagers for that matter.
00:22 October 2, 2012 by JDee
surprised he didn't praise the general's son as well
10:26 October 2, 2012 by Kennneth Ingle
The opinion of Sonriete: ¦quot;I have to say I think it very unfair to describe Grass as a conscious follower of the Hitler doctrine because he was conscripted into the Waffen SS as a 17 year old in the last months of the war ,¦quot; would deserve a great deal of respect, were it not for some words from Grass himself.

I remember him claiming, that all youths of his age had been blended by the National Socialist propaganda. This was never the case! I have many acquaintances who belong to the two thirds majority who were against fascism. He, in a similar manner to many other prominent people, tries to blame the general public for his own private conviction.

This of course does not alter the fact, that due to a call-up scheme, many Germans had no chance but to serve in the armed forces. Also parents, who showed any type of disagreement with the policies towards Jews, risked not only imprisonment, but also the confiscation of their children. The reason given being, that they were not capable of educating their children in the manner required by the Fuhrer.

Such problems are often deliberately ignored by those who love bashing Germany.
21:01 October 2, 2012 by naro10
Gunther's yellow teeth are gross. He should do something about them instead of spending his time demonizing Israel.
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