3. Günter Grass, Israel, and that Poem

Apr-27-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: “Poetry makes nothing happen” wrote Auden. Günter Grass (who’s he?) seems to have disproved that theory, as his poem criticizing Israel resulted not only in heated debate but got him banished from Israel. Below, the poem itself (we report; you decide) and two Jewish perspectives. Rabbi Rosen’s link is devastating accurate.

* Günter Grass: ‘What Must Be Said’ The Guardian

But why have I kept silent till now?

Because I thought my own origins,

tarnished by a stain that can never be removed,

meant I could not expect Israel, a land

to which I am, and always will be, attached,

to accept this open declaration of the truth.

* Günter the Terrible Uri Avnery Counterpunch

Grass has done the unthinkable: he has openly criticized the State of Israel! And he a German!!!

The reaction was automatic. He was at once branded as an anti-Semite. Not just a run-of-the-mill anti-Semite, but as a crypto-Nazi, who could easily have served as a henchman of Adolf Eichmann! This was shown by the fact that at age 17, near the end of World War II, he was recruited to the Waffen-SS like tens of thousands of others and then – oddly enough – kept the fact hidden for many years. So there you are.

Israeli and German politicians and commentators vied with each other in cursing the writer, with the Germans easily trumping the Israelis. Though our Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, may have garnered the individual championship by declaring Grass persona non grata and banning him from entering Israel for all eternity (at least)…. 

So what did Grass actually say? 

* What Must Be Said: We All Profit from Occupations  Rabbi Brant Rosen

There’s been a great deal of analysis written about German writer Gunther Grass’ now-infamous new poem, “What Must Be Said” (in which Grass criticized Israel’s nuclear program as endangering an “already fragile world peace.”)  For me, the most astute response by far comes from Mideast historian Mark LeVine, writing in Al-Jazeera.

…These facts are that Israel, however egregious its crimes – and anyone who denies them is either completely ignorant or a moral idiot – is but one cog in a much larger global machine, one that includes too many other cases of occupation, exploitation, and wanton violence to list comprehensively here (we can name a few – Syria, China, Russia, India, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bahrain, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka, the Congo, and of course, NATO and the United States – whose oppression, exploitation, and murder of their own or other peoples is a far more concrete “fact” than the potential for mass destruction caused by Israel’s nuclear programme)…

The larger fact is that the global economy is addicted to war, to militarism, oil and the rape of the planet for the minerals and resources that fuel the now globalised culture of hyperconsumption that will doom our descendants to a fate we dare not contemplate. Israel’s gluttony for Palestinian territory, and its willingness to encourage a regional nuclear arms race to keep it, is ultimately no different than the the gluttony for the 60-inch TV, the iPhone/Pad, the cavernous homes and cars, the ability to live at levels of consumption that are only sustainable if most of the world lives in poverty that increasingly defines all our cultures. 



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