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Monday, April 9, 2012

Banning Günter Grass

April 9th, 2012

Nobel Laureate Günter Grass has been declared persona non grata by the nation of Israel. The reason?

He wrote a poem.

Before going further, I suggest that you read it for yourselves HERE.

Personally, my only real criticism of the work is that (at the ripe age of 84) Mr Grass seems to have lost his artful touch. Perhaps its weakness lies in the translation.

As far as its substance is concerned, Grass has simply suggested that Israel's possession of an utterly opaque and never internationally inventoried nuclear arsenal "endangers an already fragile world peace." He has also decried the hypocrisy of their threatening an all-out war with Iran for maintaining the same refusal to allow transparency.

This is plainly rational. The response of Prime Minister Netanyahu's governing coalition is not. The Guardian reports:
"On Sunday, Israel's interior minister Eli Yishai used a law permitting a bar on entry to former Nazis to declare Grass persona non grata for his "attempt to fan the flames of hatred against the state of Israel and its people, and thus to advance the idea to which he publicly affiliated in his past donning of the SS uniform."
With all due respect, Mr. Grass was born on October 16th, 1927. When Germany invaded Poland he was eleven years old. The Nazi regime's desperate conscription of children as their fortunes of war turned is well documented. Indeed, the total of Grass' combat experience lasted from February to April of 1945.

Neither the ugly fact of Hitler's child victimization nor Grass' long support for Israel's right to exist has prevented some in the Netanyahu regime from painting a very different picture. The ultra-radical Yeshai went so far as to call for Grass' Nobel to "withdrawn."

The N.Y. Times reports on Grass' reaction:
"Two days after his poem appeared, Mr. Grass said in an interview that he had meant to focus his attack not so much on Israel as on the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"The man who damages Israel the most at the moment is in my opinion Netanyahu, and I should have included that in my poem," Mr. Grass said. "What is now an imminent threat is a risk without parallel — a preventive strike, a first strike against Iran, which would have terrible consequences."
The standard attack from Israel's American patrons on that country's critics is that 'they are the only free and Democratic nation in the Middle East.' How does barring the entry of a Nobel winner for the composition of a poem square with our supposed ideals?

Larry Durfner notes wryly:
"... in a way, he’s getting off easy; when ex-Mossad boss Meir Dagan started criticizing Netanyahu and Barak’s plan to bomb Iran, his diplomatic passport was revoked and some cabinet ministers demanded he be investigated for endangering national security.
So it doesn’t matter if Grass was in the Waffen SS (drafted at age 17 at the end of WWII). That makes him an easy target for Israel’s enforcers, but when you’re dealing with antiwar critics, any excuse will do: he’s a German, he’s a gentile, he’s a Jew who doesn’t live in Israel, he’s a fifth-column Jew living in Israel. Whatever. The point is to shut up criticism of Israel’s right to make war whenever and wherever it wants."
The American right is engaging in the same ugliness. Indeed, over at Pajamas Media, Benjamin Kerstein wrote recently that "all criticism of Israel not only can be but must be antisemitic." EMPHASIS HIS

And some wonder why I so rarely venture into this territory. 

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