"More power to Gunter Grass for ‘What must be said’"


Was gesagt werden muss

Warum schweige ich, verschweige zu lange,
was offensichtlich ist und in Planspielen
geübt wurde, an deren Ende als Überlebende
wir allenfalls Fußnoten sind.

Es ist das behauptete Recht auf den Erstschlag,
der das von einem Maulhelden unterjochte
und zum organisierten Jubel gelenkte
iranische Volk auslöschen könnte,
weil in dessen Machtbereich der Bau
einer Atombombe vermutet wird.

Doch warum untersage ich mir,
jenes andere Land beim Namen zu nennen,
in dem seit Jahren – wenn auch geheimgehalten –
ein wachsend nukleares Potential verfügbar
aber außer Kontrolle, weil keiner Prüfung
zugänglich ist?

Das allgemeine Verschweigen dieses Tatbestandes,
dem sich mein Schweigen untergeordnet hat,
empfinde ich als belastende Lüge
und Zwang, der Strafe in Aussicht stellt,
sobald er mißachtet wird;
das Verdikt “Antisemitismus” ist geläufig.

Jetzt aber, weil aus meinem Land,
das von ureigenen Verbrechen,
die ohne Vergleich sind,
Mal um Mal eingeholt und zur Rede gestellt wird,
wiederum und rein geschäftsmäßig, wenn auch
mit flinker Lippe als Wiedergutmachung deklariert,
ein weiteres U-Boot nach Israel
geliefert werden soll, dessen Spezialität
darin besteht, allesvernichtende Sprengköpfe
dorthin lenken zu können, wo die Existenz
einer einzigen Atombombe unbewiesen ist,
doch als Befürchtung von Beweiskraft sein will,
sage ich, was gesagt werden muß.

Warum aber schwieg ich bislang?
Weil ich meinte, meine Herkunft,
die von nie zu tilgendem Makel behaftet ist,
verbiete, diese Tatsache als ausgesprochene Wahrheit
dem Land Israel, dem ich verbunden bin
und bleiben will, zuzumuten.

Warum sage ich jetzt erst,
gealtert und mit letzter Tinte:
Die Atommacht Israel gefährdet
den ohnehin brüchigen Weltfrieden?
Weil gesagt werden muß,
was schon morgen zu spät sein könnte;
auch weil wir – als Deutsche belastet genug –
Zulieferer eines Verbrechens werden könnten,
das voraussehbar ist, weshalb unsere Mitschuld
durch keine der üblichen Ausreden
zu tilgen wäre.

Und zugegeben: ich schweige nicht mehr,
weil ich der Heuchelei des Westens
überdrüssig bin; zudem ist zu hoffen,
es mögen sich viele vom Schweigen befreien,
den Verursacher der erkennbaren Gefahr
zum Verzicht auf Gewalt auffordern und
gleichfalls darauf bestehen,
daß eine unbehinderte und permanente Kontrolle
des israelischen atomaren Potentials
und der iranischen Atomanlagen
durch eine internationale Instanz
von den Regierungen beider Länder zugelassen wird.

Nur so ist allen, den Israelis und Palästinensern,
mehr noch, allen Menschen, die in dieser
vom Wahn okkupierten Region
dicht bei dicht verfeindet leben
und letztlich auch uns zu helfen.
Gunter Grass

Sueddeutsche, 04.04.12

What must be said

Why have I kept silent, held back so long,

on something openly practiced in

war games, at the end of which those of us

who survive will at best be footnotes?

It’s the alleged right to a first strike

that could destroy an Iranian people

subjugated by a loudmouth

and gathered in organized rallies,

because an atom bomb may be being

developed within his arc of power.

Yet why do I hesitate to name

that other land in which

for years—although kept secret—

a growing nuclear power has existed

beyond supervision or verification,

subject to no inspection of any kind?

This general silence on the facts,

before which my own silence has bowed,

seems to me a troubling lie, and compels

me toward a likely punishment

the moment it’s flouted:

the verdict “Anti-semitism” falls easily.

But now that my own country,

brought in time after time

for questioning about its own crimes,

profound and beyond compare,

is said to be the departure point,

(on what is merely business,

though easily declared an act of reparation)

for yet another submarine equipped

to transport nuclear warheads

to Israel, where not a single atom bomb

has yet been proved to exist, with fear alone

the only evidence, I’ll say what must be said.

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.

Why only now, grown old,

and with what ink remains, do I say:

Israel’s atomic power endangers

an already fragile world peace?

Because what must be said

may be too late tomorrow;

and because—burdend enough as Germans—

we may be providing material for a crime

that is foreseeable, so that our complicity

wil not be expunged by any

of the usual excuses.

And granted: I’ve broken my silence

because I’m sick of the West’s hypocrisy;

and I hope too that many may be freed

from their silence, may demand

that those responsible for the open danger

we face renounce the use of force,

may insist that the governments of

both Iran and Israel allow an international authority

free and open inspection of

the nuclear potential and capability of both.

No other course offers help

to Israelis and Palestinians alike,

to all those living side by side in emnity

in this region occupied by illusions,

and ultimately, to all of us.

Günter Grass

Translated by Breon Mitchell
Guardian 05.04.12

Yishai: Günter Grass not welcome in Israel
By Jpost.com staff

Interior minister prohibits Nobel literature laureate German author from entering Israel over poem, says he should publish in Iran. Photo: Marc Israel Sellem Germany’s most famous living writer, the Nobel literature laureate Günter Grass, is not welcome in Israel, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said on Sunday, after a controversial poem Grass wrote stated that Israel’s “atomic power endangers” world peace.

“Grass’s poems are an attempt to fan the flames of hatred against the State of Israel and its people,” Yishai said, who said the poem highlights Grass’s well-known history as a member of the Waffen-SS.

“If Günter Grass wants to continue to spread his distorted and false works I suggest he do it in Iran, where a receptive audience awaits him” Yishai stated, declaring the German author a “persona non grata” and prohibiting him front entering the country.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman also weighed on the issue, explaining to the visiting Italian prime minister that Grass’s writing shows how Western intellectuals use anti-Semitism to attain greater notoriety and sell more books.

“We expect the leaders in Europe to move decisively against such expressions by influential opinion makers, and not to allow them to continue to enjoy mainstream respectability,” Channel 10 news quoted the foreign minister as saying during his meeting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who was on his first state visit since he was elected last year.

The foreign minister noted the danger of how a small anti-Semitic comment can quickly mushroom into a larger phenomenon. As was reported in The Jerusalem Post last week, Grass has responded to his detractors, saying he stands by what he wrote but thought he needed to clarify that his criticism is of the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and not Israel as a state.

Grass told Süddeutsche Zeitung Netanyahu is “the man who damages Israel the most.”

Grass poem, entitled “What Must Be Said,” created a storm following its publication in the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung last Wednesday. In it, the author states that Israel seeks Iran’s destruction, and questions Germany’s sale of a submarine “equipped to transport nuclear warheads” to Israel, which is widely believed to be the Middle East’s sole nuclear power.

Israel maintains a policy of ambiguity surrounding its nuclear program, and is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty.

Benjamin Weinthal contributed to this report

More power to Gunter Grass for ‘What must be said’

His poem was especially brave because he’s German and because he’s vulnerable over his past.
Larry Derfner, +972

If I take Gunter Grass’s supposedly anti-Israel, anti-Semitic poem “What must be said” literally, I guess I could quibble with a couple of phrases. He says an Israeli attack on Iran “could erase the Iranian people.” An unknowing reader might think Israel is planning to nuke Iran, which isn’t the case, even though there were reports in the past about Israel considering the use of tactical nuclear weapons as “bunker-busting” bombs on the underground nuclear sites. And if we want to take a little poetic license, an Israeli attack could expand in all sorts of directions with all sorts of weaponry and indeed lead to the erasure of the Iranian people, as well as the Israeli people and other people, too. Still, taken literally, that phrase is misleading.

I also have a little problem with the line about how in Iran “the existence of one atomic bomb is not proved but [Israel] wants evidence as a scarecrow.” While it’s true Iran doesn’t have the bomb and, as far as anybody knows, isn’t doing what’s necessary to build it, and while it’s true Israel deliberately distorts and exaggerates every bit of data on Iran’s activities, the prospect of an Iranian nuke is more than a “scarecrow.” Again, misleading.

But aside from those two relatively minor objections, I think I could sign my name to every word in that poem, and so could lots and lots of Jews in Israel and the rest of the world. What’s more, I think what Grass wrote was especially brave because he’s German, and because he’s vulnerable after having revealed six years ago that at the end of World War II, when he was 17, he was drafted into the Waffen SS. (He says he didn’t fire a gun while in the unit.) The Germans and others who resented his left-wing, antiwar preaching used that admission to try to invalidate everything he’d said before, just like Germans, Israelis, American Jewish leaders and others are using that admission to try to invalidate his protest poem against an Israeli war on Iran.

What does the poem say? (I’ve only found one complete English translation, by blogger Alessandro Ghebreigziabiher, but it pretty much matches the brief extracts published in the New York Times and elsewhere, so I think it’s safe to use.)

Grass says he’s fed up with being silent about this looming war, and he thinks there are many other Germans who feel the same way, and if he and others don’t speak out, ”we might also become deliverers of a predictable crime, and no excuse would erase our complicity.”

Which opponent of an Israeli attack on Iran can disagree with that sentiment?

He says the “nuclear power of Israel threat[ens] the world peace.” If Israel wasn’t so reckless and arrogant in its military policy, if it didn’t make a habit of attacking foreign countries like Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and, of course, Palestine, not to mention its assaults on a Turkish ship and arms smugglers in Sudan and Dubai, then Israel’s nuclear power wouldn’t threaten world peace, it would just protect Israel. But the way this state behaves, and the way it’s threatening to behave against Iran, it is a nuclear-armed destabilizing force in the Middle East, and that damn sure is a threat to world peace.

What else does Grass say? That he hopes ”free and permanent control of the Israeli atomic power and the Iran nuclear bases will be made by both the governments with an international supervision.” What a frightening thought. ”Only in this way,” he concludes, “Israelis, Palestinians, and everybody, all people living hostile face to face in that country occupied by the craziness, will have a way out, so us too.” Such a dangerous man, this Gunter Grass.

Netanyahu accused him of drawing a “shameful moral equivalence between Israel and Iran” and denying Israel “the means to defend itself,” which was “perhaps not suprising” since he was once in the Waffen SS. The ADL’s Abraham Foxman also threw Grass’ history at him while saying he’d drawn an “outrageous moral equivalence between Iran and Israel,” and that the poem “indeed suggests he harbors some anti-Semitic beliefs.”

The Israeli Embassy in Berlin went completely off the deep end, saying ”it is a European tradition to accuse the Jews before the Passover festival of ritual murder. Earlier, it was Christian children whose blood the Jews allegedly used to make their unleavened bread, but today it is the Iranian people that the Jewish state allegedly wants to annihilate.”

Yeah, heard you. Germans aren’t the only people constrained by the Holocaust from condemning Israeli policies that deserve condemnation. Jews are too – especially when the Israeli/American Jewish establishment decrees that to do so is to side with anti-Semites. Well, screw them – Gunter Grass told the truth, he was brave in telling it, he was brave in admitting that he’d been drafted into the Waffen SS as a teenager, and by speaking out against an Israeli attack on Iran, he’s doing this country a great service at some personal cost while most Israelis and American Jews are safely following the herd behind Bibi over the cliff.

Yeah, really, enough silence.

Israeli writers call on international literary community to rebuke Gunter Grass

Chairman of Israeli writers association says the Nobel Prize does not give its recipients immunity and called on Grass to issue an apology.

By Maya Sela, Haaretz

The Hebrew Writers Association in Israel on Monday denounced a controversial poem by Nobel Literature laureate Guenter Grass in which he criticizes Israel for threatening to attack Iran. The writers association said it would ask International PEN, a worldwide body of writers, to “publicly distance itself from Grass’ remarks and to come out against all expressions of delegitimization against Israel and the Jewish people.”

“Even before the traces of the swastika on his clothes were gone, Grass joined the crusade against the State of Israel,” the Hebrew Writers Association said in a public statement on Monday, referring to Grass’ days as a member of the Hitler youth and Nazi SS. “Grass should clean his clothes and his past, express remorse for the days when he served in the Nazi Death Army, because his terrible statement cast a dark shadow over all of his writings.”

The chairman of the association, Herzl Hakak, called on Israeli and international writers to denounce Grass and said the Nobel Prize committee should also weigh in on the issue. Hakak emphasized that the Nobel does not give its recipients immunity and called on Grass to issue an apology.

Grass’ poem, “What Must Be Said,” claimed Israel was preparing a first strike to “wipe out the Iranian people” as it attempts to derail Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Eli Yishai is coming under fire from German politicians for his announcement Sunday that Grass would be considered a persona non grata in Israel. A minister in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s German government has reportedly denounced the Israeli visa ban on Grass as “exaggerated.”

“I cannot imagine that Mr. Grass has any interest in showing up in Israel after the explicit criticism he has faced in Germany,” German Health Minister Daniel Bahr reportedly said in an interview slated to appear on Tuesday in the daily Die Welt.

The minister, who also criticized Grass, was apparently not speaking for the government. He is a senior member of the Free Democratic Party, a junior partner in Merkel’s cabinet. Die Welt issued a summary to other media in advance of publication.

Attacking Grass, Bahr said he was “sad to see that someone who has experienced all the controversies of post-war Germany remains marked by so much prejudice and stubbornness.” However, he called the visa ban an “utterly exaggerated” response,” Die Welt said.

Renate Kuenast, co-leader of the opposition Green Party in Germany’s parliament, rebuked Grass for his refusal to recognize that Israel was threatened by Iran, but she also criticized Yishai’s move to declare him a persona non grata.

“It means everyone will end up discussing the ban instead of Grass’ views,” she told DPA.

Grass has been furiously attacked in Germany over the poem. Early Saturday, someone daubed graffiti on a sculpture in the city of Goettingen commemorating free speech which Grass commissioned and donated. The red paint called on him to “shut your mouth.”

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