Thursday, April 5, 2012

Günter Grass and changing German attitudes towards Israel

The poet hopes his latest work, What Must Be Said, will prompt others to break their silence on Israel's nuclear weapons

Hans Kundnani, Thursday 5 April 2012

(Read the translation of the poem, below)

"....What must be said, according to Grass, is that "the nuclear power Israel" – rather than Iran – "endangers an already fragile world peace". Grass says he had not spoken out previously because his nationality "forbade" it: any German breaking the silence on the Israel nuclear programme may be accused of antisemitism.

But, Grass goes on, the recent agreement to sell a sixth German Dolphin submarine to Israel meant Germany would now be partly responsible for "a crime that can be foreseen". It could not therefore make "any of the usual excuses" – presumably a reference to excuses made by Germans about the Holocaust. Grass thus felt he must break his silence "with my last drop of ink" – suggesting that this is the writer's last word. He says he hopes the poem will prompt others to "liberate themselves from silence" about Israel's nuclear weapons.....

This anger against Israel is exacerbated by the sense some Germans have of not being able to say what they really think – as Grass suggests in the poem. This has created a pent-up resentment towards Israel that could at some point explode. It will be interesting to see whether Grass's poem leads in the next few weeks and months to the debate about Germany's "special relationship" with Israel that he seems to hope it would......

An Israeli military strike on Iran could create a sudden rupture between Germany and Israel in the way that the Iraq war did between Germany and the US. My sense is that were Israel to launch a military strike on Iran, what remaining sympathy there is in Germany for Israel would evaporate almost overnight......."

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