Israel Declares War on Gunter Grass
by Stephen Lendman
Grass touched the right nerves. He deserves praise, not condemnation. Nonetheless, he’s vilified for discussing Israel’s open secret. It’s nuclear armed and dangerous.
Iran’s also threatened. Millions of lives are at risk. Grass explained. Denunciation followed.
In America and Israel, whistleblowers are criminalized. Moreover, distinguished figures like Grass are maligned and declared persona non grata.
On April 8, Haaretz headlined, “Interior Minister declares Gunter Grass persona non grata in Israel,” saying:
On Sunday, Eli Yishai barred Grass from entering Israel for expressing views freely in his poem, “What Must Be Said.”
He’s unwelcome in Israel. Citing his Nazi past (at age 17 near war’s end with Germany in ruins), Yishai said:
“Grass’ poems are an attempt to guide the fire of hate toward the State of Israel and the Israeli people, and to advance the ideas of which he was a public partner in the past, when he wore the uniform of the SS.”
“If Gunter wants to continue publicizing his distorted and false works, I suggest he do it in Iran, where he will find a supportive audience.”
If he lands at Ben-Gurion International Airport, he added, “burly policemen” will escort him on the first Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt, or even better, Munich, for once following der Fuhrer’s orders.
Yishai heads the extremist right-wing ultra-Orthodox Shas Party. It’s part of Netanyahu’s coalition government. He also wants Grass’ Nobel award revoked.
Ultranationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called his poem an expression of “egotism of so-called Western intellectuals, who are willing to sacrifice the Jewish people on the altar of crazy anti-Semites for a second time, just to sell a few more books or gain recognition.”
Lieberman’s extremist background is notorious. Journalist Robert Fisk once called him “the worst thing that could happen to the Middle East.” Other critics are as harsh. He’s called an embarrassment, a disgrace to Israel, a regional threat, an abomination, a racist of the worst kind, and much more.
The same goes for Netanyahu and close Knesset allies.
In response to critics, Grass said he criticized Israel’s government and policies, not the nation.
“It’s that which I criticize,” he said, “a policy that keeps building settlements despite a UN resolution. I’m criticizing a policy which is creating more and more enemies for Israel and is increasingly isolating it.”
He especially blames Netanyahu. He said he “should have added that to the poem….I have always been accustomed to my works, large and small, meeting with strong criticism.” Nevertheless, he was disappointed about “the offensive and sweeping accusations of anti-Semitism” that followed.
He’s also appalled about accusations over his Nazi past. At age 17 near war’s end, he was “pulled” into the Waffen SS. He didn’t volunteer. Asked whether he’s a friend of Israel, he said he wished it finally would make peace with its neighbors. He likely included Palestine among them.
On April 9, a Haaretz editorial headlined “Israel has reacted with hysteria over Gunter Grass,” saying:
Public reaction unjustly “focused on the man, not on his positions. Naysayers recalled” his Nazi past, not his credentials as Germany’s most celebrated author and 1999 Literature Nobel Prize recipient.
Denying Grass permission to enter Israel for his views “is characteristic of dark regimes….Yishai’s use of his government authority is not legitimate. Any protest should be expressed within the democratic-liberal framework, which allows every person to express his views – provocative though they may be.”
Grass wrote a poem. Israel reacted “with hysteria. It seems that at issue is less an undesirable person than an undesirable” view.
In 2001, former Chicago Symphony conductor Daniel Barenboim broke a decade’s long taboo by performing Wagner during an Israeli concert. At the time, many wanted him declared persona non grata. Cooler heads prevailed.
In 2000, Austria’s Jorg Haider was barred from Israel for his right-wing views. In 2004, Interior Minister Avraham Poraz prevented UK journalist Peter Hounam from entering for exchanging letters with Mordechai Vanunu and wanting to interview him. More on Vanunu below.
In 2008, Norman Finkelstein was arrested on arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport. Interrogated and held for hours, he was deported and prohibited from returning for 10 years.
Also in 2008, UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur Richard Falk repeatedly was refused entry to Israel for his outspokenness. Last year, he was still banned.
In 2010, famed Spanish clown, Ivan Prado, was refused entry for alleged ties to Palestinian resistance groups Israel calls “terrorist organizations.”
In 2010, Noam Chomsky was barred from entering the West Bank through Jordan’s Allenby crossing. At the time, he said, “Denying me entry into the West Bank is a minor event, but it is significant because it shows how irrational Israel’s actions are.” He was scheduled to speak at Bir Zeit University. He did, but not on campus.
Others were also barred from entry. Palestinian rights activists are excluded. Washington does the same thing. Prominent Muslims are targeted, including politicians and academics.
Former Mossad Head Warns About Israel’s Political System
On April 7, the Jerusalem Post headlined, “Dagan warns of dangers of current political system,” saying:
Former Mossad head Meir Dagan earlier downplayed an alleged Iranian threat. Now he “play(s) up the threat posed to Israel by its own political system,” saying:
“I believe our system is reaching a point where the government is almost incapable of running the country. We are on the edge of – I would not say a disaster because that is a bit exaggerated – but we are facing a very bad prognosis of what will happen in the future.”
Last November, he formed an organization to change what he finds destructive. His petition drive hopes for one million supportive signatures.
“The power has been shifted from the majority to the minority because (dominant parties) are forced to create coalition governments.”
“National priorities are decided by the small parties who are establishing the coalition and not the majority.”
He complained that issues raised at last summer’s social protests remain unaddressed. He blamed Israeli politics. He also raised other issues. On April 29 in New York, he’ll discuss Iran at the Jerusalem Post’s annual conference.
A Final Comment
April 21 marks the 9th anniversary of Mordechai Vanunu’s round-the-clock daily surveillance and refusal to revoke his citizenship and let him leave Israel. Earlier he spent 18 years in prison for revealing Israel’s nuclear threat.
Vanunu’s now in Jerusalem. He appealed Israel’s refusal to let him go. He awaits the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Eileen Fleming knows his ordeal well. Her “We are wide awake” web site follows it. She explained that “Israel’s statehood was contingent upon upholding the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS (DHHR),” UN Charter provisions, and other relevant international laws.
UDHR’s Article 19 guarantees:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Article 13 affirms:
“(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”
Since the mid-1980s, Vanunu was ruthlessly imprisoned, isolated brutally in solitary confinement, persecuted, and hounded for telling the world what everyone needs to know. His courage deserves praise. He’s not a monster, criminal or traitor.
Nonetheless, his human rights are spurned. He wants them back. For good reason, he wants to leave Israel and live free. In October 2010, he appealed to Israel’s High Court. He was denied.
On March 29, 2011, the Knesset enacted legislation revoking citizenship rights of anyone with dual nationality convicted of spying or treason. Vanunu was born in Morocco. He lived there until age nine. In his 2011 High Court appeal, his lawyers used this argument to return him to his homeland.
He deserves support. Join an April 21 Call for a Global Day of Action. He’s prohibited from leaving the region’s only self-proclaimed democracy.
Israel’s more police state than democratic. How it treats Vanunu, like-minded Israeli activists, and its 20% Arab population is Exhibit A.
Vanunu’s treatment is shocking. Though out of prison, he’s far from free. He can be rearrested any time for any reason or none at all. In addition, his prohibitions include:
Fleming’s known him for years. She says “the longer Israel denies (him) his right to leave the state, the greater his legend will grow….”
He’s already a legend in his own time. He doesn’t seek fame or fortune. He only wants to live free. After what Israel put him through since 1986, he deserves that much and more.
Join others for the April 21 Global Day of Action. Support him because it’s the right thing to do.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.