Guenter Grass and Germany's Responsibility

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Guenter Grass, the ex-Waffen SS soldier and Nobel Laureate, has been banned from Israel because of a poem he wrote that blames Israel for committing a genocide against the Iranian people that -- just a technical note here - hasn't actually happened, and won't happen.  But anti-Semitism is not a fact-based movement. I write about the meaning of Grass's poem in my Bloomberg View column published yesterday (an excerpt is below), but I wanted to address briefly the decision by the Israeli government (specifically, by the Interior Ministry, which is controlled by the ultra-Orthodox and ultra-dumb Shas Party) to ban Guenter Grass, using a law that keeps ex-Nazis out of Israel.

I have no problem in theory keeping ex-Nazis out of Israel, except in handcuffs (the case of Mr. Eichmann comes to mind) but Grass was an exceedingly junior Nazi, and he is a figure, loathsome as he is, who is respected by a portion of the people of Germany. If Israel is trying to make its case among Germans that Israel is open society, a democracy, just like Germany, than perhaps preemptively bannng a German writer from Israel is a poor way to make the argument. This is sadly typical of the way the Israeli government manages its controversies. (I'm thinking of more serious cases in which Israel, rather than responding immediately with force to a terror or rocket attack, might want to consider going before the international community and helping it understand the criminal acts of Hamas and Hezbollah. This would make the worldwide discussion not about the Israeli response but about the act itself).

With the decision to ban Grass, Israel changed the subject from his feculent poem ("feculent" is Jacob Heilbrunn's well-chosen word) to a question of whether the Israeli government is opposed to the free exchange of ideas. The Israeli government is not opposed to the free exchange of ideas (btw, please read Michael Oren's piece at Foreign Policy about how Israel isn't exactly the fascist state some of its critics believe it to be), but decisions like this create an unfortunate appearance.

Let Guenter Grass come to Israel; help him study the eliminationist anti-Semitic rhetoric of the Iranian regime. He's probably too thickheaded or prejudiced to absorb reality, but let him try.

Oh, about the poem itself. Here's what I wrote yesterday:

"What Must Be Said" is interesting for what it says about the mind of Guenter Grass, but it is more interesting for what it says about the manner in which some intellectuals think about Israel and Iran. By extracting the self-pity, self-aggrandizement and guilt-expiation from "What Must Be Said" and leaving only the politics, Grass's thinking is clear. The short version of his message: Israel may one day soon commit nuclear genocide against the people of Iran.
"It is the alleged right to the first strike / That could annihilate the Iranian people/ Subjugated by a loud-mouth / And guided to organized jubilation / Because in their sphere of power / It is suspected, a nuclear bomb is being built."

Perhaps it reads better in the German, or perhaps Grass is simply T.S. Eliot's inferior in anti-Semitic poetry, but put aside the poem's aesthetic shortcomings and consider the idea advanced in the first two lines: That Israel, which in reality is contemplating targeting six to eight nuclear sites in Iran for conventional aerial bombardment, in fact wants to annihilate the Iranian people in a "first strike."

This is, of course, delusional. Not even the Iranian regime seems to believe this. To make yourself believe that Israel is seeking to murder the 74 million people of Iran, you must make yourself believe that the leaders of the Jewish state outstrip Adolf Hitler in genocidal intent.

The inbox is overflowing after this one. Here is a sadly representative email, from someone who goes by the name of Sidney Wells:

Guenter is correct. The world must stop these manical Jews before they plunge the world into WW3. They simply have an unsatiated blood lust and the world must not turn a blind eye to their devilish schemes.
 
Maybe if Israel disarmed other Middle Eastern nations wouldn't feel so compelled to develop their own WMD. What about a nuclear free Middle East? Fair enough? Or does the Jew require an advantage at all times because they supposedly were Holocausted?
 
Come on Jeffrey. The world has grown very tired of hearing about this supposed Holocaust and we are even growing sicker of all the Jewish propaganda coming our way.

UPDATE: Who says there are no actual Nazis left in the world? This just received by the Goldblog inbox:

When a German tells the truth, the Israeli Mullahs have conniption fits. Sieg heil, Israel, you Fifth Columnist scumbag!
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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

His book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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