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).