Günter Grass under fire for criticizing Israel | News | DW | 04.04.2012
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Günter Grass under fire for criticizing Israel

German writer Günter Grass has sparked a storm of controversy after a poem in which he criticizes Israel was published in a daily paper. His critics have accused him of being at best confused or ill-informed.

Nobel Literature Prize laureate Günter Grass has been sharply criticized for a poem that was published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung and several international newspapers on Wednesday.

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Grass's provocative poem

In the poem, entitled "What must be said," the 84-year-old German writer describes Israel as a danger to "a fragile world peace." He accuses Israel of seeking to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran that would "wipe out the Iranian people who are oppressed by a loudmouth" - an apparent reference to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

Grass also wrties that he had been silent on the issue for so long due to Germany's "incomparable" crimes against Jews.

The chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany described the poem as "aggressive" and "irresponsible."

"An outstanding author is far from being an outstanding analyst of Middle East politics," Dieter Graumann said, adding that Grass had clearly mistaken Israel for Iran.

'Educated anti-Semite'

Prominent German Jewish columnist Henyryk M. Broder accused Grass of being "the prototype of the educated anti-Semite."

"Grass has always had a problem with the Jews, but he has never articulated it as clearly as with this poem," Broder wrote in the newspaper Die Welt.

Ruprecht Polenz of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, who chairs the German parliament's foreign affairs committee, accused Grass of confusing cause and effect.

"Grass is a great writer, but whenever he talks politics he is out of his depth and mostly gets it wrong. This time it's completely wrong," Polenz told the newspaper Mitteldeutsche Zeitung.

German submarine sale

The poem also includes criticism of a deal agreed last month in which Germany is to sell Israel a sixth nuclear-capable Dolphin-class submarine. "Tomorrow could be too late" and Germany could become a "supplier to a crime," Grass writes.

Chancellor Merkel's spokesman declined to comment on the poem.

"In Germany, the freedom of artistic expression applies, as, fortunately does the freedom of the government not to comment on every work of art," Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin.

Grass, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999, is no stranger to controversy. He sparked a scandal in 2006 when he admitted that he had volunteered to serve in the Waffen SS in World War II, a fact he had not previously disclosed.

pfd/tm (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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