Günter Grass and Israeli hypocrisy

In his new poem, “What Must Be Said,” Germany’s most celebrated writer Günter Grass writes: “I’ve broken my silence/ because I’m sick of the West’s hypocrisy…” yet that hypocrisy is itself merely a shield for Israel’s own hypocrisy.

Israel treats the mere possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat while refusing to acknowledge the existential threat that it poses to everyone in the region through its own concealed and uninspected arsenal of hundreds of nuclear weapons.

Grass hopes that having broken his own silence others will follow his lead and demand “the governments of/ both Iran and Israel allow an international authority/ free and open inspection of/ the nuclear potential and capability of both.”

This reads and no doubt is intended much more as a political statement than a work of poetry, though it nevertheless contains a poetic force in what can be seen as a symbolic and historic transition: that not even Germans are willing to keep reissuing the license that allows Israelis to use the Holocaust as a perfect shield for deflecting all criticism.

Hans Kundnani writes:

[W]hat makes the publication of the poem significant is that it expresses a sense of anger against Israel that – justified or not – many Germans seem increasingly to share. This anger is partly a response to Israel’s rightward shift during the past decade. But it seems also to be a product of developments in Germany and in particular the way that the Holocaust has receded in significance during the last decade. Increasingly, Germans seem to see themselves as victims rather than perpetrators.

A poll in January 2009 – during the Gaza war – suggested that German attitudes to Israel were in flux. Nearly half of respondents said they saw Israel as an “aggressive country” and only around a third of respondents said they felt Germany had a special responsibility towards Israel. Sixty per cent said Germany had no special responsibility (the figure was even higher among younger Germans and among those living in the former East Germany).

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.

Angela Merkel – who has declined to comment on Grass’s poem – is personally committed to the Jewish state but is under increasing pressure on this issue, on which she is unusually out of step with German public opinion.

Last year, Germany voted in favour of a UN resolution demanding a halt to Israeli settlement expansion – an unusual break with Israel. Later in the year, Germany opposed the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN. But according to one poll, 84% of Germans supported Palestinian statehood and 76% believed Germany should act to recognise it – an even higher proportion in each case than in France or the UK.

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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Comments

  1. DE Tedooru says:

    Unfortunately, since 1930s, FOR THE ZIONISTS, neither the Hebraic faith, Hebraic tradition, the fate of Europe’s Jews nor anything else matters. ALL THEY WANT IS: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
    and nuclear bombs. Anything else is just HASBARA to them. Israel is two societies: The Israelis– who all want to live exactly as they imagine Americans live– and the Israeli military who want to overcome the traditional Jewish disdain for military men with impressive war toys with which to wow the Jews that look down on them. Sometimes, they feel compelled to shoot fish in a barrel to show what “mensh” they are so they drum up a “security” issue so they can attack helpless Palestinians. But in the end most Israelis have had enough of all this “Jewish Homeland” baloney and they immigrate to Europe. There, they see, that the sins of their military follow them everywhere (not just in Germany) and they watch the pitiful sacrilege visited on the Holocaust victims as Israeli and Zionist propaganda weaves the dead into a blanket under which to hide their “lebensraum” killings. So I understand how much Germans with a guilty conscience have come to hate the Israeli for doing EXACTLY what all those Germans feel guilty about. Now, Israeli expatriates in Europe– ONE HELL OF A LOT– find themselves feeling the same guilt the Germans feel. What totally baffles these expatriates is how the Diaspora Zionists–who’d rather scream about Israel’s fantastic-ness to their “dumb goyim” neighbors than move there– are telling such terrible, terrible lies. Just befriend an Israeli and ask him to talk honestly– they’re still Jewish enough to do that– and they’ll tell you that Arabs they can take or leave, but diaspora bravura Zionists they just can’t stomach. However, having moved to Europe for a LIFE, they always feel deep pain over the rage of Europeans over Israeli Middle East policies. Yep, they’re not dumb and not self deceiving. They know how badly the hasbara stinks. If they didn’t they wouldn’t have moved in the thousands abroad.

  2. To DE Tedooru, You are a real expert of the Jewish soul are you? All they want is money… and you probably think you’re an original thinker, all your ideas can be found in the good and old Shturmer. I don’t want to argue with you there is no point to do so because you are not interested in facts or truth but I want to tell you how lucky I feel that the Jews are armed and ready for lunatics like you.

  3. DE Teodoru says:

    How could you be such a fraud Joe? JEWS are people like you and me, held together by a far more morally stringent morality than most of us. I specifically referred to ZIONISTS– what most Jews are not for they REFUSE to move to Israel. If you know your Zionist history you would find far, far more Jews feeling that way about Zionists than you could imagine. Yours is a shell game; move the pieces so fast that one can’t distinguish Zionist from Jew. You will find that through all these years your ilk failed!

  4. First of all most of the Jews are Zionists even those who do not live in Israel, it is very convenient for you to distinguish between the Jews and Zionists and claim against them the old libels about money loving blood thersty beings without being accused being an old fashion anti Semite. Fact is that Zionism is a legitimate Jewish freedom movement, it started after a very long time of discrimination, oppression and lately systemathic industrialized murder, as I undrstand you simply deny Jewish polytical freedom in Israel as you call it “Jewish Homeland” baloney. It is no less homelend for Jews than Germany for Germans. Your provocative “lebensraum” killing claim fits exactly to a blood libel definition because there is no comparison between what the Germans did to Jews and the defensive acts of the IDF against terrorists. Your accusations are very general and poetic without any factual evidence, fact is that each UN invesigation about alleged masacers against Arab population like the one in Jenin ended up with

  5. DE Teodoru says:

    Joe, you live in USA. FIRST TENET OF ZIONISM: ALL JEWS *MUST* MOVE TO THE HOMELAND. Joe, is or is not the USA your homeland? Will you move to Israel? Are you an American Jew or an Israeli Jew? Those are not the same. I’m not your enemy and certainly am not Israel’s enemy, having first gone there when young with Habonim. I don’t want a dead Israel, nor a hysterical one; I want a peaceful Israel, leading in the modernization of the Middle Eastern Arab cousins as a good neighbor. I desperately want you to never experience in America what so many Jews experienced in Europe in 1930s&40s. Otherwise, I would stick to molecular biology and Brazilian music. Everything I am I owe to Jews– fellow refugees who tutored me in refuge and my American teachers– and so I owe them my gratitude expressed by doing anything I can to PREVENT the scheme of scaring Jews to move to Israel by promoting anti-Semitism in America and Europe. I think you should read more and then face up to the real issues rather than call me an anti-Semite. You are imposing an illogic on me that I don’t think is yours, given your limited personal experience with the issue. Rather, it is imposed on you by the people who think that they can own you by badgering you with all the HOMELAND and HOLOCAUST threats. All I want is that you be FREE to chose your homeland: where you were born or where the Zionists claim you should be. Me, given how much I saw Jews do as a pillar of Western culture, I’d rather have you all stay among us, TOTALLY as part of us. But you must stop repeating the old “anti-Semitism” hasbara as if you had lost your mind. It is YOUR mind, Joe, use it to think for yourself and try to, first and foremost, be a good Jew. I am not your enemy, I am one beholding to your fellow Jews– all my fellow Europeans, Americans and many Israelis. Read my words more carefully please and don’t let the ex-Leninist propaganda style of the neocons polarize us. We both want peace, prosperity and justice…you because you’re a Jew and me because I am of a religion begun by a Jew. Everything else is violation and stupidity and we wouldn’t be very helpful if we attribute to eachother the crap that someone else is trying to put in our heads. WE NEED MUTUAL DIALOGUE, a term started by a NYC Communist Jew at UC Berkeley with which she gave ALL Students freedom of speech in a university that sought to muzzle it. Let’s follow in Betina Aptheker’s example, please.