Goldberg slipping on Grass

The idea that the world can be divided into powers that can be trusted with nuclear weapons and those that can’t is the foundation of the dispute with Iran, but if this idea really carried any weight, why would President Obama be an advocate of global nuclear disarmament?

Admittedly, he’s a half-hearted advocate — he’s presented it as a long-term goal, but a goal without a deadline is just a dream. Disarmament is Obama’s nice idea. But any serious proponent of disarmament recognizes that no one can be trusted with nuclear weapons.

Imagine your Uncle Harry and Aunt Judy come over for dinner. Uncle Harry’s a retired nuclear scientist and quite a handyman. Over dinner Aunt Judy proudly mentions he has just completed a project he’s been laboring over for many years: he’s constructed a suitcase nuclear bomb and it’s in the trunk of their car outside.

You flip out.

“Don’t worry,” Aunt Judy assures you. “Uncle Harry’s totally trustworthy.”

But you don’t care whether Uncle Harry is as trustworthy as Moses. It doesn’t make you any less scared of the bomb.

As for how trustworthy the Israelis are with their arsenal of nuclear bombs, since they won’t even admit they possess any, I’d say they should inspire less confidence than Uncle Harry.

And as for the method and extent of a possible Israeli attack on Iran — whether it would only involve conventional weapons and whether it would just employ aircraft or perhaps also ballistic missiles — I don’t recall anything specific be placed upon or removed from that proverbial table that accommodates all threats. So who’s to say one way or the other whether Günther Grass’s fears about such an attack are overblown? We don’t know.

Jerry Haber writes: Grass’s poem What must be said has been defended and attacked throughout the globe. The poem protests against the German sale of a nuclear submarine to Israel; appeals for international control of the Israel and Iranian nuclear program by an authority accepted by both governments; and, though by a German author, refuses to be silent about Israel’s nuclear power, despite Germany’s past crimes against the Jewish people (and humanity). Grass speaks as a German who does not want to be indirectly responsible for a horrific catastrophe, but rather, as he puts it,  wants to give help to Israelis, Palestinians, and others in the region “and, finally, to ourselves as well.” This part of Grass’s poem, the main part, is eminently reasonable. Only a twisted mind would find it anti-Semitic or even anti-Zionist.

The poem employs, however, rhetoric that is offensive to Iranians and to Israelis.  It calls the Iranian leader a loudmouth who keeps his people under his thumb and pushes them  to organized cheering. It imputes to the Israeli leaders the claim to have a right to a first strike capability that could “snuff out” or “annihilate” the Iranian people by using the nuclear submarine sold it by the Germans.Both claims belong more to the exaggerated bombast of living rooms (and blogs) than to a serious cri de coeur. They demean the poet, and they enable the poem to be easily dismissed by the partisans.

But suppose Grass had been more accurate in his description of the possible consequences of Israel’s attack? Suppose that instead of writing “a strike to snuff out the Iranian people” he had written  “a strike that may kill or maim hundreds of thousands of people”?

According to the Center for the Strategic and International Studies, a strike on the Bushehr Nuclear Reactor alone “will cause the immediate death of thousands of people living in or adjacent to the site, and thousands of subsequent cancer deaths or even up to hundreds of thousands depending on the population density along the contamination plume.”

Criticism of Israel on that score would not only not count as being anti-Semitic; it could even be advanced by those “sympathetic to Israel’s dilemma.” Or so says Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg:

The morality of a [pre-emptive Israeli] strike, which could cause substantial Iranian casualties, would be questioned even by those sympathetic to Israel’s dilemma.

Goldberg is astounded at the line that Grass did use and considers the poem anti-Semitic. But had Grass’s poem included the more “modest” claim of the possible hundreds of thousands of casualties, rather than the possible annihilation of the Iranian people, would Goldberg have dropped the anti-Semitism charge? In a post accusing Grass of anti-Semitism, Goldberg says that Israel is “contemplating targeting six to eight nuclear sites in Iran for conventional aerial bombardment,” which may be correct,though one retired American general thinks otherwise.  There is, to be sure, a clear difference between the nuclear bombing of conventional sites and the conventional bombing of nuclear sites. But what they share in common is the possible causation of  “substantial Iranian casualties,” to use Goldberg’s phrase. So why is Grass being anti-Semitic when he morally criticizes the consequences of an Israeli strike, whereas Goldberg is not?

If I understand Goldberg correctly, there are two distinctions between Grass’s standing vis-à-vis the moral criticism of Israel, and his own. First,  Grass is a German and a former member of the SS.  So he has to shut up – unless, perhaps, he proves himself to be one of those Germans who are “sympathetic to Israel’s dilemma.”

Second, Goldberg misreads Grass as saying that Israel seeks to annihilate the Iranians. This is nowhere stated or implied by Grass in his poem.  Instead, he says that Israel seeks the right of a preventative first strike which could annihilate the Iranian people. What’s the difference between the two? Well, it’s the difference between saying that Israel attacked Gaza in Operation Cast Lead in a way that could (and, in fact, did) kill fourteen hundred Gazans and between saying that  Israel sought to kill fourteen hundred Gazans.

Why does Goldberg read Grass in this way? He writes

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.

Goldberg reads Grass as accusing Israel of outdoing Hitler in its evil “genocidal intent” – a reading that is interesting for what it says about Goldberg’s own mind,  but it is more interesting for what it says about the manner in which some Israeli advocates  think about criticism of Israeli military power, to turn one of Goldberg’s felicitous phrases.  What could be more anti-Semitic than accusing Israel of being more genocidal than Hitler? After all, to call for a nuclear embargo on Israel is to imply that Israelis cannot be trusted to act responsibly in the use of nuclear weapons, or in the bombing of nuclear facilities. It is to demean the Israelis, to place them on the same level, if not lower, than the Islamist regime in Iran. It is to claim that like the Iranians the Israelis are not to be trusted with nuclear weapons because we suspect them of genocidal intent. [Continue reading…]

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8 thoughts on “Goldberg slipping on Grass

  1. delia ruhe

    “But you don’t care whether Uncle Harry is as trustworthy as Moses. It doesn’t make you any less scared of the bomb.”

    A profound statement underlining what we all know to be true: Our machines — our tools, our weapons — have a life of their own. This is why the NRA doesn’t know what it’s talking about when it says, Guns don’t kill people.

    What I learnt in my freshman drama course is: When the curtain goes up on the first act, and you see a gun on the mantlepiece, you can be sure that gun will be fired before the curtain rings down on the last act. I always thought that was an excellent metaphor for nuclear weapons. Israel didn’t need to build 200 nukes to keep its neighbours in line. All it needed was threshold capability. But it wanted nukes on the mantlepiece.

  2. Ian Arbuckle

    If you don’t carry a gun you have to negotiate a different way. Harry with a nuke, sooner or later becomes a different Harry.

  3. dickerson3870

    RE: “And as for the method and extent of a possible Israeli attack on Iran…I don’t recall anything specific be placed upon or removed from that proverbial table that accommodates all threats. So who’s to say one way or the other whether Günther Grass’s fears about such an attack are overblown?” ~ Woodward

    “Israeli Nuclear Strike on Iran Turned Back”, By William Thomas (Jan. 11/07)

    [excerpts] A strike by nuclear-armed Israeli Air Force fighter-bombers bound for targets in Iran was turned back after being intercepted by U.S. fighters over Iraq, this reporter has learned.
    Two sources have independently confirmed the encounter, which took place on January 7, 2007. Though the first informant offered few details beyond an initial tip, a second source long-known by this reporter to have well-placed U.S. and “non-U.S.” military and government contacts provided specific information regarding the raid, which was aimed at the radical religious ayatollahs holding ultimate power in Iran. . .
    . . . The January 7th mission, which trespassed beyond 160 Station before being recalled by Israeli authorities, comprised three IAF F-16s. Each carried conventional munitions-as well as a single 20-kiloton nuclear bomb. The atomic detonation that razed the city of Hiroshima and killed 140,000 people outright was a 13-kiloton blast. . .


  4. dickerson3870

    RE: “As for how trustworthy the Israelis are with their arsenal of nuclear bombs, since they won’t even admit they possess any, I’d say they should inspire less confidence than Uncle Harry.” ~ Woodward

    FROM WIKIPEDIA [Samson Option]:

    (excerpts) The Samson Option is a term used to describe Israel’s alleged deterrence strategy of massive retaliation with nuclear weapons as a “last resort” against nations whose military attacks threaten its existence, and possibly against other targets as well.[1] . . .
    . . . Some have written about the “Samson Option” as a retaliation strategy. In 2002, the Los Angeles Times published an opinion piece by Louisiana State University professor David Perlmutter which has been seen as justifying a Samson Option approach.[19] He wrote:

    “Israel has been building nuclear weapons for 30 years. The Jews understand what passive and powerless acceptance of doom has meant for them in the past, and they have ensured against it. Masada was not an example to follow—it hurt the Romans not a whit, but Samson in Gaza? What would serve the Jew-hating world better in repayment for thousands of years of massacres but a Nuclear Winter. Or invite all those tut-tutting European statesmen and peace activists to join us in the ovens? For the first time in history, a people facing extermination while the world either cackles or looks away—unlike the Armenians, Tibetans, World War II European Jews or Rwandans—have the power to destroy the world. The ultimate justice?”[20]

    . . . In 2003, Martin van Creveld [professor of military history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem – J.L.D.] thought that the Al-Aqsa Intifada then in progress threatened Israel’s existence.[21] Van Creveld was quoted in David Hirst’s “The Gun and the Olive Branch” (2003) as saying:

    “We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force. Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: ‘Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.’ I consider it all hopeless at this point. We shall have to try to prevent things from coming to that, if at all possible. Our armed forces, however, are not the thirtieth strongest in the world, but rather the second or third. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.”[22]

    Ron Rosenbaum writes in his 2012 book How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III that in the “aftermath of a second Holocaust” Israel’s surviving Dophin-class nuclear missile submarines would retaliate not only against Israel’s attackers, but “bring down the pillars of the world (attack Moscow and European capitals for instance)” as well as the “holy places of Islam.” He writes that “abandonment of proportionality is the essence” of the Samson Option.[23] . . .

    SOURCE –

  5. DE Teodoru

    Goldberg wrote:

    “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.”

    He fails to mention that Grass was a kid fighting for his country; no one claims that he played any role in the Holocaust. Goldberg too heard the call to military service– though never from his own country’s military, going to serve the IDF which originated from an army originally armed by Stalin so it could kill so many helpless Palestinians that the rest ran off in panic. Over and over again, the Israelis took revenge for the Holocaust by ghettoizing, oppressing and exterminating Palestinians, much as the Germans treated East Europeans. Yet, after finishing his service, Goldberg didn’t stay there like a good Zionist, building Israel, but instead came back home to make a better living promoting the hasbara that anti-Zionism=anti-Semitism, hence his assault on Grass.

    These day’s were bombarded ad nauseum by Zionists in media outlets. They know that Americans are inured to it. But, hey, it pays the bills and makes life good here, better than working in Israel for Israel as Israelis. Yet, I’ve gotten heavily involved, fearing that once the deliberate hasbara that Zionism=Judaism is shoved down Americans’ throats, the backlash would hurt our fellow American Jews. But Zionists don’t care, they WANT anti-Semitism, as it will cause the Diasporics to stampede to Israel with all their assets. Until then, this massive anti-Zionism=anti-Semitism campaign has been beneficial to them in that, at least, it pushes Congress to pass riders in the dark of night giving $billions to Israel so it can build up its arsenal. So much of this manure spreads across the disregarded media that to try to respond is like dancing in the dark in a doggie walking park. Yet Goldberg rolls in it, even doing a column on some anti-Semitic Hollywoodian that’s gone dark. I agree with him, Israel will not attack Iran; it can’t. Yet it claims it would and its nukes offocials announced Project Daniel: that its nuclear tipped missiles are aimed, not at Iranian nuclear plants, but at ALL Middle East population centers:

    Grass is Goldberg’s victim figuratively, as was Trayvon Martin was the victim of Zimmerman. Goldberg’s calumnious column once again shows the Zionists’ insistence that they alone can smear as “anti-Semite” anyone that they find it advantageous to smear. This will not hold and God save us from where it could go. As for me, I feel no duty to further step through Goldberg’s poop-filled doggy running park. He, in my view, showed depraved disregard for the fate of American Jews in their American homeland, though he himself is an utter contradiction to the case he earns his salary making. Israel will pan– goy or Jew– anyone critical of its actions. The one thing it never bans is the $billions it receives from abroad, misreading it as guilt laden blood debt. Alas, when it stops coming, the obvious– that you can’t spit on people’s common sense– will be clear too late.

  6. Paul Woodward

    When the only source of this story — a story that would undoubtedly be regarded as a very major news story — is a photojournalist whose other work includes a book on chemtrails, I wouldn’t hesitate to dismiss this aborted Israeli nuclear strike story as pure fiction.

  7. Clif Brown

    Our psychology, while developed to protect the individual, is very dangerous. At root is the thought that one’s own thinking is objective.

    The individual easily assumes that his own reasoning is both logical and based on a hard reality that is objective. One also jumps to conclusions about the thinking of others based on suspicion. All of this swims within the mindset created by the psychological environment of the times, in which history plays a large part.

    The frightening thing about Israel’s leadership is the mindset of victimization, of “never again”. This paranoia that gives rise to epic self-righteousness sees aggression and the stockpiling of weapon upon weapon as normal, it sees the unilateral pre-emptive strike as prudent. It sees “get him before he gets you” as common sense. With this mindset, what the world sees as peace will never come because no action on the part of the other except abject subservience will ever be acceptable.

    Netanyahu and friends are incapable of seeing themselves in the other and do not have any conception that humiliation is unappealing to everyone; Jew, Arab and Iranian alike.

    Outside Israel, the horror of the holocaust and feelings of guilt have created a different mindset, one that says “we must never criticize Jews, because they are a special case in history with which we are complicit” This is strongest in Germany for obvious reasons and it is made manifest by submarines and financial payments.

    Put these two complimentary mindsets together and you have a license for Israel to commit all manner of mayhem – the perpetrators feeling no qualms about whatever they do, and the Western observers trying to assuage their consciences by saying little or nothing about the mayhem.

    This is why Grass so perfectly titles his effort “what must be said”. He wants to shatter this rigid psychological crystal that binds both the Israelis and the West and makes Israeli initiated tragedy inevitable.

    Israel is a not a result of the action of a group of dedicated Jewish fighters in Palestine. That was necessary but not sufficient for the creation. Far from a miracle of God as some would have it, Israel is the result of the complementary mindsets described above acting in concert. As with so many things, what seemed to many like a good idea at the time is now playing out into a disaster of human rights and potential world war.

    Grass’ work will likely have little effect on his generation or the one after. It is only the youth who are born free of the mindset (before it is inculcated) that have the fresh eyes that will make it possible to stop feeding Israel with the weaponry that makes it the beast it was inevitable it would come to be.

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