Thursday, 5 April 2012
What had to be said: Günter Grass‘ call for peace
Günter Grass, one of Germany’s most respected authors and poets, has widely criticized Israel’s war oriented politics and its plans to attack Iran in the near future. In a poem printed in the daily newspaper “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, Grass calls for an appeal for peace in the view of the rising war in the Middle East, where he fears a nuclear strike by Israel against Iran, tearing the world into chaos.
In this poem he clearly states that Israel's policy is a major threat to global peace and that a potential Israeli attack against Iran will bring the Middle East and the world to the abyss. He also criticized Germany's pro-Israeli policy by selling submarines to the Israeli navy.
This poem was heavily discussed in Germany, and attacked by the Jewish Community, accusing him of anti-Semitist tendencies. However, if you read the poem it becomes clear that the claim for anti-Semitism is simply not given. What Grass addresses is Israel’s nuclear capability on the one hand and Iran’s leadership under Ahmadinejad on the other hand; whose anti-Israeli propaganda boasters are the only weapon against Israel, without a given proof of the existence of any nuclear weapon or hazardous nuclear capabilities in Iran itself.
Critics against Grass mostly focus on his partly polemic comments on German politics and society, and about his out-coming in 2006, admitting that he became a member of the Waffen-SS at the age of 17, in 1944. This was a widely discussed public affair in German media, since Grass uses to blame Germany’s history and atrocities against the Jews in World War 2, and Germany’s bellicose history by co-causing World War 1 and erupting World War 2, repeatedly pointing at Germany’s moral responsibilities for Europe and the Jewish community.
However, since war in the Middle East seems more and more inevitable and the outcome of an armed confrontation could lead to disastrous effects on a global scale, Grass’ poem has to be regarded as the rational voice of an intellectual for peace. Grass, a noble price winner for literature in 1999 and one of the most respected German writers and poets, is probably one of the very few intellectual rational voices in a world that is significantly over-crowded by polemic boasters.
His words in this situation should be rewarded, despite his personality or his personal past. His recent words matter and they have to be heard.