In his April 12th piece, “Günter the Terrible,” the hoary leader of the radical Israeli peace group, Gush Shalom, takes the emotionality out of the acclaimed German writer’s provocative poem regarding Israel, even as he disagrees with most of it:
…. Grass has done the unthinkable: he has openly criticized the State of Israel! And he’s a German!!!
The reaction was automatic. He was at once branded as an anti-Semite. Not just a run-of-the mill anti-Semite, but as a crypto-Nazi, who could easily have served as a henchman of Adolf Eichmann! This was shown by the fact that at age 17, near the end of World War II, he was recruited to the Waffen-SS like tens of thousands of others and then – oddly enough – kept the fact hidden for many years. …
Israeli and German politicians and commentators vied with each other in cursing the writer, with the Germans easily trumping the Israelis. …
SO WHAT did Grass actually say? In a poem of 69 lines – actually a polemic in the guise of a poem – under the headline “What Has To Be Said”, Grass attacks Israeli policy concerning the atom bomb.
…. Grass’ basic theme is that Israel already has a “nuclear potential”, and that it is therefore hypocrisy to blame Iran for perhaps wanting to acquire one, too. In particular he denounced the German government for supplying another submarine to Israel.
…. Grass assumes that Israel is planning a “first strike” preventive war against Iran, in which the Iranian people could be “wiped out”. This possibility only makes sense if Grass assumes that the Israeli “first strike” would be an attack with nuclear bombs. Indeed, the term “first strike” belongs solely to the lexicon of nuclear war.
It is in this context that he condemns the German government for giving Israel another (sixth) submarine with the capability of launching nuclear bombs. Such submarines are designed for delivering a “second strike” by a nation hit in the “first strike”. It is basically a weapon of deterrence.
He deplores the fact that nobody in Germany (and in the Western world) dares even to mention Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons, and that it is practically forbidden to “call that particular country by name” in this context.
He then asserts that “the Atomic Power Israel endangers the fragile peace of the world”.
To avert this danger, he proposes that “Israel’s atomic potential and Iran’s atomic installations” be put under an unfettered and permanent international inspection regime with the agreement of both governments.
At the end, he also mentions the Palestinians. Only this way, he says, can the Israelis and the Palestinians, and all the other inhabitants of this “region occupied by madness”, be helped.
WELL, I did not fall off my chair when I read this. The text can and must be criticized, but there is nothing there that demands stern condemnation.
…. There is nothing in this text that de-legitimizes the State of Israel. On the contrary, he declares his solidarity with Israel. He explicitly mentions the Holocaust as an indelible crime. He also calls the Iranians “a people enslaved by a “bigmouth”.
That said, Grass’ idea that Israel might “wipe out” the Iranian people in a preventive “first strike” is wildly exaggerated.
I have already stated several times that all the Israeli and American blabbering about an Israeli attack on Iran is a part of the US-led psychological warfare to press the Iranian leaders to give up their (presumed) nuclear ambitions. It is totally impossible for Israel to attack Iran without express prior American agreement, and it is totally impossible for America to attack – or let Israel attack – because of the catastrophic consequences – a collapse of the world economy and a long and costly war.
Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that the Israeli government indeed decides to attack Iran’s nuclear installations. This would not “wipe out” the Iranian people, or even a part of it. Only madmen would use nuclear bombs for this purpose. Israeli leaders, whatever one may think of them, are not mad.
Even if Israel had (or obtained from the US) tactical nuclear bombs with limited power and radius, the world reaction to their use would be catastrophic.
…. Grass’ contention that Israel endangers “world peace” is, therefore, a bit of an overstatement.
As for Grass’ practical proposal to subject both Israeli and Iranian nuclear installations to international inspection – I think this merits serious consideration. If both our countries freeze the nuclear status quo, it may not be a bad idea at all.
In the end, though, we need a nuclear-free region as part of a general regional peace that will include Israel, Palestine, the Arab League, Turkey and Iran. …