One of Germany’s most famous novelists penned a pro-Iranian regime and anti-Israel poem Wednesday in German and Italian daily newspapers, declaring the Jewish state the greatest threat to global security and denying the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.
The 84-year-old Günter Grass, the winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Literature and a lifelong Social Democratic party activist, wrote that “the atomic power Israel is endangering the already fragile world peace.” In addition to his literary fame, Grass, a fierce opponent of President George W. Bush’s tenure, is considered by the chattering classes to be a political actor whose statements carry moral weight.
Three years before he was alleged to have been a member of the Nazi Waffen SS, he wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 2003, “It is President Bush and his government that are diminishing democratic values.” His six decades of silence about his membership in an organization devoted to lethal anti-Semitism and defeating the allies prompted nationwide soul searching in 2006 because of his theretofore moral stature in post-WW2 Germany.
His poem, titled “What must be said,” ran in the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung and Italy’s La Repubblica.
Grass argues that there is no proof that Iran is building a nuclear device, and calls on German chancellor Angela Merkel not to deliver any further Super Dolphin submarines to Israel. The German subs can be equipped with second-strike nuclear capability and are a key feature of Israel’s system of deterrence.
He also trashes Germany’s support for the Jewish state because Israel seeks, he says, with criminal complicity from Germany “to send all-destroying warheads where the existence of a single nuclear bomb is unproven.”
The conservatives have been swift to reply.
Philipp Mißfelder, a Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and foreign policy spokesman for Merkel’s party in the Bundestag, told the daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger that “the poem is tasteless and un-historic and shows a lack of knowledge about the situation in the Middle East.” The general secretary of Merkel’s CDU party Hermann Gröhe said he was horrified over the tone of the poem and that Grass misjudges completely that Iran is determined to obtain nuclear weapons.
Best known for his novel The Tin Drum, about the lead-up to Nazism in Germany and Poland and the time during the war years, Grass has long strongly emphasized the victim status of Germans during the allied campaign against the Hitler movement in World War II.
Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.