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article imageGünter Grass tries to quell outrage over poem criticizing Israel

By Layne Weiss     Apr 7, 2012 in World
The Washington Post reports that German Nobel laureate, Günter Grass, is attempting to set the record straight on a poem that sharply criticizes Israel. Grass maintains he was attacking the government's current policies, and not Israel as a whole.
The poem, "What Must Be Said" was published Wednesday, and criticizes Grass' home country of Germany for delivering nuclear submarines to Israel. The 84-year old also takes aim at Germany's refusal to stand up against Israel. He notes that his words will probably be perceived as anti-Semitic, but holds firmly to the belief that Israeli aggression against Iran is a deadly mistake that will do nothing to solve Israel's problems, but rather worsen them.
In an interview with the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Grass explained his motive was to single out Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government for policies he said were "creating even more enemies for Israel, and are ever more increasing the country's isolation," The Washington Post reports.
"The man who damages Israel the most at the moment is Netanyahu, and I should have concluded that in the poem," Grass said in the interview which was published Saturday.
In his poem, Grass called for "unhindered and monitored and permanent monitoring of Israel's nuclear facility and Iran's nuclear facility through an international entity," The Guardian reports.
Grass also sharply criticized Israel's claim to have the right to "strike first" against Iran, The Washington Post reports.
Grass said in the interview that a preventive strike against Iran would have "terrible consequences."
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, rebuked the views Grass expressed in his poem as "ignorant and reprehensible."
"His shameful moral equivalence between Israel and Iran, a regime that denies the Holocaust and threatens to annihilate Israel, says little about Israel and much about Mr. Grass," Netanyahu said in a statement.
Netanyahu took his attack in a more personal direction with the reminder that "for six decades, Mr Grass hid that he had been a member of the Waffen SS," The Guardian reports.
"So for him to cast the one and only Jewish state as the greatest threat to world peace and to oppose giving Israel the means to defend itself is perhaps not surprising."
Grass has also received sharp criticism from his home country of Germany. An accusation by conservative German newspaper Welt that Grass is anti-Semitic, seems to have catapulted the 84-year old's Nobel laureates desire to set the record straight, the Financial Times reports.
Germany has long been regarded as one of Israel's closest allies.
Amidst all the controversy and backlash, Iran's deputy cultural minister, Javad Shamaqdari, has come forward to praise the poem. He said Saturday that by criticizing Israel, Grass "beautifully carried out his human and historical responsibility, and his revelation of 'truth may awaken the silent conscience' of the West."
Back in Germany, not all Germans share the accusation that Grass is anti-Semitic. Many younger Germans hope the poem will reawaken attention to the situation in the Middle East, the Financial Times reports.
"I don't think the poem sought to offend Israel, so I don't think you can call it anti-Semitic," A 25-year old medical student from Berlin named Anna said. "This is a poem about the threat of war. I think it's good more people will now talk about that issue."
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