Grass touched the right
nerves. He deserves praise, not condemnation. Nonetheless, he's vilified
for discussing Israel's open secret. It's nuclear armed and dangerous.
Iran's also threatened. Millions of lives are at risk. Grass explained.
In America and Israel, whistleblowers are criminalized. Moreover, distinguished
figures like Grass are maligned and declared persona non grata.
On April 8, Haaretz headlined, "Interior Minister declares Gunter Grass
persona non grata in Israel," saying:
On Sunday, Eli Yishai barred Grass from entering Israel for expressing
views freely in his poem, "What Must Be Said."
He's unwelcome in Israel. Citing his Nazi past (at age 17 near war's
end with Germany in ruins), Yishai said:
"Grass' poems are an attempt to guide the fire of hate toward the State
of Israel and the Israeli people, and to advance the ideas of which
he was a public partner in the past, when he wore the uniform of the
"If Gunter wants to continue publicizing his distorted and false works,
I suggest he do it in Iran, where he will find a supportive audience."
If he lands at Ben-Gurion International Airport, he added, "burly policemen"
will escort him on the first Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt, or even
better, Munich, for once following der Fuhrer's orders.
Yishai heads the extremist right-wing ultra-Orthodox Shas Party. It's
part of Netanyahu's coalition government. He also wants Grass' Nobel
Ultranationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called his poem
an expression of "egotism of so-called Western intellectuals, who are
willing to sacrifice the Jewish people on the altar of crazy anti-Semites
for a second time, just to sell a few more books or gain recognition."
Lieberman's extremist background is notorious. Journalist Robert Fisk
once called him "the worst thing that could happen to the Middle East."
Other critics are as harsh. He's called an embarrassment, a disgrace
to Israel, a regional threat, an abomination, a racist of the worst
kind, and much more.
The same goes for Netanyahu and close Knesset allies.
In response to critics, Grass said he criticized Israel's government
and policies, not the nation.
"It's that which I criticize," he said, "a policy that keeps building
settlements despite a UN resolution. I'm criticizing a policy which
is creating more and more enemies for Israel and is increasingly isolating
He especially blames Netanyahu. He said he "should have added that to
the poem....I have always been accustomed to my works, large and small,
meeting with strong criticism." Nevertheless, he was disappointed about
"the offensive and sweeping accusations of anti-Semitism" that followed.
He's also appalled about accusations over his Nazi past. At age 17 near
war's end, he was "pulled" into the Waffen SS. He didn't volunteer.
Asked whether he's a friend of Israel, he said he wished it finally
would make peace with its neighbors. He likely included Palestine among
On April 9, a Haaretz editorial headlined "Israel has reacted with hysteria
over Gunter Grass," saying:
Public reaction unjustly "focused on the man, not on his positions.
Naysayers recalled" his Nazi past, not his credentials as Germany's
most celebrated author and 1999 Literature Nobel Prize recipient.
Denying Grass permission to enter Israel for his views "is characteristic
of dark regimes....Yishai's use of his government authority is not legitimate.
Any protest should be expressed within the democratic-liberal framework,
which allows every person to express his views - provocative though
they may be."
Grass wrote a poem. Israel reacted "with hysteria. It seems that at
issue is less an undesirable person than an undesirable" view.
In 2001, former Chicago Symphony conductor Daniel Barenboim broke a
decade's long taboo by performing Wagner during an Israeli concert.
At the time, many wanted him declared persona non grata. Cooler heads
In 2000, Austria's Jorg Haider was barred from Israel for his right-wing
views. In 2004, Interior Minister Avraham Poraz prevented UK journalist
Peter Hounam from entering for exchanging letters with Mordechai Vanunu
and wanting to interview him. More on Vanunu below.
In 2008, Norman Finkelstein was arrested on arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport.
Interrogated and held for hours, he was deported and prohibited from
returning for 10 years.
Also in 2008, UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur Richard Falk repeatedly
was refused entry to Israel for his outspokenness. Last year, he was
In 2010, famed Spanish clown, Ivan Prado, was refused entry for alleged
ties to Palestinian resistance groups Israel calls "terrorist organizations."
In 2010, Noam Chomsky was barred from entering the West Bank through
Jordan's Allenby crossing. At the time, he said, "Denying me entry into
the West Bank is a minor event, but it is significant because it shows
how irrational Israel's actions are." He was scheduled to speak at Bir
Zeit University. He did, but not on campus.
Others were also barred from entry. Palestinian rights activists are
excluded. Washington does the same thing. Prominent Muslims are targeted,
including politicians and academics.
Former Mossad Head Warns About Israel's Political System
On April 7, the Jerusalem Post headlined, "Dagan warns of dangers of
current political system," saying:
Former Mossad head Meir Dagan earlier downplayed an alleged Iranian
threat. Now he "play(s) up the threat posed to Israel by its own political
"I believe our system is reaching a point where the government is almost
incapable of running the country. We are on the edge of I would not
say a disaster because that is a bit exaggerated but we are facing
a very bad prognosis of what will happen in the future."
Last November, he formed an organization to change what he finds destructive.
His petition drive hopes for one million supportive signatures.
"The power has been shifted from the majority to the minority because
(dominant parties) are forced to create coalition governments."
"National priorities are decided by the small parties who are establishing
the coalition and not the majority."
He complained that issues raised at last summer's social protests remain
unaddressed. He blamed Israeli politics. He also raised other issues.
On April 29 in New York, he'll discuss Iran at the Jerusalem Post's
A Final Comment
April 21 marks the 9th anniversary of Mordechai Vanunu's round-the-clock
daily surveillance and refusal to revoke his citizenship and let him
leave Israel. Earlier he spent 18 years in prison for revealing Israel's
Vanunu's now in Jerusalem. He appealed Israel's refusal to let him go.
He awaits the Supreme Court's ruling.
Eileen Fleming knows his ordeal well. Her "We are wide awake" web site
follows it. She explained that "Israel's statehood was contingent upon
upholding the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS (DHHR)," UN Charter
provisions, and other relevant international laws.
UDHR's Article 19 guarantees:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right
includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek,
receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless
Article 13 affirms:
"(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within
the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own,
and to return to his country."
Since the mid-1980s, Vanunu was ruthlessly imprisoned, isolated brutally
in solitary confinement, persecuted, and hounded for telling the world
what everyone needs to know. His courage deserves praise. He's not a
monster, criminal or traitor.
Nonetheless, his human rights are spurned. He wants them back. For good
reason, he wants to leave Israel and live free. In October 2010, he
appealed to Israel's High Court. He was denied.
On March 29, 2011, the Knesset enacted legislation revoking citizenship
rights of anyone with dual nationality convicted of spying or treason.
Vanunu was born in Morocco. He lived there until age nine. In his 2011
High Court appeal, his lawyers used this argument to return him to his
He deserves support. Join an April 21 Call for a Global Day of Action.
He's prohibited from leaving the region's only self-proclaimed democracy.
Israel's more police state than democratic. How it treats Vanunu, like-minded
Israeli activists, and its 20% Arab population is Exhibit A.
Vanunu's treatment is shocking. Though out of prison, he's far from
free. He can be rearrested any time for any reason or none at all. In
addition, his prohibitions include:
no contacts with foreign citizens, especially journalists;
no phone use;
no cell phone ownership;
no Internet access;
no Israeli port of entry or airport visits; and
no citizenship revocation, letting him leave Israel.
Fleming's known him for years. She says "the longer Israel denies (him)
his right to leave the state, the greater his legend will grow...."
He's already a legend in his own time. He doesn't seek fame or fortune.
He only wants to live free. After what Israel put him through since
1986, he deserves that much and more.
Join others for the April 21 Global Day of Action. Support him because
it's the right thing to do.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge
discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News
Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time
and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy