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"Why do I only speak out now / Aged and with my last drop of ink: / Israel's nuclear power is endangering / Our already fragile world peace?"
April 9, 2012 8:34 AM   Subscribe

Günter Grass barred from Israel over poem. [Guardian.co.uk] Nobel laureate, who says he had not meant to criticise Israel but Netanyahu government, declared persona non grata. The celebrated German author Gunter Grass has been declared persona non grata in Israel following the publication of his poem [Guardian.co.uk] warning that the Jewish state's nuclear programme was a threat to an "already fragile world peace".

Entitled What Must Be Said and published on Wednesday in the Süddeutsche Zeitung [German site], the lyric warns of a looming Israeli aggression against Iran. It argues that Germany should no longer deliver nuclear submarines to Israel that might carry "all-destroying warheads".
posted by Fizz (191 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Dear Gunter Grass:

Membership in the SS means you have some very solid reasons not to comment about the Middle East, and find something else to speak about. Since you lacked the common sense to do that, and decided to be distinctly unhelpful, kindly steer away from Israel.

Compare your own lack of common sense to that of Ricardo Eichmann. He is a renowned scholar of Mideast archaeology, and has done nothing wrong, but as the son of Adolph Eichmann, he knows and acknowledges that it's best he never come to Israel. Kindly follow his example from here on.

Regards,

ocschwar
posted by ocschwar at 8:41 AM on April 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


There's a translation of the poem in the "following the publication" link, if you scroll down. Calling it antisemitic seems silly, though it also doesn't sound like a very good poem.

Worth noting that they've banned him from the country using a law permitting the exclusion of former Nazis. Grass was in the Waffen SS as a teenager (conscripted, according to him, according to Wikipedia).
posted by eugenen at 8:42 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


It seems that at issue is less an undesirable person than an undesirable policy. - Haaretz
posted by adamvasco at 8:48 AM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


This prickliness to Grass is potentially -- and I say potentially -- ill-advised. According to his memoir Peeling the Onion, at least, his interest in being in the SS was of the "consider yourself conscripted or the trouble's gonna start" variety, and he was part of the late wave of younger adolescents and older men that mark a nation's last ditch efforts during wartime.

Having been part of an ill-advised war is no mark of distinction, but neither is dogmatism.
posted by mr. digits at 8:50 AM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's a tough call, because it's a situation where everyone's kind of an @sshole.

I'm inclined to side with the grumpy peacenik over Bibi and his trigger-happy and victim-playing Likudniks. (and I say this as someone celebrating passover)
posted by leotrotsky at 8:50 AM on April 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


Grass not allowed into Israel. Had he made plans to visit? I am barred from North Korea, both by that nation and by my country...so it goes.
posted by Postroad at 8:55 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]




Jetzt aber, weil aus meinem Land,
das von ureigenen Verbrechen,
die ohne Vergleich sind,
Mal um Mal eingeholt und zur Rede gestellt wird,
wiederum und rein geschäftsmäßig, wenn auch
mit flinker Lippe als Wiedergutmachung deklariert,
ein weiteres U-Boot nach Israel
geliefert werden soll, dessen Spezialität
darin besteht, allesvernichtende Sprengköpfe
dorthin lenken zu können, wo die Existenz
einer einzigen Atombombe unbewiesen ist,
doch als Befürchtung von Beweiskraft sein will,
sage ich, was gesagt werden muß.


Conscripted into the SS... but an (unsuccesful) volunteer for the U-Boats (as described in his wartime memoir in the New Yorker). Which makes his focus in the Israeli submarines (currently constructed in Germany) particularly ironic/psychological interesting.
posted by Jahaza at 8:58 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hate, hate, that criticism of Israel's military strategy is instantly blunted by accusations of antisemitism. They should put a Kippah and Payots on the bomb to complete the spectacle.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:03 AM on April 9, 2012 [14 favorites]


There's a translation of the poem in the "following the publication" link, if you scroll down.

That seems to be a translation of only part of the original poem.
posted by Jahaza at 9:04 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dear Gunter Grass,

You are doubtless familiar with the concept of the informal genetic fallacy. Haha, sucks to be you. Shut your mouth, you filthy anti semitic Nazi. Israel only has Freedom Nukes.
posted by Xoebe at 9:05 AM on April 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


Knock Grass because he's a dick, not because he happened to be a teenager with no choice about serving in the Waffen-SS. My grandfather was conscripted for the Kriegsmarine at 18, but could have easily ended up who knows where. His second wife just so happens to have fled Austria during the Holocaust. Lazy assumptions are lazy!
posted by Jehan at 9:06 AM on April 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


It would be hilarious if it weren’t so pathetic and awful. Can you imagine Grass sitting around at home and thinking: “The world needs to hear what I have to say about Israel! I must speak! I can’t be held back anymore just because people might think that I, a former member of the Waffen SS, might be anti-Semitic!!”

Pathetic. Grass was 11 when the war started and was drafted into the Waffen SS in 1945 at the tender age of 17.

There is nothing worse than those who support Israel labeling anyone who disagrees with Israeli policy as anti-Semitic. So wrong on so many levels. Either we can have a debate about it or not. But to call anyone a racist who says "Gee, I don't think our country should sell subs to Israel because they might put nuclear weapons on there" is pathetic.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:06 AM on April 9, 2012 [37 favorites]


Yeah, calling this guy a Nazi is right up there with calling the Pope a Nazi. He was a kid, essentially conscripted, and the Waffen SS was mostly a combat auxiliary to the Heer (i.e. they weren't running camps).

But, you know, that's what you get when you criticize Israel, I suppose.
posted by downing street memo at 9:09 AM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


He actually opposed the re-unification of germany because he was afraid it would be too powerful and revert to its old ways. Doesn't sound like a Nazi to me.
posted by empath at 9:11 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Pathetic. Grass was 11 when the war started and was drafted into the Waffen SS in 1945 at the tender age of 17.

Grass attempted volunteered for active duty naval service before he was eligible to be drafted.

Criticism of Grass regarding the SS tends to be focused on the fact that he for years concealed his service in the SS while speaking out with a pose of incandescent moral clarity on issues related to the war and service in the SS (e.g. Reagan's laying of a wreath at a cemetary where among the German soliders buried were SS soldiers). His concealed service actually embodying this very confusion and contradiction and moral complexity.
posted by Jahaza at 9:11 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


The SS business is a bit of a red herring. What's objectionable about the poem is that it posits Israel as a greater threat to world peace than Iran. His making common cause with the Ahmadinejad regime is pretty distasteful. Personally I think it's just attention-seeking on Grass's part, but what do I know?
posted by orrnyereg at 9:14 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I love the reasoning here. Guy "chooses" (i.e. "was forced") to join the military of his (evil) government at the age of 17, in the waning months of the war his country started. He spends the next 70 years as a left-wing peacenik writer and public intellectual, winning a Nobel Prize in the process. Yet the second he opens his mouth about Israel, he's a Nazi again.

It is a joke that Israel banned him from entering the country. That is not what secure governments do, and frankly it smacks (again) of apartheid South Africa.
posted by downing street memo at 9:18 AM on April 9, 2012 [41 favorites]


His making common cause with the Ahmadinejad regime is pretty distasteful.

Can you point out where he does this?
posted by empath at 9:21 AM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


The SS business is a bit of a red herring. What's objectionable about the poem is that it posits Israel as a greater threat to world peace than Iran. His making common cause with the Ahmadinejad regime is pretty distasteful. Personally I think it's just attention-seeking on Grass's part, but what do I know?

Well, not really, and that's a quite uncharitable reading of the poem. His point is that we threaten war on Iran for their nuclear program, yet we refuse to even acknowledge to existence of the Israeli nuclear program. That's double standards, and Grass is saying so. "Common cause with the Ahmadinejad regime" my spotty ass.
posted by Jehan at 9:22 AM on April 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


What's objectionable about the poem is that it posits Israel as a greater threat to world peace than Iran.

Which one is more likely to engage in unprovoked warfare against the other in the next six months?

Which one has been paying Iranian terrorists to kill Iranian scientists?

Which one already has 100 nuclear weapons and delivery systems that could strike the other?

Which one launched a war against Lebanon in the last 6 years?

I think we all agree that Iran having a nuclear weapon is bad, but being a greater threat to World Peace?
posted by Ironmouth at 9:24 AM on April 9, 2012 [16 favorites]


But to call anyone a racist who says "Gee, I don't think our country should sell subs to Israel because they might put nuclear weapons on there" is pathetic.

Bernstein is not calling Grass an anti-semite in that post. Bernstein is calling Grass out for extraordinarily bad judgment and Grass's subsequent self-serving feigned outrage at others' accusations of anti-semitism. In other words, Grass conflates criticism of his own stance on Israel with criticism of other arguments against Israeli policies, then proceeds to label them equally ridiculous and censorious, without bothering to consider the critical fact that Grass was a member of the SS and eager to get on a U-boat.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:26 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room! Metafilter"
posted by Fizz at 9:27 AM on April 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sorry, not Bernstein, Post. Getting my Davids mixed up.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:27 AM on April 9, 2012


Which one already has 100 nuclear weapons and delivery systems that could strike the other?

Which one launched a war against Lebanon in the last 6 years?


On the other hand, Israel is the only country in the region with a democratically elected government.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:29 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here is a complete translation.

I hate, hate, that criticism of Israel's military strategy is instantly blunted by accusations of antisemitism.

Grass himself in the poem situates his criticism the context of worrying about accusations of antisemitism:
The universal silence around this fact,
under which my own silence lay,
I feel now as a heavy lie,
a strong constraint, which to dismiss
courts forceful punishment:
the verdict of “Antisemitism” is well known.
In fact, there has been strong criticism of the poem that doesn't accuse him of antisemitism:
... Marcel Reich-Ranicki, the country’s leading literary critic and himself a Holocaust survivor, described the poem as “disgusting.” ... In an interview in the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Mr. Reich-Ranicki, who is 91, said that he did not consider Mr. Grass an anti-Semite but that the poem itself was “a disgrace.”
I love the reasoning here. Guy "chooses" (i.e. "was forced") to join the military of his (evil) government at the age of 17, in the waning months of the war his country started. He spends the next 70 years as a left-wing peacenik writer and public intellectual, winning a Nobel Prize in the process. Yet the second he opens his mouth about Israel, he's a Nazi again.

This comment makes it sound like you don't understand why Grass was criticized in the first place. Here's a bit about it from the NY Times at the time of the translation of his memoir(2007):
One fact appears certain. Mr. Grass served as a tank gunner with the Waffen SS. This revelation touched off a furor in Germany, not because the author served for a few months in the SS, as the German Army disintegrated, but because Mr. Grass, self-appointed conscience of postwar Germany, insistent speaker of unpleasant truths about the Nazi period, had concealed his past.
This revalation damaged his repuation as a "speaker of unpleasnt truths," perhaps irrevocably. This history is relevant when he tries to take up that mantle again. Not the history of his having been an SS soldier in itself, but the history of his having been an SS soldier and then concealing it while being the "speaker of unpleasnt truths."
posted by Jahaza at 9:30 AM on April 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Dear Gunter Grass:

Membership in the SS means


Have you ever read any Gunther Grass? He's a lot like perennial MeFiFave writer Kurt Vonnegut, just a better writer.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:30 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The SS business is a bit of a red herring"

A Yom Kipper.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:31 AM on April 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


Well, Israel is getting kids to read poetry again. There's a bright side.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:31 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Compare your own lack of common sense to that of Ricardo Eichmann. He is a renowned scholar of Mideast archaeology, and has done nothing wrong, but as the son of Adolph Eichmann, he knows and acknowledges that it's best he never come to Israel. Kindly follow his example from here on.

Shemos 34:7?

You know it's this kind of backwards ass stupid shit thinking that keeps people fighting each other for generations.
posted by Talez at 9:32 AM on April 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


On the other hand, Israel is the only country in the region with a democratically elected government.

That excludes about 4 million Palestinians - over a third of the population of the land that Israel governs - whom Israel simply rules without mandate or input.
posted by downing street memo at 9:33 AM on April 9, 2012 [40 favorites]


without bothering to consider the critical fact that Grass was a member of the SS and eager to get on a U-boat.

OK, let's break this down. So its bad that a child wanted to join his country's armed forces in war time? And you're also saying its bad for a 17-year old to respond to a conscription notice. The Waffen-SS? Not the same thing as the SS.

His revealing or not revealing his past aside, these are ridiculous concerns in the discussion of the article.

Israel wants to get us in a war with Iran. I oppose our involvement in such a war and I oppose Israel's as well. What's your position? Let's get our positions out there, since internal motivations are critically important.
Did you ever support Israel as a child? Because these things that happened when we were 17 are really critical to our analysis of whether or not its OK for Gunter Grass to speak his mind.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:33 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hey, I know, let's make this about Grass and not about Israel's nuclear program!
posted by Jehan at 9:34 AM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


This revalation damaged his repuation as a "speaker of unpleasnt truths," perhaps irrevocably. This history is relevant when he tries to take up that mantle again. Not the history of his having been an SS soldier in itself, but the history of his having been an SS soldier and then concealing it while being the "speaker of unpleasnt truths."

Explain exactly why this means he can't say in a poem not to sell subs to a nuclear-armed state which has constantly discussed attacking another country. Why are we not allowed to listen to what he says?
posted by Ironmouth at 9:35 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, Israel is the only country in the region with a democratically elected government.

Well, yes, democracy is surprisingly easy if you only let the right people vote. A lesson American Republicans have apparently picked up from their new Israeli strange bedfellows.
posted by Naberius at 9:37 AM on April 9, 2012 [7 favorites]



Compare your own lack of common sense to that of Ricardo Eichmann. He is a renowned scholar of Mideast archaeology, and has done nothing wrong, but as the son of Adolph Eichmann, he knows and acknowledges that it's best he never come to Israel. Kindly follow his example from here on.

Shemos 34:7?


Professor R. Eichmann made a personal decision never to visit Israel. He is not banned. And if he ever needed it, plenty of rabbis would issue edicts to protect him.

He decided never to visit Israel because he knows he is a walking, breathing trigger, and he doesn't want to do that to anyone.
posted by ocschwar at 9:38 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


How, exactly, is it relevant to this discussion that he hid his service in what was essentially the German Army? I mean, yeah, if you're going to be the "conscience of a nation" or whatever, you should probably own up to the less-than-good stuff you did, but it doesn't take away from the content of his poem.

Anyway, a thought experiment: let's say I - a 27-year old American - was famous poet and I wrote the same poem. Would I be barred from Israel and tarred as an antisemite? Think hard about the reaction when anyone utters a critical word about that country.
posted by downing street memo at 9:38 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


ocschwar: "Compare your own lack of common sense to that of Ricardo Eichmann. He is a renowned scholar of Mideast archaeology, and has done nothing wrong, but as the son of Adolph Eichmann, he knows and acknowledges that it's best he never come to Israel. Kindly follow his example from here on."

Ridiculous.

Here's a novel idea: How about instead we judge people for their own actions and words, not the sins of their fathers.
posted by zarq at 9:38 AM on April 9, 2012 [15 favorites]


So its bad that a child wanted to join his country's armed forces in war time?

If this is actually your perspective on the events of WWII then I don't see how anyone can have a good faith debate with you. This line of thinking requires a willful drawing of numerous false equivalences.

Did you ever support Israel as a child?

On the subject of false equivalence...
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:39 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder how Metafilter would respond to a hypothetical popular author who, after concealing his youthful involvement with the Klan for many years, writes a poem advocating a crackdown on street gangs in Harlem.
posted by Behemoth at 9:39 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey, I know, let's make this about Grass and not about Israel's nuclear program!

Might as well. About Grass, a rational debate is possible.
posted by delfin at 9:40 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can i say three things


a) Israel having nuclear weapons is a really bad idea.
b) Grass is a much better novelist/essayist than he is a poet.
c) This itself is a terrible poem, on formal levels. Almost as bad as fellow nobel laurete and better playwright than poet Harold Pinter's work against Dubya.
posted by PinkMoose at 9:41 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


How, exactly, is it relevant to this discussion that he hid his service in what was essentially the German Army? I mean, yeah, if you're going to be the "conscience of a nation" or whatever, you should probably own up to the less-than-good stuff you did, but it doesn't take away from the content of his poem.

I'm not entirely setteled on this, but I think the problem is that the content of the political views in the poem are entirely unoriginal and banal. So the only purpose of the expression of the views is that they are expressed by and in the manner of Gunter Grass. The poem is an appeal to authority and that authority has been shown to be bogus.
posted by Jahaza at 9:42 AM on April 9, 2012


Horrible analogy on so many levels. Discourse raise fail. bzzzt
posted by aydeejones at 9:42 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth: "So its bad that a child wanted to join his country's armed forces in war time?"

YES.
posted by zarq at 9:43 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, Israel is the only country in the region with a democratically elected government.

So does the US, but we sell more weapons than the rest of the world combined, and we are responsible, directly (or indirectly, through consumption side-effects) for most of the world's active wars. Democracy isn't, perhaps, as obvious a marker for peaceful government as it might seem.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:43 AM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]




a) Israel having nuclear weapons is a really bad idea.


Israel's had them since the mid-60's. Hasn't been a big problem so far.
posted by ocschwar at 9:43 AM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Anyone else feel like old right-wing Israeli hawks are stealing totally great words such as "shameful" "disgraceful" "disgusting" "hatred" "antisemitism" "lying" "twisted" and so on...?

I was already sad when we lost "freedom" to dubya... How I'd love to have these words back and be able to say them with a straight face again.
posted by tempythethird at 9:44 AM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


after concealing his youthful involvement with the Klan for many years

And... scene!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:45 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's a novel idea: How about instead we judge people for their own actions and words, not the sins of their fathers.

Pretty much this.

I don't see what's gained by keeping people apart and segregated. Reconciliation involves things like accepting your former enemy into your home, offering them hospitality and focusing on the things you have in common and the things you both can do for the common good together.
posted by Talez at 9:45 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's a novel idea: How about instead we judge people for their own actions and words, not the sins of their fathers.


That is precisely what I am doing. Ricardo Eichmann's words and actions show him to be a gracious and sensible man, one whose example would be a good one for Gunter Grass to follow.
posted by ocschwar at 9:45 AM on April 9, 2012


I wonder how Metafilter would respond to a hypothetical popular author who, after concealing his youthful involvement with the Klan for many years, writes a poem advocating a crackdown on street gangs in Harlem.

Yes, this would totally be an analogous situation and you would've totally nabbed this community on their terrible hypocrisy and antipathy towards Jews if:

1) The Klan was an actual government with the power to compel people to join it
2) This hypothetical former teenage Klansman hadn't spent every minute of his life since his service arguing against the Klan's ideas
3) This poem had advocated a "crackdown" on Israel, rather than a suggestion that his country not sell that country submarines capable of carrying nuclear missles

Other than that, great analogy!
posted by downing street memo at 9:46 AM on April 9, 2012 [23 favorites]


That is precisely what I am doing.

No you're judging because of the sins of his father not in spite of.
posted by Talez at 9:47 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Could we maybe leave it at Gunther Grass, not quite as shit a Nobel laureate anti-war poet as Harold Pinter?
posted by Abiezer at 9:47 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


ocschwar: " That is precisely what I am doing.

No, you're not.

"...as the son of Adolph Eichmann, he knows and acknowledges that it's best he never come to Israel. Kindly follow his example from here on."

Why is it "best he never come to Israel" please?

Ricardo Eichmann's words and actions show him to be a gracious and sensible man, one whose example would be a good one for Gunter Grass to follow."

How is it a "gracious and sensible" decision for him not to go to Israel, please?
posted by zarq at 9:47 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


zarq, don't be obtuse. He's a trigger, for no fault of his own, but a trigger nonetheless.
posted by ocschwar at 9:48 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am in different to the issue and care not at all if he is banned or goes there. But when I read this comment"apartheid South Africa." I wonder if banning someone is apartheid. After all
there is a rather extensive list over the years of those banned from this country.

as for Iran and the nuke: It is odd that those who say Iran could have a nuke because
containment would work somehow never mention that Turkey and Saudi Arabia have said they would perhaps also seek nukes if Iran gets them.

As for Grass being but a child etc went into the army in our country at 17.
I do believe it is the right of an artist, or anyone else, to express his or her political beliefs--that is true for democracies, in the US, Germany, and Israel;it is not true in Iran or many other countries in the Middle East
posted by Postroad at 9:49 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


zarq, don't be obtuse. He's a trigger, for no fault of his own, but a trigger nonetheless.

So we should enable the thinking that someone should be judged by some people for the sins of their father?
posted by Talez at 9:49 AM on April 9, 2012


Hey zarq, from your link:

During the Nuremberg Trials, the Waffen-SS was declared a criminal organisation, except conscripts from 1943 onward, who were exempted from that judgement as they had been forced to join.[115]
posted by downing street memo at 9:49 AM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Poetry about contemporary politics was beyond the power of Walt Whitman to pull off. By far the crappiest parts of Leaves of Grass are about the American Civil War and the assassination and mourning over Lincoln. Compare to the part of Leaves of Grass about Washington and the Revolutionary War. It is one of the strongest parts of the book.

If Whitman couldn't do it I don't think anybody should try it. I am having a very hard time thinking of any good poetry about contemporary politics. All of the poems about the September 11 terror attacks should be annihilated. Gunther Grass has a lot of company.
posted by bukvich at 9:51 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder how Metafilter would respond to a hypothetical popular author who, after concealing his youthful involvement with the Klan for many years, writes a poem advocating a crackdown on street gangs in Harlem.

The Waffen-SS and the political SS are two different things. The political SS was formed before the seizure of power, was filled with hardened Nazis, and ran the camps. The Waffen-SS was a parallel to Das Heer (the Army), was not restricted to members of the Nazi Party, and by the end was just conscripting people like the army did.

So its not like being in the Klan. At all.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:54 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Haaretz, left wing paper in Israel:

The combination of declarations against Israel and a past as a Nazi soldier is an explosive combination that invites sharp reactions. But while Benjamin Netanyahu's remark describing Grass' work as "ignorant and shameful declarations that any fair person in the world must condemn" can be accepted as part of the public debate, Yishai's use of his governmental 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, a Nobel laureate for literature, did no more than write a poem. The State of Israel, through its interior minister, reacted with hysteria. It seems that at issue is less an undesirable person than an undesirable policy.
posted by Postroad at 9:54 AM on April 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


ocschwar: "zarq, don't be obtuse. He's a trigger, for no fault of his own, but a trigger nonetheless."

Hey, I prefer to think of myself as acute. :)

The fact that it's no fault of his own is entirely relevant. And if the Israeli government were to ban Eichmann I'd voice a full-throated objection. He's should not be held responsible for his father's actions.

downing street memo: " During the Nuremberg Trials, the Waffen-SS was declared a criminal organisation, except conscripts from 1943 onward, who were exempted from that judgement as they had been forced to join.[115]"

Grass volunteered for military service. He was drafted into the SS Panzer division only after he volunteered for the Navy (the Kriegsmarine submarine service) and they told him no. 'Conscription' yes. But 'Forced conscription,' no. That would not appear to be an accurate description of how he entered into his military career.
posted by zarq at 9:56 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Günter Grass, Nobel Award winning writer of, among other things, The Tin Drum has been declared unwanted in Israel. This is what happens when an author writes his heart. He sits with Rushdie while Netanyahu sits with Ahmadinejad.
posted by elmaddog at 10:00 AM on April 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Simply serving - or volunteering to serve - in the Heer or Kreigsmarine (German regular army/navy) was not considered a war crime by the Nuremburg Trials, either. He volunteered to do one thing that was not a war crime, then was forced to join a criminal organization under circumstances specifically allowed for by that tribunal.

You know what makes someone a war criminal? Being involved in a war crime, and there's zero evidence Grass did anything of the sort.
posted by downing street memo at 10:01 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


That is not what secure governments do,

I bet there is a long list of things done by governments to show their lack of security. Banning someone is the least of the sins.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:02 AM on April 9, 2012


zarq, don't be obtuse. He's a trigger, for no fault of his own, but a trigger nonetheless.

I think you can participate in the discussion without making people guess your position and stooping to namecalling.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:03 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


What kind of tank was he crewing? Did he ever shoot his gun? When, and at what?

I want to know these things.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:05 AM on April 9, 2012


If it makes a difference, he was in the Waffen-SS for about 3 months at the end of the war, and says he never fired a weapon.

I've been following the reaction here in Germany, and it's been full-on condemnation of Grass as well -- which immediately makes me wonder, why is everybody piling on like that, and why is it that we can't talk about the issue he's raising? This piece in the F.A.Z. for instance "interprets" the poem and arrives at the conclusion that Grass is eager to turn himself into the victim of a genocide -- which of course is beyond the pale.
Es ist ein Machwerk des Ressentiments, es ist, wie Nietzsche über das Ressentiment sagte, ein Dokument der „imaginären Rache“ einer sich moralisch lebenslang gekränkt fühlenden Generation. Gern hätte er, dass jetzt die Debatte entsteht, ob man als Deutscher Israel denn kritisieren dürfe. Die Debatte aber müsste darum geführt werden, ob es gerechtfertigt ist, die ganze Welt zum Opfer Israels zu machen, nur damit ein fünfundachtzigjähriger Mann seinen Frieden mit der eigenen Biographie machen kann.
However, the comments tell a very different story and are full of people saying, "but he does have a point, and how come nobody is allowed to say that?"
posted by muckster at 10:09 AM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Not so sure why it's bad that Israel in particular has nuclear weapons. No one should have them.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:10 AM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


1. The most newsworthy thing about this stuff is that it managed to be in the news for so long. How, exactly, is an 84-year old geezer making some ill-advised remarks about Israel above-the-fold news? For. three. days? Nevermind that Isreal banning him from entering the country is gonna keep it in the news for another couple of painful cycles. Well, at least here in Germany and I suppose in Israel as well; possibly not in saner parts of the world.

2. Gunther Grass likes to think of himself and is often thought of as some sort of moral authority in Germany. Well, he's not. Not since he actually opposed German reunification on the grounds that a divided Germany is the well-deserved punishment for Auschwitz. Punishment, it should be added, that was oddly enough suffered mostly in East Germany and not in the West near Hamburg where Grass lived. Someone spouting horseshit of that magnitude just should't be taking seriously as a political commentator.

3. Mr. Grass also likes to think of himself as a taboo breaker. The gist of the poem is "I haven't spoken for so long, because speaking about Israel's weapons program is a taboo. If you do, they'll call you an antisemite - but know I must speak."
Well, it turns out that there was no taboo to break here. Everyone know that Israel has the bomb. It's no secret and it's openly discussed. Doesn't Grass read the newspaper? It is also perfectly acceptable and possible to criticize Israel politics without being labeled an antisemite. It's this strange tip-toeing and mock taboo-breaking that raised so many red flags.

4. He is certainly no Nazi. Whatever his motivations were when he was 17, he has demonstrated amply that he truly regrets what happened during the war. Perhaps even doing a bit of overcompensation out of suppressed guilt and therefore spouting all that nonsense about how there can never be a normal Germany after Auschwitz etc. Pretty much the opposite of a Nazi.

5. Mr. Grass may be passable poet, but he certainly is a layman when it comes to international politics (see Nr. 2). So he should be relegated to where he belongs: the culture pages. Just ignore him, and eventually, he'll go away.
posted by sour cream at 10:10 AM on April 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


Jagdpanthers, he says, Meatbomb. Most of his limited military experience had to do with well-founded dread of the Soviets.
posted by mr. digits at 10:11 AM on April 9, 2012


A 15 year old Gunter volunteered unsuccessfully for U-Boat duty 70 years ago.

Why are we talking about this instead of the nuclear-capable submarines Germany is selling below cost (or just plain giving away) to Israel in this century?
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:14 AM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ironmouth: "The political SS was formed before the seizure of power, was filled with hardened Nazis, and ran the camps."

Okay, first of all, many SS members who ran the camps wound up in the Waffen SS.

Second of all, the Majdanek concentration camp -- the second largest Nazi concentration camp -- was run by the Waffen SS. Wikipedia. The Waffen SS weren't the SS. But they sure as hell weren't innocent.
posted by zarq at 10:14 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder how Metafilter would respond to a hypothetical popular author who, after concealing his youthful involvement with the Klan for many years, writes a poem advocating a crackdown on street gangs in Harlem.

Half a dozen people have already torn you a new one for incredibly sloppy thinking, but let's make the analogy a proper one, shall we? How would we respond to a hypothetical American author who wrote a poem critical of Truong Tan Sang's leadership, when that very author was conscripted to fight Communists in 1971? After all, he could have fled the country rather than enlist, and the US Army DID commit war crimes.
posted by Mayor West at 10:20 AM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Honestly, my first thought when this business started was, "He must have a new book coming out." And so he does! The most likely explanation for the poem is to get people talking about Gunter Grass, in which case, mission accomplished.
posted by orrnyereg at 10:20 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nice to know the spirit of entarte Kunst is alive and well.
posted by kafziel at 10:22 AM on April 9, 2012


muckster: "If it makes a difference, he was in the Waffen-SS for about 3 months at the end of the war, and says he never fired a weapon.

It does help put things in perspective, thanks. I saw on wikipedia that he'd served from Feb to April 1945 and that he'd seen active combat, but no details.

...why is it that we can't talk about the issue he's raising?"

"Former Nazi Criticizes Jewish State"

No matter how good his argument might be, many people aren't going to be able to get past that.
posted by zarq at 10:24 AM on April 9, 2012


Not so sure why it's bad that Israel in particular has nuclear weapons. No one should have them.

I think it's the double standard that matters. I don't really blame Israel was wanting them, nor for getting away with what they can. But plenty of western of countries could and should have pulled them up on their shit a long time ago.
posted by Jehan at 10:28 AM on April 9, 2012


Not so sure why it's bad that Israel in particular has nuclear weapons. No one should have them.

One could also ask about the Symington amendment and the NPT and see what, if any, violations and sanctions for violations are in force.

Plenty of unclean hands to go 'round the issue of splitting the atom.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:28 AM on April 9, 2012


That should be "...Israel for wanting them,..."
posted by Jehan at 10:28 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Former Nazi Criticizes Jewish State"

No matter how good his argument might be, many people aren't going to be able to get past that.


Another way to frame the issue:

"Former Nazi Criticizes Sale of Weapons"
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:32 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mr Grass can talk and write about whatever he wants. He is after all a Nobel Prize winner and therefore has some authority.
His youthful activities being shouted about here is a highly successful derail to avoid talking about Israel' s nuclear capability about which they are highly secretive and behave as totalitarians .
Disagreeing with the hawkish body politic in Israel is not the same as attacking the Jewish faith, something several mefites might consider; however whenever there is attempted criticism the bots come out in force.
posted by adamvasco at 10:32 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


You know what makes someone a war criminal? Being involved in a war crime, and there's zero evidence Grass did anything of the sort.

A) Not being a legal war criminal is not the same thing as not having not done anything wrong.

B) As I've already pointed out to you, it's not being in the Waffen SS that is the problem. It's not the uncrime that get's you, it's the coverup.
posted by Jahaza at 10:32 AM on April 9, 2012


His youthful activities being shouted about here is a highly successful derail to avoid talking about Israel' s nuclear capability about which they are highly secretive and behave as totalitarians.

Did you miss the part of the thread where we talked about it not being the fact that he was drafted into the SS?
posted by Jahaza at 10:33 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Disagreeing with the hawkish body politic in Israel is not the same as attacking the Jewish faith, something several mefites might consider;

Have any mefites accused him of attacking the Jewish faith or of being an antisemite?
posted by Jahaza at 10:34 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


[Folks, if you want to continue to be able to have threads about Israel and other tricky issues on MetaFilter, do your best, personally, to not make this thread suck. All of you. Now.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:44 AM on April 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


adamvasco: " Disagreeing with the hawkish body politic in Israel is not the same as attacking the Jewish faith, something several mefites might consider; however whenever there is attempted criticism the bots come out in force."

No one here has said that his statements are antisemitic. No one here has said he's attacking Judaism.

"His youthful activities being shouted about here is a highly successful derail to avoid talking about Israel' s nuclear capability about which they are highly secretive and behave as totalitarians ."

Youthful indiscretions? The man was a Nazi. He served in active combat with the Waffen SS. He was a member of a group that killed tens of thousands of Jews -- even if he himself did not. Can you not understand why any criticism of the Jewish state by a former Nazi might be met with a wee bit of knee-jerk resistance?
posted by zarq at 10:46 AM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Youthful indiscretions? The man was a Nazi. He served in active combat with the Waffen SS. He was a member of a group that killed tens of thousands of Jews -- even if he himself did not. Can you not understand why any criticism of the Jewish state by a former Nazi might be met with a wee bit of knee-jerk resistance?

Gunter Grass was not a Nazi.
Israel is not "the Jewish state".

We can't talk about these things if people keep playing loose with words. "Gunter Grass criticizes Israel" is not "Nazi criticizes Jews".
posted by Jehan at 10:56 AM on April 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


downing street memo: "Simply serving - or volunteering to serve - in the Heer or Kreigsmarine (German regular army/navy) was not considered a war crime by the Nuremburg Trials, either. He volunteered to do one thing that was not a war crime, then was forced to join a criminal organization under circumstances specifically allowed for by that tribunal.

So let's back up a bit. Since you seem to be addressing something I didn't say.

I did not accuse Grass of being a war criminal. He's not a war criminal.

I responded to a point made by Ironmouth: "So its bad that a child wanted to join his country's armed forces in war time?" ...with a link to info on the Waffen SS's war crimes. Because by the time 1945 rolled around it was widely known that the Germans had been committing atrocities, and Germans would have had to have been in a state of deep denial to not be aware of it themselves.

You know what makes someone a war criminal? Being involved in a war crime, and there's zero evidence Grass did anything of the sort."

And there's nothing wrong with talking about that.

On preview:

Jehan: " Gunter Grass was not a Nazi.

Again per Wikipedia, he served in the 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg. Are you arguing that he didn't?

Israel is not "the Jewish state"."

Sure it is. It has been since it was founded.
posted by zarq at 11:03 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


So what if he was in the SS? The Pope was in the Hitler Youth ffs...
posted by Monkeymoo at 11:14 AM on April 9, 2012


Again per Wikipedia, he served in the 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg. Are you arguing that he didn't?

He was conscripted to the Waffen-SS, his service was under duress, are you arguing with international law?

Sure it is. It has been since it was founded.

Israel does not represent all Jewish people, and criticism of its policies in no way represents criticism of Jews. You're muddying the waters.

Indeed, this conversation is over for me. You're now arguing in bad faith, calling Grass a Nazi and blurring the lines between Israel and Jewish people. There's no way a fair debate can return from the point to which you've driven it. Shame on you.
posted by Jehan at 11:18 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Monkeymoo: "The Pope was in the Hitler Youth ffs..."

The Pope didn't volunteer. He was forced to be a member.

So what if he was in the SS?

Once again, the question I was responding to was "So its bad that a child wanted to join his country's armed forces in war time?"

The answer is, when it's the German army under the Third Reich, in 1945, yes. I think it is.
posted by zarq at 11:20 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jehan: " Israel does not represent all Jewish people, and criticism of its policies in no way represents criticism of Jews. You're muddying the waters."

What the fuck are you talking about?

Jehan: " Indeed, this conversation is over for me. You're now arguing in bad faith, calling Grass a Nazi and blurring the lines between Israel and Jewish people. There's no way a fair debate can return from the point to which you've driven it. Shame on you."

Wow. Amazing.
posted by zarq at 11:23 AM on April 9, 2012


Worth repeating for clarity
"Gunter Grass criticizes Israel" is not "Nazi criticizes Jews"
but as this is metafilter many can continue flailing away like so many dyslectic windmills.
posted by adamvasco at 11:25 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Günther Grass has been enough of a dick just being himself in the last 10 years. It doesn't need forged history and insincere framing of his beliefs as a 15-year old.

I don't want to fire you up any more than you already are but claiming that Hitleryouth is forced and conscription is voluntary is just silly.
posted by patrick54 at 11:27 AM on April 9, 2012


Ironmouth: "The political SS was formed before the seizure of power, was filled with hardened Nazis, and ran the camps."

Okay, first of all, many SS members who ran the camps wound up in the Waffen SS.

Second of all, the Majdanek concentration camp -- the second largest Nazi concentration camp -- was run by the Waffen SS. Wikipedia. The Waffen SS weren't the SS. But they sure as hell weren't innocent.


If you could point to where I said it was innocent, please do so. But it isn't the same as the Klan, a voluntary organization. Its completely specious to call a 17-year old conscript in the Waffen-SS a member of the "SS" without more clarification.

Once again, the question I was responding to was "So its bad that a child wanted to join his country's armed forces in war time?"

The answer is, when it's the German army under the Third Reich, in 1945, yes. I think it is.


Based on what? Let's really hear how we can't listen to Gunther Grass saying "Germany should not sell nuclear subs to Israel because they have the bomb and want to attack Iran" because of his attempt to join the German Navy in wartime in 1945. Please, enlighten us to why we again can't hear someone saying something bad about Israel's policy because to do so is anti-Semitic.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:29 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't worry. I'm done here. Removing this thread from my activity. In this thread we've seen enough idiocy and manipulation of history by people biased on both sides that I don't want to inadvertently add to it.
posted by zarq at 11:29 AM on April 9, 2012


The Grass is always greener on the other side
posted by Postroad at 11:30 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't want to fire you up any more than you already are but claiming that Hitleryouth is forced and conscription is voluntary is just silly.

Membership in the Hitler Youth was mandatory. Conscription was also mandatory. But Grass has written (as I have already pointed out and linked to in this thread) that before he was conscripted, he volunteered early for active duty U-Boat service.

But fundamentally, criticism of Grass rests not on what he did in his teens, but on what he did afterwards as I've explained.
posted by Jahaza at 11:31 AM on April 9, 2012


Don't worry. I'm done here. Removing this thread from my activity. In this thread we've seen enough idiocy and manipulation of history by people biased on both sides that I don't want to inadvertently add to it.

If your gonna say I manipulated history I must ask for a point by point refutation. Its only fair.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:32 AM on April 9, 2012


zarq: The answer is, when it's the German army under the Third Reich, in 1945, yes. I think it is.

Grass was 15 when he unsuccessfully tried to volunteer for the German navy. My late grandfather was 15 when he successfully volunteered to join the US Army in WWII. Both were boys.

Furthermore, serving in the German military under the third Reich doesn't make someone a Nazi. Being a member of the nationalsozialistische deutsche arbeiterpartei does (did). A far as I can tell, no one has accused Grass of being an nsdap member.
posted by syzygy at 11:35 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Günther Grass has been enough of a dick just being himself in the last 10 years. It doesn't need forged history and insincere framing of his beliefs as a 15-year old.

I don't want to fire you up any more than you already are but claiming that Hitleryouth is forced and conscription is voluntary is just silly.


In 1936, membership in the Hitlerjugend became mandatory for Aryans via the Gesetz über die Hitlerjugend. In 1939, via the Jugenddienstpflicht even the parents could not object.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:37 AM on April 9, 2012


Ironmouth: " If your gonna say I manipulated history I must ask for a point by point refutation. Its only fair."

I wasn't referring to you with that comment. Let someone else answer your other points. I'm done.
posted by zarq at 11:42 AM on April 9, 2012


He is after all a Nobel Prize winner and therefore has some authority.

Hah! Tell me another.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:42 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]




The Pope didn't volunteer. He was forced to be a member.

This feels like kind of an offensive statement to make about the Pope, from a Christian perspective. A number of young people chose not join the Hitler Youth, despite pressure to do so, and they and their parents suffered the consequences. While it is offensive to call the Pope a Nazi based on a decision he made in his youth, it is far more offensive, I think, to deny him moral agency in that decision, as that seeks to invalidate the entire worldview of the faith he represents.

It might make more sense to say that both the Pope and Grass were called upon in their youth to do things outside the general moral arc of their lives. For whatever reasons - peer pressure, misplaced patriotism, fear for their safety or the safety of their families - they both decided to do those things. Grass' involvement with the Waffen-SS is certainly relevant to his long role in the German national conversation about the Second World War, and has been much discussed in that context. But I can't really see how it is relevant here, any more than the Pope's membership of the Hitler Youth, and later conscription to the Luftwaffenhelferen and then the German army proper, is relevant to his views on, say, contraception.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:46 AM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Waffen SS actively recruited in "liberated" or occupied territories, notably France, Belgium, the Balkans and the Baltics, and I think the status of these recruits as "Nazis" is a bit of a grey area. First of all, the Nazis had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to come up with troops to fight on the Eastern Front, and a not-insignificant number of people in occupied Europe did buy into the entire "struggle against tyrannical" Bolshevism argument.

My own grandmother crossed into Estonia in 1919 when the country was set up, thanks in no small part to Wilson's Fourteen Points, and my great-grandfather set up one of the largest factories in Estonia. My grandmother lived through the Soviet invasion in 1940, and welcomed the Germans as "liberators" (she recalls hiding in the exposed cellar of a burnt-out house as the Germans and the Russians slugged it out).

Does that make my grandmother a Nazi? Or how about the Estonian Waffen SS volunteers? The choice for Estonians, who would have all strongly identified with Germany during the war was pretty black and white. And in terms of protecting the Jewish population, the Estonians certainly did not show themselves to possess even one iota of the moral courage that the Danes did.

I don't think my grandmother was a Nazi. Instead, she was representative of age-old European cultural traits and prejudices that culminated in the Holocaust. The SS were not solely responsible for the Holocaust; everyone, including the United States and Canada, bore some responsibility.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:57 AM on April 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


RELATED:

Israel firsters debate.
Shit Liberal Zionists Say
posted by liza at 12:13 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ideological bunfight aside, it's not Yeats exactly, is it? Stick to prose, bro
posted by biochemicle at 12:58 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Disagreeing with the hawkish body politic in Israel is not the same as attacking the Jewish faith, something several mefites might consider;

When someone accuses unnamed "mefites" of something that has not happened in a thread, then I wonder if they protest a little too much.
posted by Snyder at 1:09 PM on April 9, 2012


The supposed knee-jerk response of accusing critics of Israel of antisemitism has been met with a proportional knee-jerking that insists this happens even when it doesn't.

Perhaps we can all get control of our knees and discuss what other people are actually saying, rather than what we think we heard them say.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:11 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


When someone accuses unnamed "mefites" of something that has not happened in a thread, then I wonder if they protest a little too much.

Now, granted, comments like this are subtle (to the extent that a KKK analogy could dryly be considered subtle), but it's fairly transparent stuff in the larger context of calling critics of right-wing Israeli politicians the equivalent of Nazis. And that happens not just on Metafilter, but, well, everywhere. Don't use or defend the rhetoric of smear tactics, if you're not prepared to account for it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:25 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nobody has done that in this thread. Please don't poison this discussion with uncharitable readings.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:28 PM on April 9, 2012


Okay, I will endeavor to be more charitable about my interpretation of KKK-based analogies, going forwards.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:29 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's possible to really "smear" the Waffen-SS. The analogy might is not great, but comparing the Klan to the SS isn't actually unfair to either.
posted by Snyder at 1:30 PM on April 9, 2012


And it was specific to Grass, and his circumstances, and not intended as a generalized smear of all critics of Israel.

So, yes, you could stand to be more charitable.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:31 PM on April 9, 2012


it was specific to Grass, and his circumstances

Not really, no. I mean, it was a horrible analogy, but it was a smear job, all the same. And one that was roundly dissected and discarded by several rational people, anyway, so I'm not going to debate with you the point it tried (quite unsuccessfully) to make. It was just one comment among several, in any case.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:38 PM on April 9, 2012


I don't think it's possible to really "smear" the Waffen-SS. The analogy might is not great, but comparing the Klan to the SS isn't actually unfair to either

It ignores the historical record. They are different organizations. The SS had three separate parts, the Allgemeine SS is the original SS. The Waffen SS started out before the war as the SS-Verfügungstruppe the first armed troops of the SS. Finally, the SS-Totenkopfverbände were the concentration camp guards.

The Waffen SS were involved in war crimes, as was Das Heer (the Army) and the Luftwaffe. The Totenkopfverbande were the ones involved in the most crimes against humanity.

The Waffen SS was never as bad as the Allgemeine SS or the Totenkopfen. Indeed, many were conscripts after 1943, such as Grass. To hold a conscripted soldier accountable for joining such a formation makes no sense. And to try and juice the fact that he wanted to join the Kriegsmarine first and then was forced to enter the Waffen SS into some sort of willful entry into the Allgemeine SS or the Totenkopfverbande SS is false and ridiculous.

Grass should be allowed to say his piece and Israel is wrong for banning him.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:39 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder how Metafilter would respond to a hypothetical popular author who, after concealing his youthful involvement with the Klan for many years, writes a poem advocating a crackdown on street gangs in Harlem.

If it had been the late Sen. Robert Byrd advocating a crackdown on Harlem gang violence, I think the discussion would at least have been interesting, though I don't know if it would have been any more on-the-merits than what we've got here. I find a special kind of credibility among the reformed. I don't think the poem was particularly good or trenchant, but the views of a former WWII-Era German soldier regarding his country's complicity in the escalation of a potentially disastrous upcoming conflict? Yeah, I'm willing to accept that as sincere and credible, and willing to see Netanyahu as simply trying to discredit him in craven and truly irrelevant ways, here.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:40 PM on April 9, 2012


Calling Godwin's Law....
posted by mfoight at 2:44 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why has it taken me so long to speak?/ I think it is in bad taste that Germany is giving Israel free nuclear submarines. / I think it was in bad taste for the British to give Israel the bomb. / I think it is immoral for the US to support Israel militarily in all that they do, no matter what./ Especially in light of the fact that Mossad agents perform false flag operations posing as the CIA to assassinate foreign intellectuals." This is the real issue Grass was getting at. But he was a Nazi. I am an American, and we won the big one, so I can say what I want. BOOM.
posted by Roger_Mexico at 2:50 PM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I kind of wish this thread had focused on the Israeli response to Grass as much as it has on Grass's possible motivations and the appropriateness of his actions, and what this reveals about the nature of the Israeli government.

I can't imagine another country responding so vociferously from the highest levels of government to what is in the end, critical commentary from someone of middling cultural importance. The inability to respond in a muted manner, or simply to let the matter pass, speaks to the defensive/aggressive and besieged mentality of the Israeli government.

I was also struck by the implication that said high-level officials of the Israeli government speak for Jewry as a whole, and not merely as the elected leadership of a Democratic state. It certainly is a huge amount of unwarranted authority that they're taking upon themselves.
posted by tempythethird at 2:50 PM on April 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


If Gunter Gross was speaking unpleasant truths before the revelation of his past,

They're still truths, even after the revelation of his past.
posted by mikelieman at 3:22 PM on April 9, 2012


If Gunter Gross was speaking unpleasant truths before the revelation of his past...

The focus on his WWII years to the exclusion of the point he was making is silliness of the highest order. Accusing him of secretly being a Nazi sympathizer who has suddenly decided to out himself after many decades of repudiating fascism through his creative and political efforts (or being a Nobel Prize winner trying to push a few more book sales) I mean, that's just richly hilarious and deeply sad at the same time. To believe the crock of horseshit Netanyahu is putting out, you have to forcibly ignore or push out of your head everything Grass has done with his life for the last five or six decades and counting, while also ignoring the fact that Netanyahu has been actively fomenting war with his country's Middle Eastern neighbor. Not even the most stalwart FOX News anchor could manage that kind of cognitive dissonance without her head exploding on camera. I'm just hoping the Streisand Effect takes over at this point.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:51 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


It worries me that the current Israeli leadership seems to have lost it's sensitivity to irony. If someone writes a poem suggesting you are dangerous, you probably shouldn't throw a vitrolic tantrum that leaves everyone in the room quietly fearful of you and your tirades.

Israel - please - you need to get these people out for some fresh air. They need to chill out and get some perspective. Take them to a romantic comedy. Go to the beach. Have them call their mothers. They work so hard and are under a lot of stress. They worry to much about people they imagine are out to get them... just relax. Everything will be o.k.. Just relax. O.k.?
posted by astrobiophysican at 4:53 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would really LOVE to see some coverage of the actual content of the poem, especially in the US media. I don't think I've seen a single talking head on TV or public intellectual actually come out and make a rational, level-headed criticism of Israel in a long time. (At least, not one with enough traction to come to my admittedly quite preoccupied attention).
posted by phenylphenol at 5:44 PM on April 9, 2012


I can't imagine another country responding so vociferously from the highest levels of government to what is in the end, critical commentary from someone of middling cultural importance.

Really? Since it's topical, how about Iran's response to The Satanic Verses? At least Israel isn't breaking off diplomatic relations with Germany, placing a bounty on Grass's head, assassinating people associated with the translation and production of the poem, and sending a yearly reminder that the author is under sentence of death. In contrast Mr You Should Kindly Shut The Fsck Up has merely been told that if he should want to visit Israel, he wouldn't be welcome.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:56 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Really? Since it's topical, how about Iran's response to The Satanic Verses?

So, the Israelis should be judged only in comparison to Iran. Got it.
posted by banal evil at 6:05 PM on April 9, 2012


Since it's topical, how about Iran's response to The Satanic Verses?

Yes, Iran is a rogue state which is currently facing crippling economic sanctions and constant threat of invasion or air attacks.

Israel, on the other hand, is the beneficiary of billions of dollars of aid from the US.

One of these things is not like the other.
posted by empath at 6:07 PM on April 9, 2012


Since it's topical, how about Iran's response to The Satanic Verses?

Yes, and you can't build a church in Saudi Arabia so why should they be allowed to build a mosque in the US?
posted by Slothrup at 6:31 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Empath wrote: One of these things is not like the other.

Yes: Iran is not like Israel, and sending assassination squads after an author is not like declaring him persona non grata. I'm no fan of censorship and I think this episode is silly, but I think you need to acknowledge that Israel is not some cesspool of Satanic evil. There are places much worse than Israel - most of the world is worse than Israel - and this hyperfocus on a single country is used by Israel's neighbours to divert attention from their own abuses of human rights.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:33 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]



Since it's topical, how about Iran's response to The Satanic Verses?


Sheesh, man, if Iran is your benchmark.. Crikey. Surely Israel can and should do better than that?
posted by smoke at 7:38 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Since it's topical, how about Iran's response to The Satanic Verses?

That's going to be Israels new slogan?

At least we're better than Iran!
posted by Iax at 8:02 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think my grandmother was a Nazi. Instead, she was representative of age-old European cultural traits and prejudices that culminated in the Holocaust. The SS were not solely responsible for the Holocaust; everyone, including the United States and Canada, bore some responsibility.

Amen to this. There were 6 years of progressively worsening conditions under the Nazis in the lead up to the war. Lots and lots of desperate Jews were rejected by the western nations.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:10 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not so sure why it's bad that Israel in particular has nuclear weapons. No one should have them

I agree. But I think Grass brings it up in the context of his country selling submarines to Israel in which these nukes will be loaded.

In 2010, Germany was the third largest exporter of arms, and from 2007-10 it was responsible for 5% of conventional arms export, and was 6th highest exporter in that time. (2010 figure from pdf below the chart at this link, p. 3).

Of course the US is consistently the #1 exporter, and all the arms exporting nations export a high proportion of their sales to developing countries, including countries about which they have security concerns.

Because I'm Canadian I'll temper my US comment with the data on Canadian exports [ pdf] which has figures to 2009. Haiti, Cuba, Indonesia, Israel, Nigeria all buy arms from Canada. Germany and the UK too.
posted by chapps at 8:21 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, and that data on Canadian sales, which is from the Canadian government (DFAIT), for some reason excludes exports of arms to the US--which accounts for 80% of Canadian arms export.
posted by chapps at 8:22 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Iran is not like Israel, and sending assassination squads after an author is not like declaring him persona non grata

Israel teams with terror group to kill Iran's nuclear scientists, U.S. officials tell NBC News
posted by Ironmouth at 8:31 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes: Iran is not like Israel, and sending assassination squads after an author is not like declaring him persona non grata.

Right, Israel only assassinates scientists.

posted by empath at 9:53 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


>Not so sure why it's bad that Israel in particular has nuclear weapons. No one should have them

I agree. But I think Grass brings it up in the context of his country selling submarines to Israel in which these nukes will be loaded.


It appears that the Dolphin-class submarine has the ability to launch nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, but do the Israelis have nuclear cruise missile capability? Jane's seems to think so, but I can't seem to find any other analysis that corroborates this assessment - most of the stories that discuss this "second-strike" capability reference Jane's. It's not easy to deploy a new nuclear technology like this, and I suspect the prime benefit of the Dolphin is to launch frogmen from the large torpedo tubes.

On a positive note, the Dolphin sale seems to give the German government the leverage it needs to slow or halt settlement expansion.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:50 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Israel is not some cesspool of Satanic evil. There are places much worse than Israel - most of the world is worse than Israel - and this hyperfocus on a single country is used by Israel's neighbours to divert attention from their own abuses of human rights.

Did I say that Israel is a cesspool of Satanic evil? Did I say that Israel's human rights record is worse than that of its neighbors? We're focusing on Israel as opposed to its neighbors because that's what this thread is about - if you really think we're ignoring the abuses of its neighbors, go read one of the many threads on Syria, Iran's various abuses of its own populace, and so on. Believe me, those threads are not full of people saying "who cares about these oppressed Saudi women, lets go bash Israel!"

In fact, Israel is a country that I have some personal connection to, and a country that I believe should be much better than it is. I therefore judge it by my own high standards, not those of its neighbors.
posted by tempythethird at 1:36 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tempythethird wrote: Did I say that Israel is a cesspool of Satanic evil? Did I say that Israel's human rights record is worse than that of its neighbors?

The cesspool of Satanic evil bit wasn't aimed at you; it was a reference to other comments, at least one of which has since been deleted. But for what it's worth you think that Israel is uniquely bad in at least one respect: you can't imagine another country responding so vociferously from the highest levels of government to what is in the end, critical commentary from someone of middling cultural importance..
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:01 AM on April 10, 2012


[This is a difficult topic to address without addressing other difficult topics, but let's try to focus on the post subject as much as possible and resist turning this into a general "Israel: yay or nay" or "Israel: let's all fight now" thread. It's important.]
posted by taz at 2:23 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Joe in Australia:

Fair enough, I'll revise:

I can't imagine any decent, rich, liberal country responding so vociferously from the highest levels of government to what is in the end, critical commentary from someone of middling cultural importance.

If its the unique badness that you're on the lookout for, then let me make my position explicit: Israel either is indeed uniquely bad when compared to the club of western liberal first-world states that it so desperately wants to be considered a part of, or its simply not in that club.
posted by tempythethird at 2:35 AM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's objectionable about the poem is that it posits Israel as a greater threat to world peace than Iran.

Objectively true.

Which countries has Iran invaded again?

Or subjected to aerial bombardment?

How many nukes does Iran have?

Terrorism you say? What do you call it when a country assassinates a poet just because he's of a particular ethnicity?
posted by MartinWisse at 6:24 AM on April 10, 2012


Jeffrey Goldberg gives a clear-eyed take on the Grass controversy.
Grass isn’t the only prominent European to perform a complete inversion of cause-and-effect in his attempt to demonize Israel. So let’s be clear: Israel is contemplating an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities because the Iranian regime openly labels Israel a cancer that must be eradicated and because Iran is the prime sponsor of Muslim terrorists who seek Israel’s physical elimination. The goal of an Israeli attack would be to deny the Ayatollahs the means of bringing that about. (Whether this is a wise course of action, for Israel or for the U.S., which is also contemplating an attack, is another matter.)

On Iran’s threats to end the Jewish state -- which was built on the ashes of the German Holocaust -- Grass is tellingly silent.
posted by BobbyVan at 6:29 AM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Grass isn’t the only prominent European to perform a complete inversion of cause-and-effect in his attempt to demonize Israel. So let’s be clear: Israel is contemplating an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities because the Iranian regime openly labels Israel a cancer that must be eradicated and because Iran is the prime sponsor of Muslim terrorists who seek Israel’s physical elimination. The goal of an Israeli attack would be to deny the Ayatollahs the means of bringing that about. (Whether this is a wise course of action, for Israel or for the U.S., which is also contemplating an attack, is another matter.)

On Iran’s threats to end the Jewish state -- which was built on the ashes of the German Holocaust -- Grass is tellingly silent.


Pathetic reasoning. So Iranians make a meaningless threat, one that other dictators have before, and look like they are working to make a single bomb. Israel has one hundred such bombs. One hundred. Iran makes such threats because it can't carry them out. Its like shooting someone for calling you a name on the playground.

So has it ever been for the warmongers, who would draw blood before being attacked.
Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after having given him so much as you propose. If to-day he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him,--"I see no probability of the British invading us"; but he will say to you, "Be silent: I see it, if you don't."
Next you'll be telling us that we don't need proof--that sometimes the smoking gun will come in the form of a mushroom cloud.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:27 AM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Its as if the Pearl Harbor attack was moral. Preemptive strike, no problem.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:35 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Its as if the Pearl Harbor attack was moral. Preemptive strike, no problem.

So, stated threats from the leader of Iran are "meaningless", but rumors of the government of Israel planning to defend their country makes Israel into the perpetrators of a "Pearl Harbor" as if such a huge and awful action had already happened? A sort of "Godwin-lite," if you will.

Veering back to the original topic for just a moment, in response to reasoned calls from mods and others, how does this action by Israel's government to declare Mr. Grass persona non grata compare with other actions taken by governments against artists and public figures they find offensive? For example American radio host and commentator Michael Savage was banned from the UK for making statements "which might lead to inter-community violence." The ban against him still stands even after a change of government in the UX. So, does anyone find their feelings about Grass or Savage, or towards the UK or Israel relevant to how they feel about the respective declarations by those countries? I'd be especially interested to hear from people who like one ban and oppose the other, and why they feel that way.

In answer to my own question above, and as no fan of either of these people, it's still hard to actually like these bans because it's hard to see the danger these people present as imminent or serious, and it gives them some claim to feeling victimized and even therefore gives an unintended boost to the soapbox to their point of view.
posted by Stoatfarm at 9:44 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, stated threats from the leader of Iran are "meaningless", but rumors of the government of Israel planning to defend their country makes Israel into the perpetrators of a "Pearl Harbor" as if such a huge and awful action had already happened?

An air-strike on a non-belligerent country is not 'defending your country'. It's an illegal act of aggressive war.
posted by empath at 9:48 AM on April 10, 2012


So, stated threats from the leader of Iran are "meaningless", but rumors of the government of Israel planning to defend their country makes Israel into the perpetrators of a "Pearl Harbor" as if such a huge and awful action had already happened? A sort of "Godwin-lite," if you will.

Is it morally right to strike without having been struck first? George W. Bush thinks yes. I think no. Do you think it is OK to do so?

That is the question.

What capability does Iran have to do anything? Do you truly think Iran would strike? What evidence, other than the ravings of its-soon-to-be-gone nutbag president who lacks the power to actually order such a strike? Even if such a strike was ordered, what power does Iran have to strike? None. Especially given that Israel can strike back 100-fold and the US would end the Iranian regime if that happened?

Please, explain how this is a credible and serious threat that allows Israel to strike preemptively.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:54 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Again, you speaking of things that are rumors, and choosing sides and villains before anything is even being stated let alone done. Please explain how that is valid on this thread or elsewhere for that matter?
posted by Stoatfarm at 10:16 AM on April 10, 2012


Again, you speaking of things that are rumors, and choosing sides and villains before anything is even being stated let alone done. Please explain how that is valid on this thread or elsewhere for that matter?

Rumors? Ok, let's say Iran's leader said that Iran could launch an preemptive strike on Israel in months. Its an act of war, in anyoine's book. You'd be angry, at such an irresponsible threat, right?

Well, it isn't Iran's leader making such threats. Its Israel's:

"Israel could attack Iranian nuclear facilities within months, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, adding he hopes "there won't be a war."

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2012/03/09/Netanyahu-Iran-attack-possible-in-months/UPI-81681331276400/

This is no rumor. Israel, in the world press, is threatening unprovoked military strikes on Iran. No rumor. Established threats.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:11 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


In other words, yes it is stated.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:14 AM on April 10, 2012


MartinWisse wrote: Which countries has Iran invaded again?
Or subjected to aerial bombardment?


There's its war with Iraq, of course, which lasted around ten years, and its concomitant attacks against third-country ships attempting to trade with Iraq. The war was started by Iraq, but Iran subsequently invaded and kept attacking after Iraq sued for peace. Iranian forces have entered Iraq both during the recent unpleasantness and to attack Kurdish forces across the border. They assisted the US (!) in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Iran trained and directed Amal and (later) Hezbollah troops during the Lebanese Civil War, and it now dominates Lebanon through Hezbollah.

Iran has the world's seventh-largest army; and the third-largest army if you exclude reserve troops (Iran has the world's largest number of reserve troops via its Basij Militia, who have an active role "maintaining order"). Its military capabilities dwarf those of other Gulf States by almost any measure. (PDF) It's worth noting that the Revolutionary Guards make up a large proportion of its army, and that they have been engaged directly in attacks on a number of countries.

With respect to Israel, Iran's sponsors and directs Hezbollah, which occupies Southern Lebanon (it practically is Southern Lebanon). It maintains its power through Iranian largesse, arms shipments, and a truly astonishing amount of violence. It is almost certainly responsible for a series of political assassinations, including the then-Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. It has kidnapped soldiers from within Israel and subjected Israeli towns to lengthy aerial bombardment, leading to the Israeli/Lebanese war of 2006. It is also believed to be responsible for the attack on a Jewish cultural center in Argentina which killed 85 people.

How many nukes does Iran have?

None, yet, and I very much hope it stays that way.

Terrorism you say? What do you call it when a country assassinates a poet just because he's of a particular ethnicity?

I don't know what you're referring to here, but Iran was largely behind the Jyllands-Posten cartoons controversy which has led to the death of around 100 people in riots and a number of failed assassinations, and it maintains a bounty against Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses. There have been multiple failed and one actual assassination of people associated with the book's publication.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:43 PM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's its war with Iraq, of course, which lasted around ten years, and its concomitant attacks against third-country ships attempting to trade with Iraq. The war was started by Iraq, but Iran subsequently invaded and kept attacking after Iraq sued for peace

I see. So, after you're invaded, you must make peace with your enemy the moment they ask for peace, or else you're bad.

This is called being disengenous. Israel has engaged in three unprovoked invasions of sovereign countries in its short history--1956, 1982, and 1986. I'm not even including 1967. Iran? None.

You are engaging in what we call special pleading.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:41 PM on April 10, 2012


The amount of posturing and hectoring in support of Iran's position is ridiculous. It's possible for both Israel andIran to be in the wrong here in regards to nuclear weapons.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:49 PM on April 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


The amount of posturing and hectoring in support of Iran's position is ridiculous. It's possible for both Israel andIran to be in the wrong here in regards to nuclear weapons.

But only one has nuclear weapons. The other doesn't, and denies developing them.

The other thing is that one of the two is directly staying in the press that they will commit an act of war against the other in the next few months.

Who actually has the Bomb? Israel. Who is threatening an act of war against the other? Israel. Which has a history of invading other countries? Israel.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:30 PM on April 10, 2012


On the assassination of Iranian scientists, today's democracy now has an interview with Seymour Hersh stating that the US trained the MEK operatives thought to be responsible.

IMHO there is no way that there is a clear "good side" in any discussion of the Middle East.

However, I hope everyone here can agree there are many, many good people being harmed by this conflict, on all sides, and that everyone in the middle east deserves to live free from fear of terror, bombing, assassination and starvation.

I also think back on the discussion a few days ago about the Israeli who started the We Love you Iran campaign, how important these initiatives are in refusing to demonize each other despite the tremendous suffering experienced on both sides. I think it is wise to think about the courage to show such love for eachother amidst the conflict, and how we can learn from it.

There an account in The Serbs, of how, as ethnic hatreds grew stronger, some people chose to help their neighbours instead of joining in with discrimination and hatred, and that later, the neighbours who received the help remembered the kindness, and took the lead in convincing others of their group to work for reconciliation.

It really is the conscious act of remembering the other person's humanity that will help peace emerge at last.
posted by chapps at 10:41 PM on April 10, 2012


Hard to say if Iran is developing nuclear weapons or not, but the government of that country has sponsored terrorist organizations devoted to the demise of Israel, and Iranian forces played no small role in the defeat of American occupation forces in Iraq.

On the other hand, Iran is isolated and surrounded by enemies, which seems to be a failure of its foreign policy.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:17 PM on April 10, 2012


I don't doubt the Iranian people as well as Israelis would be better off if their government was overthrown.
posted by chapps at 11:52 PM on April 10, 2012


I meant Iranian theocratic government was overthrown. The punctuation gods are not smiling on me. Or sentence structure gods.
posted by chapps at 11:53 PM on April 10, 2012


Ironmouth wrote: So, after you're invaded, you must make peace with your enemy the moment they ask for peace, or else you're bad.

Saddam offered a ceasefire in 1982. Iran continued the war until 1988. I think most of the attempted Iranian invasions, including the unsupported mass attacks by child soldier "martyrs", took place after this time. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed as a result of Iran's intransigence.

Israel has engaged in three unprovoked invasions of sovereign countries in its short history--1956, 1982, and 1986.

Israel doesn't have a particularly short history - according to Wikipedia it's older than most states in the UN.

Anyway, I presume 1956 refers to the Suez Crisis and 1982 refers to the invasion of Lebanon. I don't know what 1986 refers to, but neither the Suez Crisis nor the 1982 invasion were unprovoked - the first was actually a tripartite attack by French, UK and Israeli forces in reaction to Nasser's nationalisation of the Suez Canal and its blockade of the Straits of Tiran; the other was a reaction to literally years of attacks on Israel from Southern Lebanon.

Incidentally, you do appreciate that Hezbollah is effectively Iran's foreign branch? That its entire raison d'être is to conduct war against Israel? Iran is at war with Israel right now and has been since 1982, if not earlier.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:04 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, '06--got messed up. But really, is it morally right to just bomb a country tat has not attacked you? It's an act of aggressive war. Plus we can't take WMD claims at face value anymore. We should do our best to prevent proliferation--but Israel actually has the bomb and should be forced to give it up before bombing others.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:43 AM on April 11, 2012


Why should it be morally right to bomb a country that has attacked you?
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:56 AM on April 11, 2012


The Ayatollah Khomeini hired the Joker in A Death in the Family, which I think is pretty much conclusive on who is the bad guy, here. It is also about as likely to change anyone's mind as any other argument advanced in this thread.

Getting back to Gunther Grass, back in Germany Der Speigel has pulled together reactions from German and Israeli public figures.

An interesting sidenote to the debate is the suggestion in Ha'aretz and elsewhere that Eli Yishai - the interior minister who issued the travel ban, and is calling for Grass to be stripped of his Nobel Prize - is playing to his base, in way which has been largely ignored by the focus by the Western media on Grass.

Yishai is the (relatively) young and dynamic leader of Shas, traditionally a politically moderate but religiously orthodox party with its base in the Mizrahi and Sephardic communities, which has moved rightwards in recent years. Yishai is an interesting figure - the status of Shas as the party to court when coalition-building has made him one of Israel's four deputy prime ministers as well as Interior Minister, and formerly a minister in the coalition of Ehmud Olmert. Yishai's Shas has argued for an Israel less influenced by Western liberal political ideologies (opposing gay rights, for example, and suggesting that asylum seekers should be placed in work camps): Grass, as a left-wing German public intellectual with a past association with the Waffen SS criticizing the provision of military support to Israel, would probably be a good enough target on his own merits.

Avi Primor, a former Israeli ambassador to Germany, has described the persona non grata decision as "a bit hysterical", and not really about Grass (who has expressed no desire to visit Israel recently) but about domestic politics. There's an interesting interview with Primor in the Frankfurter Rundschau here - he believes Grass muddied the water by talking about a nuclear strike on Iran, which is not an orthodox Israeli strategic option, but also argues that Iran's nuclear ambitions, and indeed its vocal attacks on Israel, aren't really about Israel as much as they are about securing status and power among the surrounding Arab states.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:50 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Ehud, rather. Coffee deprivation typo...)
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:55 AM on April 11, 2012


Why should it be morally right to bomb a country that has attacked you?

Self-Defense. But there is no right of pre-emptive self defense. Because there is no proof you will be attacked. Put another way, is Iran justified in launching a pre-emptive attack on Israel right now? Israel's prime minister is giving interviews saying he could attack within months. Not to mention Israel seeks to deny Iran a weapon it already possesses.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:22 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth, I don't think your position makes sense. Let's suppose that Iran had precisely one nuclear weapon, and Israel knew that Iran would attack with that weapon (and only that weapon). By your reasoning Israel would have no right to pre-emptively attack - they could only attack after Iran had nuked them. But surely any attack after this would be merely revenge, not self-defense. I don't think it would be morally justified at all.

I think a more reasonable position (and one which used to be uncontroversial among liberals) is that acquiring weapons is an act of aggression in itself. Iran's actions are terrifying its neighbours (not just Israel) because it will give Iran the ability to deploy more of its army without risking repercussions. I acknowledge that Israel probably has nuclear weapons already, but (a) two wrongs don't make a right; and (b) it isn't waving its nuclear ability around like a small boy with a long stick.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:55 PM on April 11, 2012


Martin van Creveld, an Israeli military historian and theorist, in "a September 2003 interview in Elsevier, a Dutch weekly, on Israel and the dangers it faces from Iran, the Palestinians and world opinion, stated: "We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force…. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under."" The Samson option, dating from the 1960s, "is a term used to describe Israel’s alleged deterrence strategy of massive retaliation with nuclear weapons as a “last resort” against nations whose military attacks threaten its existence, and possibly against other targets as well." Hal Lindsey, author of the "Late Great Planet Earth", talks about the Samson Option. What kind of people would be so ready to have nuclear war?
posted by millardsarpy at 8:31 AM on April 12, 2012


The Samson Option sounds a lot like Hitler's Nero Decree. If that is indeed Israeli Sate policy, I can only hope that the humanity of those ordered to implement it will stop it from happening. At least that's what happened at the end of the Third Riech, so here's hoping!
posted by Meatbomb at 8:39 AM on April 12, 2012


Connections to wacky fundamentalists aside, the Samson Option sounds a lot like MAD.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:22 AM on April 12, 2012


Connections to wacky fundamentalists aside, the Samson Option sounds a lot like MAD.

Except MAD was more of parity between two enemies. This is a single entity threatening to take the whole world down. I'm pretty sure the US didn't have nukes aimed at Canada or England.
posted by kafziel at 10:58 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The end result would have been the same - in the event of a MAD scenario, the entire world would have been obliterated.

And I suspect that the US did technically have missiles aimed at Canada and the UK as part of some sort of tactical option, which Samson surely is.

Anyway, has the Samson Option been officially documented? There seems to be a lot of popular literature on the subject, but nothing else.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:20 AM on April 12, 2012




FSVO snubs, FSVO news.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:41 PM on April 14, 2012


New York Times validated that Seymour Hersh had at least one other source apart from Ari Ben-Menashe for his book The Samson Option.
posted by adamvasco at 2:51 PM on April 17, 2012


Are you talking about this?
Mr. Hersh writes: "Ben-Menashe's account might seem too startling to be believed, had it not subsequently been amplified by a second Israeli who cannot be named. The Israeli said that the Pollard material was sanitized and dictated to a secretary before being turned over to the Soviets. Some material was directly provided to Yevgeny M. Primakov, the Soviet Foreign Ministry specialist on the Middle East."

No Soviet official has ever acknowledged that any such material was passed to Moscow.
That's not confirmation, that's newspaper-speak for "Hersh says he totally has confirmation for his fantastic claims, and you can believe him if you like."

For what it's worth, I am very sceptical about claims that Israel has a large nuclear arsenal. Nuclear weapons are useless without delivery mechanisms, and I don't think Israel is known for its ability to produce ballistic missiles. Look at the problems North Korea has been having with missile development - yes, Israel is a richer and more sophisticated country, but was it more skilled forty years ago than North Korea is today? It is notoriously difficult to produce missiles without testing each stage of development - where can Israel conduct its tests?

Without a sophisticated missile capability Israel would have to rely on delivery by plane or - heaven help us - road or sea transport. I suppose I can see an attack by plane, but nuclear weapons are heavy and planes have a limited range. Surely Israel isn't going to divest itself of a vast number of bombers and associated fighters in the middle of a war; any attack would be limited to a few targets. So why have two or three hundred weapons? What could they possibly do with them? They're vastly expensive to produce and maintain; why would you want to keep them on the shelf?

I'm only mentioning this to you, Adamvasco, because I instinctively feel that you're the sort of chap that can be relied upon. Don't let those Iranian or Syrian rotters suspect anything!
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:09 PM on April 17, 2012


Two or three hundred nuclear weapons is enough to wipe out every major city in the middle east. And Israel has ballistic missiles.
posted by empath at 7:22 PM on April 17, 2012


Well Joe, when you've stopped being a dick, how about Israel and the Bomb by Avner Cohen. empath has already pointed out the ballistic missile capacity particularily Jericho III. Here is a little diagram for you.
posted by adamvasco at 5:05 AM on April 18, 2012


I don't claim to be a big expert although I am interested in the region and the politics. What really gets my goat, though, is that Joe presents himself as a bit of a policy wonk and expert on all things Israel.

So to play this "oh Israel doesn't have any missiles to deliver their bombs", well it really does strike me as a little disingenuous. If you'd like to explain how you were genuinely unaware of this apparently large and public Israeli defense programme I am all ears. But otherwise, Joe, I will have to turn away from further debate with you because I do not think you are here presenting the Israeli case in god faith.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:33 AM on April 18, 2012


Good faith, even.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:34 AM on April 18, 2012


Adamvasco: The Wikipedia article you link to has a huge number of qualifications ("it may be", "it is estimated", "it is possible" and so forth). If you trace its sources they say:
  1. Israel has (had) around 50 Jericho I missiles with a range of up to 500 km, although they are now considered obsolete;
  2. Plus around 100 Jericho IIs with a range of around 1500 km and a 1-tonne payload capacity; and
  3. There have apparently been two test firings of the Jericho III, the most recent being in November last year.
What I take from this is that Israel has never had enough missiles to carry two or three hundred nuclear warheads, even if every missile were diverted to the nuclear weapons program. It does not presently have the ability to deliver a multi-megatonne nuclear device via ballistic missile, even presuming that Israel could make nuclear weapons as small and as light as the USA.

The technical problems of making a reliable multi-stage ballistic missile are huge. Israel has a particular problem in that it has very little room in which to experiment. I have no doubt that they can eventually produce one which can be considered robust and reliable enough to carry a nuclear warhead, but it won't be any time soon. The costs of a dud - tactically, financially, and environmentally - are very, very high.

The technical problems of creating a nuclear device that can be carried by a ballistic missile are also huge. Nuclear weapons are precision devices; they will fizzle if they get distorted by acceleration stress. It is only once Israel has a working multi-stage missile that it will be able to start testing (dummy) warheads to see how they would behave in an attack.

Given all this, I remain confident that although Israel may have short-range low-powered nuclear missiles, anything larger would have to be delivered by plane. I suppose it's possible that they might have any number of nuclear weapons, but two to three hundred sounds ridiculous - it's more than France, more than the UK, more than China! The very high cost and the very low tactical value of a nuclear arsenal of that size make me think that Israel has been engaging in some tactical ambiguity and that the real figure is a small fraction of that.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:48 AM on April 18, 2012


The Dolphin class submarines are equipped with both ballistic and cruise missiles.
However Jane's has reported that Israel 'would not be able to destroy Iran's nuclear programme with pre-emptive air strike'.
According to an Israeli security source, any speculation into possible Israeli actions should not be limited. “Don’t think conventional,” he said. “We are too smart for that.”
At the end of October last year Israel was reported to be improving it's nuclear abilities.
posted by adamvasco at 7:33 AM on April 18, 2012


Adamvasco, why do you say they have ballistic missiles? Ballistic missiles are much larger than cruise missiles and they're hard to launch from submarines; even the UK was unable to develop its own and had to be supplied with Trident missiles from the US after negotiations at the very highest government levels.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:51 PM on April 19, 2012


My error. The Dolphin class subs carry Popeye and Popeye turbo long range (1,500km plus) cruise missiles. The Jericho ballistic missiles are land based with an estimated range of 11,500km. From quoted article
The distance from the Israeli port of Haifa to Tehran is 1,573 km, about the purported range of the long-range Popeye Turbo. Haifa to Isfahan (site of one of Iran's critical nuclear facilities) is about the same distance. Dolphins sailing off the coast of northern Syria, or southern Turkey (in the vicinity of Cyprus), could launch from somewhat closer range. Thus, for purposes of nuclear deterrence, there is no need to risk Dolphins in the Arabian Sea or Persian Gulf.
posted by adamvasco at 12:16 AM on April 20, 2012




It's obviously not Netanyahu's day.

Regarding Iran's nuclear weapons, it seems clear that they've spent an enormous amount on developing their nuclear capacity. I don't know why they should do that unless they actually intend to produce them, or at least give the impression that they have.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:09 PM on April 28, 2012


Yuval Diskin Israel's former security chief has censured the country's "messianic" political leadership for talking up the prospects of a military stike on Iran's nuclear programme.
posted by adamvasco at 12:31 AM on April 29, 2012


Regarding Iran's nuclear weapons, it seems clear that they've spent an enormous amount on developing their nuclear capacity. I don't know why they should do that unless they actually intend to produce them, or at least give the impression that they have.

People said literally the exact same thing about Iraq's WMD.

Do we really want to kill another few hundred thousand people over a misunderstanding?
posted by empath at 9:19 AM on April 29, 2012


Empath: It wasn't a misunderstanding: it was Saddam's deliberate policy. I very much regret that after his downfall there was no real effort made to understand his motives in pretending to retain an unconventional weapons capability. I can only speculate that he was scared of conventional attacks from another country, presumably Iran - not an unreasonable position given Iraq's weakness and the animosity between the countries. He may have estimated that the possibility that the US_led forces would call his bluff were less than the probability that he would actually be attacked. Or he may have been scared for his position, who knows.

I think it's clear that Iran does have a nuclear weapons program: the only dispute is whether they're going to stop before they produce working devices. So the best possible outcome at present is that they don't actually produce a nuclear weapon, even though we think they may have. But from the perspective of Iran's neighbours and Israel this makes no difference - they have to respond to a threat backed up by real nuclear weapons the same way they respond to a threat backed up by maybe-real nuclear weapons

In any event, nobody is talking about an actual invasion of Iran let alone an occupation. They're speculating about an attack on a nuclear weapons program, something which cannot possibly lead to hundreds (or even tens) of thousands of deaths. If that leads to a war between Iran and whoever, well, Iran is a highly militarised and belligerent country that will undoubtedly be at war with its neighbours one day anyway. An attack could be nothing more than a casus belli - but Iran fired the first shots of this war long ago, via its militarisation at home and support for paramilitary groups abroad.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:27 PM on April 29, 2012


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