Criticize Gunter Grass not for being anti-Semitic, which he isn’t, but for choosing the wrong medium to present “What Must Be Said” about the dangers and inequities of Israeli foreign policy. In the second stanza Grass is poetic rather than precise in stating Israel plans “a strike to snuff out the Iranian people.” The descendents of Holocaust victims do not yearn to inflict a holocaust on others: if Israel preemptively strikes Iran, it will be with conventional bombs designed to destroy alleged nuclear weapons facilities, not to exterminate a people.
In the fifth stanza Grass condemns his own country, Germany, for suffering a permanent guilt complex that compels it to sell Israel an advanced submarine that can be adapted to fire ballistic missiles – a legitimate worry – but stumbles when he again invokes a holocaust wrought by the sub’s ability “to deliver warheads capable of ending all life.”
These poetic excesses obscure issues that concern many of Israel’s friends, and indeed numerous Israelis. As Grass notes, Israel has a “secret…nuclear capability that has grown beyond all control.” And near the end of the poem he “demands a permanent and unrestrained control of Israel’s atomic power and Iranian nuclear plants by an international authority accepted by both governments.”
That’s too logical to contradict. But when will these two nations embrace logic?