Gunter Grass has utilised his aging intellect to launch a scud missile of a poem at Israel. It’s the sort of thing you might hear from UK intellectuals, but coming from Grass it has a certain scent. In the poem Grass turns the potential existential threat facing Israel from Iran on its head. The real threat is Israel. In addition, he feels his views are constrained, since anything he says will lead to punishment. The punishment of receiving the “verdict of ‘anti-Semitism'”.
Sebastian Hammelehle provides the following commentary at Spiegel online:
Grass makes a remarkable comparison, which is supposed to sound logical, but which is actually not. He implies that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. But shouldn’t one call such statements “anti-Israeli” or perhaps “anti-Zionist”?
And does one actually get punished in Germany for criticizing Israel? Just recently, Sigmar Gabriel, the leader of the center-left Social Democratic Party, wrote on Facebook that he had witnessed “apartheid” in the West Bank city of Hebron. Did he get punished for saying that? No.
When he was chairman of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Ignatz Bubis once complained that people referred to Israel as “his” country when they were talking to him. Bubis was a German citizen. Günter Grass has still not understood that “the Jews” are not the same as “the Israelis.”
But in his case, even this realization wouldn’t help very much. It doesn’t really matter whether one calls the supposed sinister puppet masters who punish any criticism of themselves with social ostracism Jews or Israelis. It’s the same stereotype that lurks behind it: the global conspiracy. And yes, at this point one unfortunately has to admit that Grass is right — it is indeed anti-Semitic.
Less of Grass, let’s have some Camus.
Indeed, as he listened to the cries of joy that rose above the town, Rieux recalled that this joy was always under threat. He knew that this happy crowd was unaware of something that one can read in books, which is that the plague bacillus never dies or vanishes entirely, that it can remain dormant for dozens of years in furniture or clothing, that it waits patiently in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, handkerchiefs and old papers, and that perhaps the day will come when, for the instruction or misfortune of mankind, the plague will rouse its rats and send them to die in some well-contented city.