Israel has declared Nobel Prize-winning German author Gunter Grass "persona non grata" over a poem that deeply criticises the Jewish state and suggests it is as much a danger as Iran.
In a poem called "What Must Be Said" published last Wednesday, Grass, 84, criticised what he described as Western hypocrisy over Israel’s nuclear programme and labelled the country a threat to "already fragile world peace" over its belligerent stance on Iran.
On Sunday, Israel’s interior minister, Eli Yishai, announced that Grass would be barred from Israel for his attempt “to fan the flames of hate against the state of Israel and the Israeli people".
The poem sparked outrage in Israel, with officials from Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on down criticising Grass.
Netanyahu on Thursday called Grass’s poem "shameful", while his foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, accused the author of anti-Semitism.
"If Gunter wants to continue disseminating his distorted and mendacious works, I advise him to do it from Iran where he will find a supportive audience," Yishai said on Sunday.
Iran’s deputy culture minister, Javad Shamaqdari, on Saturday praised Grass’s poem, saying "it warns beautifully".
Taking the Exception
Israel, along with much of the international community, believes that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon. The Israelis have threatened to attack Iran if diplomacy and sanctions fail. A new round of talks between the West and Iran are set to begin this week in Turkey.
Rarely mentioned in the debate – except by Iran – is that Israel itself is widely believed to possess its own undeclared arsenal of nuclear bombs.
Israel neither confirms nor denies having nuclear weapons and has refused to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which would subject it to international inspections.
Grass’ poem took exception with Israel’s alleged programme, and alluded to Germany’s sale to Israel of submarines capable of firing "all-destroying" nuclear missiles into Iran.
He further outraged Israelis by referring to their "alleged right to the first strike that could annihilate the Iranian people".
(Agencies via Al Jazeera)