Günther Grass Barred From Israel Over Poem

German author banned after new poem lashes Jewish state
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 9, 2012 3:19 AM CDT
Günther Grass Barred From Israel
DORTMUND, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 20: Gunther Grass, author and Nobel literary prize winner, campaigns for German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at a SPD (Social democratic Party) rally September 22, 2002 in Dortmund, Germany. The tight Parliamentary election race between the SDP and the CDU (Christian Democratic...   (Getty Images)

Controversial German author Günther Grass has been barred from Israel for a new poem sharply criticizing the Jewish state for its secretive nuclear program and its belligerent position on Iran. "If Günther wants to spread his twisted and lying works, I suggest he does this from Iran, where he can find a supportive audience," snapped Israel's Interior Minister Yishai in announcing the ban yesterday. The poem, "What Must Be Said," criticizes what Grass considers Western hypocrisy over Israel's nuclear program, and says the state represents a threat to "fragile world peace," reports the Guardian.

Though Israeli officials' fury is sparked by the poem, authorities are officially banning Grass based on a law allowing them to bar any ex-Nazi. Grass won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999, and is perhaps best know for his critical fictional work on the rise of Nazism in Germany, the Tin Drum. He admitted in an autobiography in 2006, however, that he himself was drafted into a Waffen SS Nazi paramilitary unit when he was 17. Israeli Holocaust historian Tom Segev called Grass' allegations "absurd," but also criticized Israel's chilling lack of tolerance for criticism, notes AP. "The need to delegitimize criticism is a very dangerous, autocratic tendency which has increased in recent years," said Segev. Grass said he only intended to criticize the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. "I have often supported Israel," he said. "I want the country to exist and at last find peace with its neighbors." Check out a translated copy of the poem here. (More Israel stories.)

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