It’s hard to imagine a more mundane story–and yet somehow, Israel and its less clever defenders managed to turn “Dog Bites Man” into “Man Cries Hysterically and Overreacts Over Minor Nibble.” For those who haven’t been paying attention, Günter Grass, a German writer and Nobel Laureate who for some reason or another was seen as the moral conscience of a generation (something to do with opposing Nazism, though seeing as how it was the 1960’s at the time, it should have been a no-brainer) recently wrote a poem, in which he made some critical remarks about everybody’s favorite ethnically chauvinistic state (Jewdar is not being critical–it is our favorite ethnically chauvinistic state). Now, this should have been barely a blip on anybody’s radar screen, for several reasons.
- It’s a poem, for God’s sake. Really, who the hell cares about poetry? Moreover, it’s the kind of crappy poetry that doesn’t rhyme, that’s full of trite, hackneyed lines (“aged and with my last ink”, really? Shall we expect that Mr. Grass won’t be writing anything else, now that his last ink has been used?) and that reads less like a poem than prose broken up into awkward sentence fragments. When you consider that–aside from a few lines about his personal feelings as a German criticizing Israel–it’s mostly an assortment of policy suggestions (like calling for Israeli and Iranian nuclear sites to be regulated by an international agency), the thing reads like an op-ed piece narrated by William Shatner (go ahead, try reading it like Captain Kirk, you’ll see what we mean.) Ode on a Grecian Urn, it ain’t.
- It’s from Günter Grass. Granted, a Nobel Laureate, but the last thing he wrote that anybody paid attention to was the first installment of his memoir where he admitted to having been in the Waffen-SS.
- He was in the Waffen-SS. Now, Jewdar knows enough history to neither care nor lay blame for a 17-old kid serving in the Waffen-SS. But you’d think it gives you some ammunition to work with if he engages in hyperbolic but fairly insignificant criticism of Israel. How about simply saying “Waffen-SS veteran criticizes Israel.” Hyperbolic but fairly insignificant, and gratifying and gets the point across.
- The criticism was hyperbolic but fairly insignificant. Certainly, in its fairly mundane calls for international nuclear oversight, it’s hard to detect antisemitism, and accusations to that end seem a bit much. So he doesn’t want German to provide submarines to Israel that could be used to launch a nuclear strike on Iran, and he says that “the nuclear power Israel endangers the already fragile world peace.” One might argue that it is “the wannabe nuclear power Iran that endangers the already fragile world peace by threatening the nuclear power Israel,” but who are we to argue with a great intellectual light and moral voice like Günter Grass?
Now, as the headline of this piece suggests, this should be been nothing with nothing, except that a few days later, the Israeli gov’t announced that Grass was banned from Israel. In other words, after being negatively compared to an autocratic theocracy that penalizes speech, the Interior Minister from Shas penalizes speech, and in the most moronic way possible–by banning a writer who wasn’t coming to Israel anyway.
Now, of course, Israel’s less clever defenders will doubtless bristle and point out that while Iran issues death sentences against writers, Israel just bans them. But at the point at which your defense is that you are not as bad is Iran, haven’t you already lost?