The arms sale that inspired Grass's "What Must Be Said"

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The publication of German Nobel Prize Laureate Gunter Grass's poem, "Was gesagt werden muss" (What Must Be Said), has triggered a predictable avalanche of outrage, from Benjamin Netanyahu's vitriolic condemnation of the poem to accusations by the Israeli Embassy to Germany and former Israeli prison guard Jeffrey Goldberg (the two are virtually indistinguishable these days) that Grass is guilty of a "blood libel." Last weekend, the campaign against  Grass reached its crescendo when Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai designated him "persona non grata," thus ranking the octogenarian scribe right behind Arab babies as one of the greatest existential threats to the Jewish state.
Grass's service at age 17 in the Nazi regime's Waffen SS has provided an easy line of attack for those seeking to dull the impact of his poem. New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Ethan Bronner quoted Israeli columnist Anshel Pfeffer's claim that Grass's service in the Nazi regime's Waffen SS "disqualified him from criticizing the descendants of those Jews for developing a weapon of last resort that is the insurance policy against someone finishing the job his organization began." Pfeffer, by the way, is the same writer who boldly declared almost a year ago that "Israel must stop overplaying the Holocaust card."
Like the rest of Grass's assailants, Pfeffer omitted the fact that Grass was forcibly conscripted into the German military in 1944 (just as Pfeffer was drafted into the IDF, an occupying army to which Bronner's son volunteered), serving as a Panzer tank gunner during the last stages of the war. Grass may be no more of a Nazi than Pope Benedict XVI, who was conscripted against his will into the Hitler Youth, but when have Zionists ever let historical nuance get in the way of a campaign to muzzle critics of Israeli policy?
Like Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu before him, Grass stands to suffer serious damage to his legacy for daring to say what must be said. But his poem will endure simply because he has opened up a debate of unprecedented scale on the perverse special relationship between Germany and Israel. Grass wrote:
my own country,
guilty of primal and unequalled crimes,
for which time and again it must be tasked --
once again in pure commerce,
though with quick lips we declare it
reparations, wants to send
Israel another submarine --
one whose specialty is to deliver
warheads capable of ending all life
where the existence of even one
nuclear weapon remains unproven...
Here Grass referred to Germany's sale of a Dolphin class submarine to Israel at a deep discount subsidized by German taxpayers. As I wrote at Al Akhbar English, Israel requested that Germany widen the torpedo tubes of its submarines to accomodate the launching of tactical nuclear missiles at Iran's nuclear facilities. So Grass was essentially correct: German citizens were corralled into providing Israel with a mobile delivery platform for its massive nuclear weapons arsenal, which it maintains without any international supervision. And they were compelled to do so out of Holocaust guilt -- as Reuters' Israel correspondent Dan Williams wrote, "as part of Berlin's commitment to shoring up a Jewish state founded in the wake of the Holocaust."
If Grass got anything wrong, it was the difference between tactical nuclear missiles, which are designed to deliver a massive blow to a concentrated area, and the kind of nuclear bombs that killed hundreds of thousands in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Tactical nuclear weapons may not be "capable of ending all life," as Grass wrote, but they would represent the first deployment of nuclear missiles since World War II. On the other hand, as the Center for Strategic and International Studies noted in a study on the consequences of an Israeli strike on Iran, "Any strike on [Iran's] Bushehr Nuclear Reactor will cause the immediate death of thousands of people living in or adjacent to the site, and thousands of subsequent cancer deaths or even up to hundreds of thousands depending on the population density along the contamination plume."
Today is the 64th anniversary of the massacre carried out in Deir Yassin by the Stern Gang/Irgun militias led by future Israeli Prime Ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir. Since a theme of this post is Zionist exploitation of the Jewish genocide in Europe, here is a little known fact: According to Shimon Tzabar, a journalist, artist, and leading figure in the anti-Zionist Israeli group Matzpen, the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aharanoth claimed Nazi troops were present in the Palestinian village at the time. "In Deir-Yassin there were soldiers of regular foreign armies, including Nazis with swastika emblems," Yedioth Aharanoth reporter Eliahu Amikam wrote in August 1960. "Among the corpses there were Iraqis, Syrians and Yugoslavs lying in their military uniform. Swastika ribbons were torn off their sleeves."


Dear Max Blumenthal,
although a defender of Grass and his poem, I suggest you allow life to be bit more complicated than "Like the rest of Grass's assailants, Pfeffer omitted the fact that Grass was forcibly conscripted into the German military in 1944 ..... Grass may be no more of a Nazi than Pope Benedict XVI, who was conscripted against his will into the Hitler Youth, but when have Zionists ever let historical nuance get in the way of a campaign to muzzle critics of Israeli policy?" - Grass has said that he was an enthusiastic young Nazi, he was just the regular kid who is indoctrinated, and that he volunteered for the Submarines but shifted to the SS who sure as hell were hard up for live bodies at that time.. He also volunteered to fight on Israel's side during the day war in 1967, Grass woke up, became enlightened, somewhat, and is filled with guilt, also for not having stood up during his days as a kid when some comrades were taken away. Life never fits the propaganda lines that then go to war with each other. Moreover, Grass is awfully provincial in taking Israel or rather the Netanjahoo/ Liberman government to task, it's Uncle Sam who holds the reins and who will rain bomb in Iran

What’s the big deal anyway?
I am so sick of it the "No criticism allowed"-policy of Israel's politicians. Israel is always screaming “Foul” and accuses the person of being antisemitic -or in case it is a German then he/she is branded as a Nazi. Then usually the Jewish Lobby in the U.S. will reinforce it in the media. It's like someone would be called a racist just for criticizing the Obama administration. That is nuts right?!

FYI Germany is financing Israel’s wars for years. Just recently the German government has subsidized four nuclear submarines for the Israelis.
This poem was written because the author Mr. Grass fears the danger of a nuclear war. He questions the right of the country Israel for a nuclear first strike to annihilate the people of Iran just for a bad feeling that there MIGHT be a nuclear weapons program going on. (Like the big lie of “weapons of mass destruction” in Afghanistan you all fell for.) Mr. Grass also says that by questioning Israel one is automatically branded as an anti-semitic. (Which BTW totally happened!!) Mr. Grass is afraid Germany could participate in a future wrongdoing, where we later can’t say that we haven’t already known. He wants to achieve that both countries nuclear program is inspected/supervised by an international authority that is approved by BOTH countries Israel and Iran.

IS THAT REALLY SUCH A BAD THING? Why do so many people twist the facts and make Mr. Grass look anti-semitic? He has a point! I pray that the people in the Mideast will one day live peacefully without suppression and wars again.
I am with the author and believe that it isn’t the right solution to add fuel to the fire!

@CK MacLeod: It's a POEM!! The language is supposed to be poetic! You are the childish one here.
@arouet: OMG I can't believe you really judge a teenanger who was willing to fight and die for his family and his country in times of war. The boy just did what he thought was right. And imagine there was no oposition and no internet /free press or free speech where he could get anything else than the propaganda of the regime.

I tried to post it on Blumenthals Blog, but the comment got lost for some reason, or isn't moderated yet.

Günter Grass was actually not forced to join the Wehrmacht. He later admitted in an interview in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" that he volunteered to serve in the submarine force at the age of 15, but wasn't accepted at the time.

15 years is not an age of an adult. He might had been silly, but it is not a crime.

Good comments - but the translation is, not to put too fine a point on it, kind of silly. It turns Grass's original words "allesvernichtende Sprengkoepfe," which translates literally enough as "all-annihilating warheads," into something that reads as kind of childish. I think it's safe to say that Grass like most other grown-ups understands quite well that nuclear explosions annihilate everything within their blast radius, not "all life" in the sense of "all life on Earth."

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