Gunter Grass banned from Israel after attack poem

By Jennifer Lipman, April 9, 2012

The German poet and Nobel Laureate Gunter Grass has been banned from visiting Israel.

It comes after Mr Grass, who as a teenager was a member of the Waffen SS, published a poem attacking Israel and accusing it of damaging global stability with its stance on Iran.

The poem, titled “What Must be Said” drew accusations of antisemitism after it was published in the German press on Wednesday. The verse also suggested that Germany was complicit in undermining the fragile international peace for a deal with Israel to sell a nuclear-capable Dolphin-class submarine.

On Sunday, Israel’s Interior Ministry announced that Mr Grass was now persona non grata. Eli Yishai said the decision could be made on the basis of an Israeli law that prevents former Nazis from entering the country.

Mr Yishai said: "If Gunter wants to spread his twisted and lying works, I suggest he does this from Iran, where he can find a supportive audience.”

The poem has sparked debate in Germany. The country’s Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle commented: "To put Israel and Iran morally on the same level is not intelligent, it is absurd.”

Last updated: 11:49am, April 9 2012