Gunter Grass: Israel ban like Burma or Stasi

By Jennifer Lipman, April 12, 2012

German writer Gunter Grass has criticised Israel for declaring him persona non grata in response to a poem hostile to the Jewish state.

Mr Grass, who was a teenage Waffen SS member, released the verse last week under the title “What Must be Said”.

In the poem he accused Israel of "endangering the already fragile world peace" and expressed concern that Israel "could wipe out the Iranian people" if it took action against Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

The anti-war writer, 84, wrote that he was "tired of Western hypocrisy" and accused Germany of being "supplier to a crime" following an agreement with Israel to sell a nuclear-capable Dolphin-class submarine.

After outcry about the poem, which some critics declared was antisemitic, Israel’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai said Mr Grass could no longer enter Israel. He 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.”

Mr Grass said this week that the ban reminded him of the behaviour of dictatorial regimes including the Stasi in Communist East Germany and Burma. Despite this, he said: “He added: "I still see myself irrevocably connected to the country of Israel."

Last updated: 9:56am, April 12 2012