"What Must Be Said" was the title Gunter Grass gave his controversial poem in which he labeled Israel a threat to world peace because of its nuclear arsenal. This was his first mistake: It did not have to be said because it has already been said by many others, in Israel as well.
For many months, Israel and the world have been gripped by a heated debate on whether to launch a preemptive strike to halt Iran's nuclear program. Arguments for and against consider the wisdom, effectiveness and possible results of such an action. The debate takes place at strategic, operational and moral levels; Grass' comments add nothing.
One of the parties to the debate in Israel is former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who shares Grass' view that Iran should not be bombed. Dagan broke the security official's proverbial vow of silence and hasn't stopped talking. He should be closely listened to because few people know more about Iran than he does.
But if Dagan published poems in newspapers, people would say he had lost his mind. The same could be said about Grass meddling in questions of nuclear strategy; not because he is wrong - he may or may not be - but because he's no better informed than the average news consumer.
Unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently confided in him, his opinion is vacuous. Grass criticizes the German government for selling Israel another submarine. This is a legitimate view on a matter that should be decided democratically by the German people.
But Grass' comparison of Israel and Iran is unfair, because unlike Iran, Israel has never threatened to wipe another country off the map. And contrary to Grass' sanctimonious verses, under no circumstances would a military action against Iran lead to the extermination of the Iranian people, because as far as we know, it would exclusively target the country's nuclear facilities.
Few could dispute that the world will be a better place without an Iranian nuclear weapon. And not only in Israel - also the northern German town of Lubeck, the capital of marzipan, where Grass writes, paints and sculpts, will be a better place if Iran doesn't get the bomb. Grass basks in hypocritical moralism and agonizes over not having condemned Israel's nuclear capacity earlier. But that award went many years ago to Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear technician who revealed details about his country's nuclear program to the press in 1986.
There are now thousands of websites dedicated to Israel's nuclear arsenal. One gets the impression Grass' act of "breaking the silence" is more a self-contained personal experience than anything else. Neither can one escape the notion that he seeks to recreate the shock waves of his confession six years ago about his service in the Waffen SS during World War II.
He was right to assume that after his anti-Israeli comments he will be accused of anti-Semitism. Grass, it seems, feels compelled to address unwarranted accusations. Either way, you can relax, Mr. Grass. You've written a rather pathetic poem, but you're not anti-Semitic. You're not even anti-Israel; in any event, not more than Dagan is. You said you wrote that poem with your last drops of ink. Let's hope you have enough for another beautiful novel.
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