Israel should never forget its Mideast atrocities
The major problem in the Grass affair is not the way Israel blackmails every German. Rather, it's Israelis' inability to understand this country other than through the way it's portrayed in our media.
The person who symbolized "the other Germany" more than anyone in West Germany, the person who was Germany's conscience throughout his literary career, has made the Israeli establishment and its clones crazy. These people have responded pettily and violently. Gunter Grass' service in the Wafen SS when he was 17 has nothing to do with his positions. You need lots of chutzpah and maybe even ignorance to think the Germans don't know how many despicable Nazis Israel catered to, as long as they supported its policies.
Grass, like many people in this world, is concerned. The duo of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak no longer has to seize a plane controlled by five hijackers, as their elite commando unit once did. They no longer have to be photographed whenever that event is commemorated. Their toys are much more dangerous now, and they declare to the world, as if they were hijackers: "We will be the only nuclear power in the Middle East! And your economy? That's doesn't concern us. We watch over the Middle East for you as if we were your security subcontractors. So shut up."
That's the message of the Israeli establishment, even when this message is adorned by references to the Holocaust. No one cheapens the Holocaust more than Israeli politicians.
But people far from Israel's media environment don't remember when the Sabena airliner was hijacked, or the other stories we're stuffed with like geese in the liver industry. And they also probably think Israel's demand is somewhat suspicious, not just because of the melodrama. It's true Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad goes on about "wiping Israel off the map," but would Israel agree that Egypt develop nuclear weapons, or maybe Turkey or Saudi Arabia?
It's enough to remember the noise Israel made over the sale of AWACS planes to Saudi Arabia to realize what would happen in a case like this, even without "threats of destruction." And was Grass the first to claim that Israel's stubbornness about perpetuating the occupation would lead to a broad and violent conflict that would threaten regional stability? That's something people have been claiming for years, both here and abroad, without the pathetic panic that broke out here.
The major problem in the Grass affair is not the way Israel blackmails every German. It's also not the rude attitude toward a writer who has taken part in our culture - yes, through his translated books. Rather, it's Israelis' inability to understand this country other than through the way it's portrayed in our media.
Unlike Israelis' good memory of heroic operations that the media take such pleasure in, we totally forget the scope of atrocities Israel has carried out in every confrontation with a Middle Eastern country. When Grass is concerned about the Iranian people and puzzles Israelis, this doesn't merely stem from self-righteousness, even though the self-righteous are the most natural cantors in the choir of national sobbing.
So we have to remember what Israel did in the cities near the Suez Canal and its bombings deep inside Egypt during the War of Attrition, killing thousands and maiming civilians - children in a school that was totally devastated, workers in a giant factory that was bombed during their lunch break. Or for example Beirut, where, during the first Lebanon war, the air force pounded the western part of the city daily. How many dead were there in Beirut - and in Sidon and Tyre? Was it 10,000 or 20,000? The pattern was repeated in the next "wars" - the Second Lebanon War with its atrocities and Operation Cast Lead with its atrocities.
Is Grass exaggerating about what he fears Israel will do to the Iranians? After all, if war breaks out, our television stations will talk derisively about "their exaggerated claims of losses." And they will forget. And what will they say about our losses? They'll play sad, sentimental songs. You don't need a totalitarian state to confuse people. The myth about perpetual victims is enough.