Guenter Grass - AP - April 2012
German writer and Nobel price laureate for literature Guenter Grass. Photo by AP
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Nobel Prize winner Guenter Grass has come under heavy fire on Wednesday just hours after he published an anti-Israel poem.

German newspaper Der Spiegel dedicated no less than 10 articles, including analyses and opinion pieces, to Grass’ poem, in which he states that Israel's nuclear program is a threat to world peace. Even members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition spoke out against the poem.

“The poem is tasteless, a historical and shows a lack of understanding of the situation in the Middle East,” said Philipp Mißfelder, a member of the Christian Democrats.

Germany's Central Council of Jews responded that it was saddened by the "aggressive" and "irresponsible" poem.

"An outstanding author is far from being an outstanding analyst of Middle East politics," said council chairman Dieter Graumann, saying Grass had muddled his facts by claiming Israel, not Iran, was the threat to peace.

Regarded for half a century as Germany's greatest living writer, Grass appealed for both Israeli and Iranian nuclear assets to be brought under "unhindered and permanent monitoring by an international institution."

Grass charged in the poem that Israel sought a first strike which would "wipe out the Iranian people, who are oppressed by a loudmouth," an apparent reference to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He said he was "fed up with the hypocrisy of the West."

Germany's Central Council of Jews responded that it was saddened by the "aggressive" and "irresponsible" poem.

"An outstanding author is far from being an outstanding analyst of Middle East politics," said council chairman Dieter Graumann, saying Grass had muddled his facts by claiming Israel, not Iran, was the threat to peace.

Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee in Berlin, said Grass was defending a "brutal regime" in Iran. She said the issue was not whether it was permissible to criticize Israel, as Grass claimed, but how to treat dictators.

The poem also criticized the German government for the recent sale to Israel of a further Dolphin-class submarine, claiming this "has the function of being able to send all-destroying warheads where the existence of not even a single atom bomb has been proved."

Grass, a liberal leftist with an appetite for political controversy, won the Nobel in 1999. His 1958 novel, The Tin Drum, was an indictment of Germans in the Nazi era. "Why am I only saying now, in old age, with my last ink, that the nuclear power Israel is endangering world peace which is already fragile?" the poem said. It argued he had been in denial because of the "punishment" that he would be accused of anti-Semitism.

Ruprecht Polenz, a politician in Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) who chairs the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, criticized the poem as muddling cause and effect.

"Grass is a great writer. But whenever he talks politics, he is out of his depth and mostly gets it wrong. This time it's completely wrong," Polenz told the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

A scandal over Grass broke out in 2006 when he revealed in his autobiography that he had volunteered at age 17 to be a soldier in the Waffen SS and fought in World War II. He had not previously disclosed the episode.

This led some critics to accuse him of hypocrisy during his literary career when he had assailed the lingering influence of ex-Nazis on Germany.

Despite Grass's claim, there has been no evidence that Israel is arming its four German-designed submarines with nuclear weapons.

Henryk M Broder, a German writer on Jewish issues, said in the newspaper Die Welt that Grass was the "prototype of the polite anti-Semite who claims he is a friend of the Jews."

Emmanuel Nahshon, a diplomat at the Israeli embassy in Berlin, said the allegation - just before the Jewish feast of Passover - that Israel wanted to wipe out the Iranian people belonged to a European anti-Semitic tradition of accusing Jews of "ritual murder."

Read this article in Hebrew