Interior Minister Eli Yishai declared Sunday that German Nobel laureate Gunter Grass is a persona non grata in Israel, after Grass published a poem last week which was highly critical of Israel and its policies.
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Yishai harshly condemned Grass' poem, and said that he is declared a persona non grata in Israel for wearing SS uniform in the past.
"Grass' poems are an attempt to guide the fire of hate toward the State of Israel and the Israeli people, and to advance the ideas of which he was a public partner in the past, when he wore the uniform of the SS," Yishai said. "If Gunter wants to continue publicizing his distorted and false works, I suggest he do it in Iran, where he will find a supportive audience.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also issued a harsh condemnation of Grass' poem on Sunday, during a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.
Lieberman said that Grass' poem is the expression of “egoism of so-called Western intellectuals, who are willing to sacrifice the Jewish people on the altar of crazy anti-Semites for a second time, just to sell a few more books or gain recognition.”
Lieberman called on European leaders to condemn statements that could possibly influence public opinion toward anti-Semitism. “We have witnessed in the past how small seeds of anti-Semitic hate can turn into a large fire that harms all of humanity,” said Lieberman.
In his poem, which was published in several European newspapers last week, the 85-year-old author claims that Israel’s nuclear reactor – and not Iran’s – presents a threat to world peace. Grass’ poem calls for Germany to cease supplying Israel with submarines, and warns against an Israeli strike on Iran.
Grass’ poem entitled “What must be said” drew strong criticism from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well. "His declarations are ignorant and shameful and every honest person in this world must condemn them," Netanyahu said.
In an interview published in Germany on Saturday, Grass claimed that his poem was meant to target the current Israeli government, not the country as a whole. "It's that which I criticize, a policy that keeps building settlements despite a UN resolution,” said Grass.