Gunter Grass: In Banning Me, Israel's Interior Minister Resembles German Stasi Chief

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Gunter Grass said Wednesday that Israel's decision to bar him from visiting the country following his critical reminded him of similar steps that dictatorial governments have taken against him.

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Gunter GrassCredit: AP

The German literature Nobel laureate said in a reaction piece published by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung that he has previously only been barred from entering a nation by then Communist-ruled East Germany and the military junta in Myanmar about 25 years ago.

Grass says the tone of Israel's announcement reminded him of the reasoning then given by East Germany's head of Stasi Erich Mielke.

In his "What Must Be Said" poem, Grass criticized what he called Western hypocrisy over Israel's nuclear program and labeled the country a threat to "already fragile world peace" over its belligerent stance regarding Iran.

On Sunday, Interior Minister Eli Yishai declared Grass persona non grata in Israel, saying that "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."

"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,” he added.

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.”

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.