The Hebrew Writers Association in Israel on Monday denounced a controversial poem by Nobel Literature laureate Guenter Grass in which he criticizes Israel for threatening to attack Iran. The writers association said it would ask International PEN, a worldwide body of writers, to "publicly distance itself from Grass' remarks and to come out against all expressions of delegitimization against Israel and the Jewish people."
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"Even before the traces of the swastika on his clothes were gone, Grass joined the crusade against the State of Israel," the Hebrew Writers Association said in a public statement on Monday, referring to Grass' days as a member of the Hitler youth and Nazi SS. "Grass should clean his clothes and his past, express remorse for the days when he served in the Nazi Death Army, because his terrible statement cast a dark shadow over all of his writings."
The chairman of the association, Herzl Hakak, called on Israeli and international writers to denounce Grass and said the Nobel Prize committee should also weigh in on the issue. Hakak emphasized that the Nobel does not give its recipients immunity and called on Grass to issue an apology.
Grass' poem, "What Must Be Said," claimed Israel was preparing a first strike to "wipe out the Iranian people" as it attempts to derail Iran's nuclear weapons program.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Eli Yishai is coming under fire from German politicians for his announcement Sunday that Grass would be considered a persona non grata in Israel. A minister in Chancellor Angela Merkel's German government has reportedly denounced the Israeli visa ban on Grass as "exaggerated."
"I cannot imagine that Mr. Grass has any interest in showing up in Israel after the explicit criticism he has faced in Germany," German Health Minister Daniel Bahr reportedly said in an interview slated to appear on Tuesday in the daily Die Welt.
The minister, who also criticized Grass, was apparently not speaking for the government. He is a senior member of the Free Democratic Party, a junior partner in Merkel's cabinet. Die Welt issued a summary to other media in advance of publication.
Attacking Grass, Bahr said he was "sad to see that someone who has experienced all the controversies of post-war Germany remains marked by so much prejudice and stubbornness." However, he called the visa ban an "utterly exaggerated" response," Die Welt said.
Renate Kuenast, co-leader of the opposition Green Party in Germany's parliament, rebuked Grass for his refusal to recognize that Israel was threatened by Iran, but she also criticized Yishai's move to declare him a persona non grata.
"It means everyone will end up discussing the ban instead of Grass' views," she told DPA.
Grass has been furiously attacked in Germany over the poem. Early Saturday, someone daubed graffiti on a sculpture in the city of Goettingen commemorating free speech which Grass commissioned and donated. The red paint called on him to "shut your mouth."