German Writer Gunter Grass Criticizes Israel in New Poem

Nobel Prize literature laureate, declared 'persona non grata' by Israel over a poem criticizing its stance on Iran, lauds nuclear whistle-blower Vanunu as a 'hero.'

After drawing fire for criticizing Israel's stance on Iran in a controversial poem earlier this year, prominent German writer Gunter Grass confronts Israeli policy in a new poem, in which he lauds Mordechai Vanunu, a former nuclear technician imprisoned by Israel for years for revealing details of Israel's nuclear program to the British media.   
In April, Israel declared the Nobel Prize literature laureate Grass "persona non grata" after he published a poem saying it threatened world peace in its standoff with Tehran and that it must not be allowed to launch military strikes against 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.

Grass's words were also denounced by mainstream political parties in Germany, where any strong condemnation of Israel is taboo because of the Nazi-perpetrated Holocaust.

In a new poem, part of a collection released ahead of Grass's 85th birthday and the Frankfurt Book Fair, the German writer calls Vanunu a "paragon" and a "modern-day hero."  

Relating to Vanunu, Grass writes that only "heroes such as that are needed in the world, which utters words of peace while planning destruction." The poem details Vanunu's life story, beginning from his childhood in Beer Sheba, through his studies at the yeshiva, his work at the Dimona nuclear reactor, and finally his conversion to Christianity.

The Nobel laureate describes how Vanunu was seduced and kidnapped by Israeli agents abroad, after which the former Dimona worker was charged with espionage and placed in solitary confinement for 18 years.

Grass calls Vanunu a "righteous man, who has remained loyal to his country the entire time," comparing him to the Biblical Joseph, who was thrown into the cistern by his brothers.

Grass, who is most famous for his 1959 novel "The Tin Drum," denies he is anti-Semitic. He has urged his countrymen for decades to come to terms with their Nazi past, but his moral authority has never fully recovered from his admission in 2006 that he once served in Adolf Hitler's Waffen SS.