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Israelis bar writer Grass in Iran outrage

ISRAEL has barred Nobel-winning author Guenter Grass over a poem that deeply criticised the Jewish state and suggested it was as much a danger as Iran.

The dispute with Grass, who only late in life admitted to a Nazi past, has drawn new attention to strains in Germany's complicated relationship with the Jewish state -- and also focused unwelcome light on Israel's own secretive nuclear programme.

In a poem called What Must Be Said, published last Wednesday, Grass (84) criticised what he described as Western hypocrisy over Israel's nuclear programme and labelled the country a threat to "already fragile world peace" over its belligerent stance on Iran.

The poem has touched a raw nerve in Israel, where officials have rejected any moral equivalence with Iran and been quick to note that Grass admitted only in a 2006 autobiography that he was drafted into the Waffen-SS at age 17 during World War II.

Grass's subsequent clarification that his criticism was directed at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not the country as a whole, did little to calm the outcry.

Israel's interior minister, Eli Yishai, announced that Grass would be barred from Israel, citing an Israeli law that allows him to prevent entry to ex-Nazis. But Yishai made clear the decision was related more to the recent poem than Grass's actions nearly 70 years ago.

"If Guenter wants to spread his twisted and lying works, I suggest he does this from Iran, where he can find a supportive audience," Yishai said.

Grass's poem took exception with Israel's alleged programme, and alluded to Germany's sale to Israel of submarines capable of firing nuclear missiles into Iran.

He further outraged Israelis by referring to their "alleged right to the first strike that could annihilate the Iranian people" -- even though Israel has not threatened the entire country, only its nuclear installations.

hnews@herald.ie


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