In Defense of Gunter Grass

Mark de Lark

It seems every time that someone of note criticizes the policies of the Israeli government, that person - be he or she a Jew or Gentile - is instantly branded as an anti-Semite. In this way, the Israeli government immediately succeeds in shifting the discussion from its policies to vilifications of others. As a result, many public figures are fearful of speaking out.

I say Hats off to Gunter Grass, the Nobel laureate for literature, who has displayed immense courage in his poem. Grass is not alone. No less a major figure, the great novelist Jose de Sousa Saramago who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988 opened the floodgates when after a visit to the occupied territories, he compared what was going on there to Auschwitz. He said "Living under the shadow of the Holocaust and expecting forgiveness for everything they will do in the name of their suffering seems coarse. They have learned nothing from the suffering of their parents and their grandparents. "

Grass published his poem within the democratic-liberal framework, which allows every person to express his views - provocative though they may be. Regrettably, he has now been declared persona non grata by the Government of Israel, which ostensibly stands for freedom and a democratic-liberal society.