Despite Israeli charges, Gunter Grass is not an anti-Semite

German author Gunter Grass has been accused by Israel of spreading blood libel and being an anti-Semite. That is not true; he simply opposes the Netanyahu government

Gunter Grass, the famed German author, got himself into hot water recently. He wrote a controversial poem (unfortunately, I failed to find an adequate English translation, though I did see an adequate Hebrew one), which accused Israel of possessing nuclear weapons, plotting an attack against Iran, possibly using nukes against it and possibly using German-supplied nuclear submarines to deliver those weapons. For his trouble, the Israeli Embassy in Berlin denounced him, saying, “What must be said is that it belongs to European tradition to accuse the Jews of ritual murder before the Passover celebration… It used to be Christian children whose blood the Jews used to make matza (unleavened bread), today it is the Iranian people that the Jewish state purportedly wants to wipe out.”

Impressive use of the anti-Semitism charge, which is diplomatic Israel’s first line of defense these days. But is it true? Let’s pick it apart, beginning with Grass’s claims.

Does Israel have nukes?  According to just about every source in the world, the answer is yes. Shimon Peres is widely credited as the father of the Israeli nuke plan and has never denied it. John Crossman (formerly Mordechai Va’anunu) served 18 years, many of them in solitary confinement, in an Israeli prison for exposing this truth.

Are those weapons supervised? Of course not. Israel is above such petty laws.

Is Israel plotting an attack against Iran? Yes. Netanyahu and his ministers have said so time and time again. Recently, Netanyahu said that an attack on Iran is not an “if” question but rather a “when” question. His Minister of Security, Ehud Barak, said openly that in case of such an attack, Israel expects 500 casualties (Hebrew). This week, the government ministers were informed that this number has been notched down to 300 (Hebrew).

Is Israel considering using nukes against Iran? Yes, or at least it gives good reason to believe it does. Netanyahu has said time and time again that “all options are on the table,” and that means the nuclear option is on the table as well. Reuters has reported that Israel considers using tactical nukes, as did a Fox News commentator, quoting an Israeli source claimed to be knowledgeable and accurate (here, around the 2:15-2:25 mark). One could plausibly make the claim that this is just psychological warfare on Israel’s part, and that not even Ehud Barak is that insane; but can one blame Grass for falling victim to Israel’s psychological offensive? When you’re playing the regional madman, don’t blame people if they think you’re actually barking mad.

Will German-provided submarines be used to deliver those tactical nuclear weapons? Quite possibly. Israel’s Dolphin-class submarines, provided by Germany, are widely assumed to be armed with nuclear weapons.

Is Netanyahu considering wiping out the Iranian people? Considering some of his statements, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. One of Netanyahu’s aides claimed Netanyahu thinks of the Iranians as Amalek, the mystical people who are the enemies of God and who are to be wiped out to the last. Netanyahu never formally retracted this genocidal comment, and he never paid a public price for it. He also keeps referring to the Iranians as Nazis – and to Nazis and Iranians as Amalekites.

So, basically everything said by Grass is plausible, at least within the frame of the psychological warfare waged by Israel. The truth is never anti-Semitic. There was no blood libel here, no anti-Semitism, no claim of children’s blood used for ritual purposes. Furthermore, criticism of Israel’s intended policy has nothing whatsoever to do with Judaism or Jews. The claim (often made by Israeli officials) that Israel represents world Jewry, and that hence any attack on it is an attack on them, is a claim that Jews everywhere owe allegiance to a country of which they are not citizens and to which they never made any formal vow of loyalty, and thus can credibly be considered to be itself anti-Semitic.

Had the Israeli Foreign Ministry any shame left, it would not use the phrases it did against Grass. But, unsurprisingly, it did. The good thing which may come out of this affair is that people may learn to discount screeches of anti-Semitism from Israel with a sigh of “there they go again.”

More on this issue:
Günter Grass, persona non grata in Israel
More power to Gunter Grass for ‘What must be said’