Gunter Grass: A Strong Voice against Israel’s Colonial Occupation

Prof. As’ad Abdul Rahman

As long as human intellect maintains its humane message as a torch light, it increases the worth of its owner and the pertinent questions searching for the true purpose of one’s life and its ability to affect a positive change. Great intellects develop deep concerns to champion causes of the oppressed to attain justice. Germany’s great playwright and poet Gunter Grass is one of those intellectuals who was also awarded the Nobel Prize in 1999. Earlier this year, he published a poem with a political tone portraying Israel as a dire threat to international peace and security. The poem called on all to closely examine Israel’s nuclear weapons program before it acts on its threats to attack Iran. Consequently, Grass was denied entry to Israel and was denounced by its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel even called on the international committee which awarded Grass the Nobel Prize to take it back, but the committee unanimously rejected the Israeli demand.

A few weeks later, Grass published another poem calling to honor Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear expert who uncovered the Israeli covert nuclear weapons program in the British news media in 1986. He described Vanunu in his poem as “the hero of our time and the ideal example who should be emulated”. In a recent interview on the German NDR radio he called Israel “an occupying power, committing continuous aggression against other people (the Palestinians) including stealing their lands while “completely ignoring and/ or refusing to abide by international law and UN resolutions by driving the Palestinians out of their lands and homes and treating them as second class citizens”. “It pains me to point out these facts” he went on to say “as surly it pains every friend of Israel around the world and as much it pains many Israelis as well.”

His strong comments generated vicious attacks against him in Israel. The Hebrew Book Society severely criticized Grass and issued a statement calling upon all intellectuals around the world “to condemn and boycott him because his DNA is completely saturated with a Nazi Strain”. It added that Grass “served the Nazi regime and is still serving it by denying Israel’s right to defend itself while falsely claiming to be a friend of Israel, at the same time”. Grass responded by saying that he believed that refraining from criticizing Israeli policies in the occupied (Palestinian) territories, is to him like “committing an anti- Semitic act”.

Grass’ words found many voices of support. Spanish famous writer Juan Goytisolo said what Grass wrote and expressed are essentially “the facts that are known by conscientious observers around the world”. He noted that the Prime Minster of Israel in his campaign against Iran is using the Iranian nuclear program as ‘a scare crow’ considering it a prelude to another Holocaust and painting Ahmadi Nejad as another Hitler while ignoring completely Israel’s nuclear weapons that could wipe Iran from the face of this earth”. Goytisolo said he made many trips to Israel during the past 20 years where he met many Israeli professors and educators who ardently “oppose the Israeli settlements program in the West Bank”. Many of these Israelis, he added, agreed with John Daniel, the chief editor of the French Le Nouvel Observateur, who pointed to the fact that the Zionists aimed to establish a political state that is for Jews, like all the states around the world, but they only managed to establish a state unlike any state in our world, a state that ignores human rights and does not abide by international law or United Nations resolutions”.

While the Israeli colonial occupation managed to mobilize and hire pens and writers advocating the right of Israel to defend itself in order to justify the brutality of its occupation and apartheid policy, Grass stood tall and upright with confidence revealing the inhumane nature of the Israeli ethnic cleansing policy in the occupied territories, calling all people of conscience to stop and end this brutality against unarmed Palestinian civilians squeezed in a very large prison.

We are indeed looking at a great German intellectual in the person of Gunter Grass who chose to champion the highest humane values that are based on justice, equality, the rule of law and liberty for all regardless of race, gender, color, creed or ethnicity. Israel stands naked as an apartheid state-before such values- and as the last colonial occupying power in our world. Grass has only pointed out the true reality of Israel as exactly being portrayed by its brutal actions which are causing pain to every conscientious Jewish individual in Israel itself. The voice of Grass is one of the many voices of people of conscience around the world seeking peace and security for all, including Israelis. These people of conscience lost many who fell martyr in their peaceful struggle to foster justice. The examples of Rachel Kouri, Tom Hurndall and Vittorio Arrigoni are just a few. Their souls still shine like giant beams of light reaching high and revealing the Israeli apartheid and colonial practices that can never be hidden any more.