Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The World From Berlin: "Israel's Government Has Reacted Absurdly"

    Wednesday, April 11, 2012   No comments

German politicians across the spectrum are criticizing Israel's travel ban on author Günter Grass after the publication of his controversial poem. Editorialists condemn the decision, and some are alarmed over what the development could mean for traditionally close ties between the two nations.
The publication of German Nobel laureate Günter Grass's controversial poem last week may have sparked an international uproar, but the reaction by Israel, the target of his critical verse, has also come under heavy fire.

On Sunday Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai banned the 84-year-old author from entering his country. The move came after the Thursday release of a poem in which Grass described Israel as a threat to world peace and insinuated the country might "annihilate" the Iranian population.
In a statement, Yishai said that Grass, a former Waffen SS soldier in World War II, was a "persona non grata" in Israel after publishing the poem, entitled "What Must Be Said." But in both Israel and Germany, many voices -- including those who have been critical of Grass' poem -- are describing the response as "exaggerated."

Yishai heads an ultra-Orthodox Jewish party in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government, and the leftist Israeli daily Haaretz wrote that the interior minister's declaration "simply smacks of populism."

In Germany, deputy head of the Social Democrats' parliamentary group Gernot Erler called the move "wrong and counterproductive." Grass has strongly aligned himself with the center-left party in the past, often campaigning on their behalf.

Renate Künast, co-leader of the enviromentalist Greens in parliament, said the ban was a shame. "In the end, everyone will now be talking about (Grass') travel ban and no longer about the content of the poem," she said. German Health Minister Daniel Bahr, a member of the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), which shares power in government with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Party, told daily Die Welt that the action had been "totally excessive."

And Israel's former ambassador to Germany, Avi Primor, told public broadcaster ARD that Jerusalem's response had been "exaggerated, a little bit hysterical or populist -- in any case, not justified."



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