Nobel Prize literature laureate Gunter Grass has caused a controversy with a poem, not just because it criticizes Israel, but because it shows up the hypocrisy of the countries which, like the USA, are waxing so angry at Iran’s suspected nuclear programme, but which keep quiet about Israel’s, even though it is Israel which is about to attack Iran. Grass, the 1999 Nobel laureate winner, who turns 85 in October, is also significant because he is no Nazi apologist, but as a German, has called upon his countrymen to admit the crimes their nation committed, one of which, and perhaps the main one, was the Holocaust, in which the Jews of Germany, were killed. Grass lived through this time, both World War II and the succeeding Allied Occupation, as a teenager, but it is the period that informs his writings. The guilt of the Holocaust is supposed to have permeated the whole of Europe and played a role in the creation of Israel in 1948. For a German of Grass’s prominence to oppose an Israeli attack on Iran is significant. It reflects the unwillingness of Europeans to get involved in another American adventure in another Muslim land. However, the poem, published on Wednesday in the Sueddeautche Zeitung as well as in other newspapers, including Italy’s La Reppublica, is provocatively titled ‘What Must Be Said’. By the very title, Grass carefully placed himself outside the ranks of Nazis and other Jew-haters, but very seriously said what had to be said: Israel has become a threat to global peace.
However, he has not pointed out why Israel is such a thorn in the flesh of the world: it is in illegal occupation of Palestine, and has forced the Palestinian people into exile after violently taking over their land, when the British vacated their mandate over Palestine in 1948. That date reminds Pakistanis that this was when India forcibly occupied Kashmir. India and Israel formed a nexus, in which their main enemy has been Pakistan. However, Israel has relied for its survival on its penetration in US domestic politics, and the two usurpers have won US backing for their illegal occupations.
However, Grass is not an isolated voice. There seems an increasing realisation, including within the USA, that the Americans cannot play the role of a responsible state, let alone the world’s sole superpower, if its foreign policy is held hostage by one particular lobby. It is time that Pakistan realised that the USA’s policies are dictated in Israel, and now in New Delhi as well. Pakistan is not just a friend of the Palestinian people and a supporter of the Kashmiri people, but also does not want any further disturbance in her neighbourhood, particularly not on a friendly neighbour like Iran.