Monday, April 16, 2012

Two Things to Learn from the Günter Grass Poem

A few weeks ago, the German Writer, (1999 Nobel Prize in Literature winner), Günter Grass published a poem called “What Must Be Said.” In this poem, Grass denounced the state of Israel for its nuclear weapons program and its recent aggression towards Iran, which he feels endangers world peace. A few stanzas of it here:
Why though have I stayed silent until now?
Because I thought my origin,
Afflicted by a stain never to be expunged
Kept the state of Israel, to which I am bound
And wish to stay bound,
From accepting this fact as pronounced truth.

Why do I say only now,
Aged and with my last ink,
That the nuclear power of Israel endangers
The already fragile world peace?
Because it must be said
What even tomorrow may be too late to say;
Also because we--as Germans burdened enough--
Could be the suppliers to a crime
That is foreseeable, wherefore our complicity
Could not be redeemed through any of the usual excuses.

As Mr. Grass, is a very public and well-known literary figure, it did not take long for the government of Israel to respond and condemn the poet, calling him anti-Semitic and barring him from ever entering the country by declaring him a persona non grata.

There are two lessons to learn right away from all this: 1) Poetry is still very fuck’n powerful! 2) If you dare to criticize Israel, you will automatically be declared anti-Semitic. (This is actually brought up very sharply—and in a humorous way—by Michael Robbins in one of his poems from Alien vs. Predator.

Unfortunately, too many people let Israel get away with what it’s doing. (Not just for its nuclear weapon threats, but for the occupation of the Palestinian people every day since its existence). Even Dave Eggers, author of the book, Zeitoun, refused to accept a literary award from the Günter Grass Foundation last week, most likely for fear of being associated with Grass.

This reminds me of the way that Revolution newspaper Writer Alan Goodman ended a short article he once wrote about the lack of criticism of Israel for its war crimes. He wrote: In this light, this statement by Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA is something that needs to be confronted by everyone, and poses a critical moral challenge: “After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel.”

No comments:

Post a Comment