Over the years, taboos, like everything else, get rusted. Germany couldn’t raise its head for shame after the Holocaust. Anti-Semitism was the worst obscenity one could fling at someone. To speak against Israel was equivalent to speaking against Jews. Now close to seventy years have passed and Israel, through Ariel Sharon and others of his ilk, has done itself no favours by its aggression against Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Palestine. What it did in Gaza in 2009 was particularly embarrassing for long-time sympathisers. Small provocations were given devastating ripostes. Gunter Grass, German writer and poet, decided to break the taboo and shuffle off the coils of this historic guilt. It was not a very wise political thing to do for Grass because he had the snakeskin of his own Waffen SS past to slough off. He was just 17 then, and he had the guts to reveal this to an unsuspecting world six years ago in his autobiography, Peeling the Onion. But the SS tag is usually for life.
Grass’s poem What Must be Said, published in German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung, talks of a nuclear armed Israel endangering “the already fragile world peace”. He questions his own long silence on a threat from “war games” which would leave survivors as “footnotes”. “It is the alleged right to first strike/ that could annihilate the Iranian people,/ subjugated by a loud mouth” (read President Ahmadinejad.) There’s no evidence that Iran is going in for an atomic bomb, he says. (Now, how would Grass know? Why is he dabbling in things he can’t possibly be cognizant of? But that’s not the point). And if that’s not hard-hitting enough, he brackets “Israeli nuclear potential” with “Iranian nuclear sites”. Both are “beyond control, because they are not accessible to inspection”. And of course he opposes Germany giving nuclear submarines to Israel which could carry “all-destroying warheads”.