restating the widely held assumption that Israel has nuclear weapons
and alleging its eagerness to attack Iran is a threat to world peace.
Not much of a poem, more of an opinion piece,
and sloppy, with its odd claim that an Israeli strike
on nuclear sites could “annihilate the Iranian people”.
But then, why not turn opinion pieces into poems?
They seem to be more effective that way:
many have written opinion pieces saying what Mr Grass said
but none of them got a response like the one he got
when Israel’s minister of the interior, Eli Yishai barred him from entering the country.
“If Günter Grass wants to continue to distribute his false and distorted works,”
said Mr Yishai
“I suggest he do so from Iran, where he’ll find an appreciative audience.”
The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz called Mr Yishai’s action “hysteria”.
“He doesn’t even detect the irony in his words,”
the paper wrote in an editorial.
“Because it’s precisely his decision not to let Grass enter Israel
because of a poem he wrote
that is characteristic of dark regimes like those in Iran or North Korea.”
The Israeli government makes it harder and harder
to support the country while criticising its policies.
In America, Peter Beinart calls for a boycott
of goods produced in Jewish settlements on the West Bank
as a last-ditch effort to save the two-state solution
and hence the Zionist dream of an Israel both Jewish and democratic.
For this the Jewish establishment organisations revile him.
He tells Terry Gross: those who think the boycott cannot work
please, give me another suggestion for drawing this line.
But Gideon Levy, in the pages of Ha’aretz
declares it is already too late:
the two-state solution is dead.
There are too many settlers, and only a fantasist
could believe Israel will ever have the will to evict them.
The remaining peace organisations, like B’Tzelem and Gush Shalom
are heroic, but no more than “twitching” remnants.
Yet even Mr Levy shies away from the conclusion:
that if the two-state solution is dead
the moral agenda shifts to a struggle
for full Israeli citizenship, with voting rights, for every Palestinian.
In other words, civil war, as far as the eye can see.
It is a solution as impossible as any other.
My poem is at least as crummy as Günter Grass’s.
But it will be harder for Israel to declare me a persona non grata
because I’m Jewish.
This sort of encapsulates the point.
The contradiction is between the state’s democratic character
and its ethnic one.
Every state has internal contradictions; human beings are not formulas,
and Israel’s tension between democratic equality and Jewish character
is not necessarily fatal to either.
But the Israeli government keeps doing its best to make it so.
They are turning the world away from them.
Fixated on the spectre of Iranian nukes,
they can’t see what’s happening to them.
Not that anyone ever does.
We focus on technological threats,
but it’s about allegiance.
The existential threat
is in the hearts and minds of allies and constituents,
in the allegiance or indifference we win or lose
through the persuasiveness of the claims we make
to the world, and to ourselves.
Persuasiveness and truth are not synonymous
but in the long run, they tend to converge.