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Monday, April 9, 2012

Guenter Grass, Israel and freedom of speech

April 9, 2012

Someone is Israel has said Guenter Grass is "fanning the flames of hatred" with his political poem. I say Israel- with its policies that if not are by definition ethnic cleansing or apartheid, closely resemble them- fans the flames of hatred quite effectively. The hatred is about policies, not anti-Jewish sentiments. It is a reflex to call someone anti-Semitic when they disagree with Israeli policies against Palestinians.

An Israeli on the PRI program I caught on the radio today said there is no silence, that people in Israel are talking about this and about not wanting to invade Iran. Maybe. I think it depends on how you look at it. I'm sure Israelis have many points of view. But, there is a sort of effort coming from somewhere- Zionists, American Jews, the hardline right, some combination- that seeks to paint anyone who disagrees with Israeli policies or who wants to tell the Palestinian point of view as anti-Semitic (banning people from Israel, getting American profs fired for saying Palestinians deserve rights, too, etc). And let's talk about America. You can't talk about the Palestinian point of view or say Israel might be wrong in its approach to Palestinians and Arab countries without a high probability of people thinking you are anti-Semitic or crazy. If you write to Congress to oppose specific illegal or unfair actions Israel is taking against Palestinians, they will write you a letter about how great Israel is. On the floor of Congress, Senators and Representatives preface any remarks that could be construed as trying to get Israel to respect settlement freezes, for example, with how great a friend their state is to Israel and how awesome it is. In these types of actions and bias, there is a kind of silencing going on. So, while I get that Israelis discuss things and this is great and free, there is still a kind of silence surrounding these things that prevents anyone from being able to make progress on pressuring Israel to comply with UN resolutions and other standards everyone else has to comply with.

The part about Israel wanting to annihilate Iran is being debated as well. Many Israelis don't want to, if the much publicized messages of love to Iran are any indication. But the government is terrorizing Palestinians, preventing their return and normal life, and advocating attacking it's neighbors on a regular basis. It goaded the US into attacking Iraq. It's trying to do the same (and would succeed under and Republican administration) with Iran currently. 

Some say the Iran comparison is unfair. I'd say not entirely. Obviously, one is democratically elected and the other not so much. That is a difference. But I think the point is that Israel with its policies to deny Palestinians rights is less democratic than one would think. Also, the rhetoric coming from each of these entities is, at times, equally bellicose and divorced from reality.

This article from above also says some are angry about the moral equivalence shown between Iran and Israel, but if Israel would let refugees come back and adopt a one state strategy in which all had equal rights and freedom of movement, I bet Iran would change its tune or set the Arab world against it. If Israel started following the law, no one would have any reason to have anything against it. They want to talk the talk, but not walk the walk.

I think the only debate is whether one can call it poetry. Maybe the German translation would qualify, I have no idea, but I'd guess it's more of an editorial.

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