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But why have I kept silent till now?
Because I thought my own origins,
Tarnished by a stain that can never be removed,
meant I could not expect Israel, a land
to which I am, and always will be, attached,
to accept this open declaration of the truth.
Why only now, grown old,
and with what ink remains, do I say:
Israel’s atomic power endangers
an already fragile world peace?
Because what must be said
may be too late tomorrow;
and because – burdened enough as Germans –
we may be providing material for a crime
that is foreseeable, so that our complicity
wil not be expunged by any
of the usual excuses.
And granted: I’ve broken my silence
because I’m sick of the West’s hypocrisy;
and I hope too that many may be freed
from their silence, may demand
that those responsible for the open danger we face renounce the use of force,
may insist that the governments of
both Iran and Israel allow an international authority
free and open inspection of
the nuclear potential and capability of both.
Günter Grass’s poem provokes outrage – among all the same people who always defend Israel’s policies. I don’t think his position requires any sort of radical politics in the United States. A simple rejection of imperial expansion, racist and bigoted policies both internal and external to the nation of Israel, a further rejection of nuclear blackmail by the rightwing governments that have infected the politics of that nation since the assassination of their last hope for peace – is adequate.
Most of the world will not find this poem offensive. Most of the world shouldn’t be called anti-semites by the most bigoted defenders of Israel’s policies and politics. We’re clear in our own minds of the differentiation between human beings whose ethnic background is as Jews – no matter what nation calls them citizen – and the domestic and foreign policies of the nation of Israel.