Saturday, April 7, 2012

Gunter Grass’s Poem on Israel and Iran

I have to applaud certain aspects of Gunter Grass’s recent poem, “What Must Be Said.” His writing breaks the silence on the potential for the current Israeli-Iranian standoff to explode into a terribly dangerous war. I disagree with his conclusion, though—that Israel’s nuclear program should be subject to international inspection or control, parallel to Iran’s. I don’t think there is an equivalency between Iran’s aggressive posture toward Israel and Israel’s scrambling for its right to exist in a region that too often has proved hostile to its survival.

What remains surprisingly silent in Grass’s breaking of the silence is the plight of the Palestinian people. As we Jews gather at Passover seders all over the world to celebrate our own freedom from slavery in biblical times, it remains painfully ironic that Palestine remains a country in the Middle East that does not have its freedom.

The solution to the standoff between Israel and Iran is not to disarm Israel and leave it helpless before its larger and often hostile neighbors. The solution is a just resolution that gives the Palestinians full statehood on the West Bank and in Gaza, and leaves Israel in peace.

I don't see the rationale behind inspecting or controlling Israel's nuclear program until we have an international ban on all atomic weapons--and I hope that happens sooner rather than later.

True, Gunter Grass’s poem is nothing like the eloquent and gorgeous political poetry of Pablo Neruda or June Jordan. Grass's poem is more like an essay in verse. But it’s not every day that a poem becomes front-page news. That in itself is something to celebrate on this double holiday weekend, where we mark both the exodus of the Jews from slavery and the teachings of Jesus that the meek shall inherit the earth—or what’s left of it after this mess we’re making of the environment. Justice and sustainability—bring them together, and the future will not seem so dire.

Other recent posts about writing topics: 
How to Get Published
Getting the Most from Your Writing Workshop
How Not to Become a Literary Dropout
Putting Together a Book Manuscript
Working with a Writing Mentor
How to Deliver Your Message
Does the Muse Have a Cell Phone?
Why Write Poetry? 
Poetic Forms: IntroductionThe SonnetThe SestinaThe GhazalThe Tanka

Praise and Lament
How to Be an American Writer


  1. Thanks for the thoughtful piece, Zack. I've been pondering the Grass poem myself. You offer good insights, especially about the Palestinians.

  2. I got another comment via email saying that ALL nuclear weapons programs should be subject to international inspection, and I think that's a fair addition. Israel is such a small country, though, that seems like it could be problematic in their case.

  3. Yes. But even a small country with even ONE nuclear weapon could set the fuse for catastrophe. So I agree with you: ALL nuclear weapons programs might be subjected to international inspection.