Gnter Grass barred from Israel

Israel has declared Günter Grass persona non grata, deepening a spat with the Nobel-winning author over a poem that deeply criticized the Jewish state and suggested it was as much a danger as Iran.

In a poem called “What Must Be Said” published April 4, Grass, 84, criticized what he described as Western hypocrisy over Israel’s nuclear program and labeled the country a threat to “already fragile world peace” over its belligerent stance on Iran.

Grass’ subsequent clarification that his criticism was directed at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not the country as a whole, did little to calm the outcry.

On April 8, Israel’s interior minister, Eli Yishai, announced that Grass would be barred from Israel, citing an Israeli law that allows him to prevent entry to ex-Nazis.

Grass admitted to his Nazi past late in life, writing in his 2006 autobiography that he was drafted into the Waffen SS Nazi paramilitary organization at age 17 in the final months of World War II.

Grass’ most famous book, “The Tin Drum,” is about the rise of Nazism as told through the lives of ordinary people. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1999. — ap