Jahn, Egbert. “‘With What Ink Remains’: Stabbing a Pen into the Hornet’s Nest of Israeli, Jewish and German Sensitivities.” In his World Political Challenges (trans. Anna Güttel-Bellert; Heidelberg and Berlin: Springer, 2015): 187-203.
Once again, a prominent member of public life in Germany has been the brunt of serious accusations of anti-Semitism, and is now likely to be ostracised both in Germany and abroad. This time, it is Günter Grass who with his brief political declaration on the foreign and military policy of Israel has been greeted with fury and condemnation from almost all sides and rejection elsewhere, while attracting support only from the margins of the political establishment. However, there are some sharp critics of the declaration by Grass who defend the author against the accusation of being anti-Semitic in general. And as always in such cases there are mumblings in the hidden corners of society that it is not permitted in Germany to say anything critics about Jews or Israel without immediately being battered by the political and moral bludgeon of the ruling German political class and being branded a social pariah. And so the most prudent reaction was to say nothing on the subject of Israel and the Jews, since unlike Günter Grass, not everyone can afford to break their silence on this subject and present their political declaration in the form of a poem, with the special protection of artistic expression. However, the German chattering classes are once more in full agreement with Grass; only the outsiders of the Easter March movement had the courage to say so in public.
As in the cases of Jenninger, Möllemann, Walser, Hohmann and Sarrazin, the Grass affair has its own particular features. What is common to all of them, however, is bare, overarching condemnation and labelling as “anti-Semitic”, guaranteed to ruin any reputation, instead of dealing with the opinions set out in the text itself and to disagree with them individually on a factual basis, something that would also be entirely possible in the case of Grass. Above all, nobody in Israel and in the world would claim that Israel has a “right to a first (nuclear) strike” that “could eliminate the Iranian people”, a ridiculous conjecture that in the context of the public threat by Israel, however, to potentially make a conventional air strike on Iranian nuclear power facilities adopts a highly explosive tone. The downplaying of the repeated official Iranian threat to destroy the state of Israel, referring to it as “loudmouthery”, fails to recognise the dangerous potential power wielded by ideologues who currently (as yet) have no potential for gaining real political power, not least due to the military strength of Israel and its de-facto alliance partners, the USA. Grass is right only in stating that in Germany (unlike in Israel and the USA) there is no political discussion regarding the attitude of Germany to the Israeli threat of an offensive war against the Iranian nuclear power stations. There is much evidence to support the fact that rather than triggering it, the Grass affair will probably make such a debate less likely since it merely mobilises traditional, indiscriminate thought patterns rather than challenging them.
Since this lecture was given on 16 April 2012, relations between Iran and the west have improved enormously at a fundamental level following the election of Hassan Rohani as President on 14 June 2013. He initiated a far more cooperative foreign and atomic policy in Iran. As a result, the risk of war has been considerably reduced.