Would Israel have been better off if the country had decided to ignore the controversy surrounding Gunter Grass's new poem? Or does the report of a poem that feeds into the extreme critiques of what such amoralists call the 'Zionist entity' lead to a reaction, especially when the poet is a self-confessed member of the Waffen SS? I have not read the poem though its contents, if reported accurately, are unsurprising and fit the prejudices of the anti-Zionist left.
Perhaps, at 84, Grass is no longer able to assert a moral independence from Left or Right. If a strong voice could provide an independent counterweight to the alliance between extreme left and anti-semitism, now would have been the time. There is plenty of ammunition to criticise Israel without aligning yourself with eliminationists. That is the rhetoric of Iran. That is not the rhetoric of Israel.
"It is unacceptable," said Willi van Ooyen, a spokesman for a group that organises the traditional peace marches held each year on Easter weekend in Germany since 1960.
"Threats and preparations for war poison the political climate," said Ooyen, referring to concerns that Israel might launch a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities to stop a suspected weapons programme.
Israel will not be listening to this German peace activist soon. His paean of defenceless prostration before barbarism does not carry a voice in Israel (Talk often with a visibly big stick!)
But, as voices in Israel attest, the shrieks of disapproval have been fanned by a political class that wished to make an example of a left-wing Nobel prize winner, whose reputation was tarnished by a revelation of Nazi participation. Their actions were framed for domestic and US consumption: banning an author for equating Israel with a second holocaust. Grass's search for notoriety through poetic cliche may have strengthened the Israeli government, an outcome he would not have encouraged.
Yet, as war rolls closer, the Palestinians may have already lost their hold on the pedestal for victims. The height of international interest in this conflict has been reached, and fundamentalist intransigence leaves this local difficulty as an aside to the Iran/Israel tango.