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Israel Declares Guenter Grass Persona Non-grata Over Critical Poem

4/9/2012 2:49 AM ET

Israel on Sunday declared German writer and Nobel laureate Guenter Grass persona non grata over the publication of his poem calling Israel a danger to world peace.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who is also the leader of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish party, banned Grass from entering Israel.

In his poem "What Must Be Said," published on Wednesday last, the 84 year-old former Waffen-SS member wrote that Israel plans to use its "atomic power" to "extinguish the Iranian people."

The poem, written in German, raises concern over Berlin's arms sales to Israel. It says the Jewish State must not be allowed to launch military strikes against the Islamic Republic, which is accused of developing nuclear weapons and seen as a threat to Israel's security.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yishai, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman condemned the poem, prompting a clarification by Grass that his criticism targeted Netanyahu, and not Israel as a whole.

Liberman said Grass was using anti-Semitism to sell more books, while Yishai termed the German's poems as "an attempt to fan the flame of hatred against the State of Israel and the people of Israel."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle responded to the controversial poem by saying that it was absurd to place Iran and Israel on the same moral level, and added: "Whoever plays down the threat from Iran is refusing to see reality."

by RTT Staff Writer

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