by Stephen Lendman
Touching the most sensitive nerves has risks. Nearly always hostile responses follow.
Criticizing Israel is the third rail of US politics. It's also largely off limits in scoundrel media managed news, op-eds, and editorials.
Gunter Grass took the risks. He acted forthrightly. His new poem "What Must Be Said" explained that he'll no longer be silent on what's long been known but virtually never discussed publicly.
Israel's nuclear armed and dangerous. A previous article discussed it. Portions are repeated below to explain what's vital to know.
In his 1991 book, "The Samson Option: Israel's Nuclear Arsenal and America Foreign Policy," Seymour Hersh discussed its strategy to launch a massive nuclear counterattack if it felt its existence threatened.
In his 1997 book, "Open Secrets: Israeli Nuclear and Foreign Policies," Israel Shahak said that, helped by the Israeli Lobby (and Christian Zionists), "Israel (is) clearly prepar(ing) itself to seek overtly a hegemony over the entire Middle East (with no) hesitati(on) to use for the purpose all means available, including nuclear ones."
According to Hebrew University's Professor of Military History Martin Van Creveld, "We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you (it) will happen before Israel goes under."
Israel hypocritically maintains double standard duplicity. It wants other regional states denied what it reserves the right to have and use preemptively.
In 1948, David Ben-Gurion began Israeli efforts to develop nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons technology.
Ernst David Bergmann, became the father of Israel's bomb. He ran the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission.(IAEC).
In his farewell address, Ben-Gurion told the Israeli Armaments Development Authority (RAFAEL):
"I am confident, based not only on what I heard today, that our science can provide us with the weapons that are needed to deter our enemies from waging war against us."
He and Shimon Peres became Israel's leading figures for nuclear and CBW programs. They wanted technology developed to use these and other weapons preemptively against perceived or manufactured threats.
Since 1973, Israel had none. Its belligerence belies it. It roguishly acts as a regional menace. With a powerful nuclear arsenal and sophisticated delivery systems, its threat extends globally.
In 1952, the Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) was established. In 1964, the Dimona Nuclear Research Center/reactor was secretly completed near Bersheeba in the Negev as a heavy water moderated, natural uranium reactor/plutonium reprocessing plant to make nuclear weapons.
After the 1967 Six Day War, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan ordered full-scale production. It averaged 4 - 12 bombs per year. US presidents since Lyndon Johnson supported the program.
By the early 1970s, Israel had advanced nuclear technology, world class scientists, and several dozen bombs ready to launch. Today it has hundreds and delivery systems able to hit distant targets accurately.
Development was possible through elaborate deception and America's active complicity. US universities trained Israeli scientists. They had access to domestic weapons labs.
Since the early 1970s, advanced technology transfers were made. They included supercomputers able to design sophisticated nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Mordechai Vanunu's mid-1980s documented revelations provided proof.
A longtime nuclear technician, he smuggled out dozens of confirming photos and scientific documents. On October 5, 1986, the London Times said:
"THE SECRETS of a subterranean factory engaged in the manufacture of Israeli nuclear weapons have been uncovered by the Sunday Times Insight team."
"Hidden beneath the Negev desert, the factory has been producing nuclear atomic warheads for the last 20 years. Now it has almost certainly begun manufacturing thermo-nuclear weapons." Their yields can destroy entire cities.
Vanunu was named the source. Nuclear experts examined his documents. They called them genuine, and concluded that Israel's sophisticated technology enabled it "to build up a formidable nuclear arsenal."
His revelations cost him dearly. On October 12, 1986, Mossad agents lured him to Rome. They beat, drugged, and kidnapped him. In 1986/87, he was secretly tried and sentenced to 18 years incarceration for espionage and treason.
In America and Israel, whisleblowers take great risks. Vanunu's still harassed, mistreated, forbidden from talking with journalists, and can't leave the country.
On July 2, 2007, he again was imprisoned for six months for speaking to foreign journalists. Israel's District Court later reduced it to three "in light of (his) ailing health and the absence of claims that his actions put the country's security in jeopardy."
In January 2008, he was sentenced to six months community service.
Daniel Ellsberg called him "the preeminent hero of the nuclear era." In July 2007, Amnesty International (AI) named him "a prisoner of conscience."
Vanunu says "I am neither a traitor nor a spy. I only wanted the world to know what was happening." They had every right to know and still do.
On December 28, 2009, he was again arrested following an alleged meeting with his girlfriend, a Norwegian national. House arrest followed.
Years after his initial imprisonment, he's still effectively in one. In May 2010, he began serving another three-month prison term, reportedly in isolation. He's vulnerable to rearrest anytime for any reason or none at all. That's how police states operate. Israel's one of the worst. So is America. Both threaten humanity.
Israel is one of three known nuclear outlaws. Besides India and Pakistan, it never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) nor allows inspections. North Korea is a declared but unverified nuclear power.
Since the 1970s, Israel's official position is that it chose "an option to produce electricity using nuclear reactors. (This) requires promoting nuclear knowledge and research, preparing sites suitable for building nuclear power plants," and weighing the economic benefits.
Independent experts know Dimona has no civilian nuclear program. Technology development is entirely weapons-related. They include boosted fission ones and small neutron bombs. They're designed to maximize gamma radiation while minimizing blast effects and long-term radiation. They're designed to kill while leaving structures intact.
Israel also has long range ballistic missiles; sophisticated aircraft, surface ships, and submarines able to launch nuclear strikes; cruise missiles, artillery shells, and land mines with the same capability; greater ability than needed for defensive deterrence; and propensity to strike first rather than first assess whether or not serious threats exist.
Israel faces none. In contrast, it imperils the region and beyond.
"What Must Be Said" explains the risks. Grass courageously did what few others dare. He did it his way. His poem won't be remembered for its style or grace. It will for his important message.
He discussed an open secret. He kicked open a hornet's nest doing it. Unjustifiable invectives assail him. That's the price paid for explaining important truths. He won't back off. Neither should we. The issue's on the table. Discussing and spreading it's essential.
Grass can handle criticism. He knew the risks and took them. He's assailed now from all sides. Netanyahu, an unindicted war criminal, attacked him, saying:
"His declarations are ignorant and shameful and every honest person in this world must condemn them." His motives are anti-Semitic, he claimed.
"For six decades he hid his past as a member in the Waffen SS, so it is no surprise that he defines the only Jewish state as the greatest threat to world peace and opposes it equipping itself with means of self defense."
On the one hand, Netanyahu didn't deny Grass' accusations. On the other, he omitted saying he himself revealed his SS past. He was 16, young and foolish at a time his nation was being destroyed.
Maturity transformed him. He became Germany's moral voice and conscience. He sides with history's forgotten victims. He calls his native country psychologically damaged. It's ugly past won't be forgotten, nor should it.
Netanyahu called comparing Israel with Iran shameful, saying:
"In Iran there is a regime that denies the Holocaust and calls for the destruction of Israel." It does neither and Netanyahu knows it. Nonetheless, his bluster added:
"It is Iran, not Israel, which poses a threat to world peace. It is Iran, not Israel, which threatens to destroy other countries. It is Iran, not Israel, which supports terror organizations that fire missiles on innocent civilians. It is Iran, not Israel, which supports the massacre that the Syrian regime is carrying out on its civilians. It is Iran, not Israel, which stones women, hangs gay people, and ruthlessly suppresses the tens of millions of citizens in its country."
Israel threatens world peace. Iran threatens no one. Israel reigns terror regionally and beyond. Iran peacefully coexists with neighbors. Israel commits crimes of war and against humanity. Iran hasn't attacked another country in over two centuries. Israel marginalizes, discriminates against, and persecutes non-Jews. Iran grants non-Muslims equal rights.
Israel is a nuclear menace. Iran's program is entirely peaceful. Even Mossad, US intelligence, and IAEA inspectors agree. Israel won't let anyone examine its nuclear facilities for good reason.
It's got plenty to hide. It's secret long ago became open. Grass discussed what Vanunu exposed decades earlier. The difference is Israel can't imprison him or destroy his distinction as Germany's most celebrated author and 1999 Literature Nobel laureate.
Nonetheless, Haaretz writer Anshel Pfeffer headlined, "The moral blindness of Gunter Grass," saying:
His polemic "baseless(ly alleges) that Israel is threatening to annihilate the entire Iranian people."
"(T)here is something so obviously wrong about him saying this, something so morally blind that all arguments are superfluous."
Israel, not Grass, threatens war on Iran. If nuclear weapons are used, millions of lives are risked. Saying so is important, not baseless. He deserves praise, not condemnation.
Pfeffer also assailed his SS past. Like Netanyahu and others, hitting below the belt substitutes for confronting hard facts honestly and accepting what needs to be said. Not Netanyahu. Not Pfeffer. Not many other truth- ducking scoundrels. That's moral blindness and cowardice.
Pfeffer also attacked Grass for lacking "basic human decency." Unlike himself and other critics, Grass acted honorably and courageously. He stuck his neck out because it's important. The only justifiable criticism is he should have done it much earlier. But it's never too late to do the right thing.
Der Spiegel's literary editor Sebastian Hammelehle headlined, "Gunter Grass's Lyrical First Strike," saying:
Grass "implie(d) an unpleasant flippancy: the flippancy of breaking taboos. (He's) such a vain man that, when asked to write for the German weekly Die Zeit on the occasion of prominent German writer Heinrich Boll's death, he wrote almost exclusively about himself."
"Now he has packed his political opinions into a poem that is almost as simple. What pathos! It might have been better if he hadn't begun his verses with the word 'I' at the beginning of each sentence, and instead debated the situation in Israel more thoroughly."
"Then he very quickly would have gotten an idea about how the people of Israel must feel in psychological terms, being surrounded by enemies."
"Never in the history of postwar Germany has an intellectual as prominent as Grass presented such hollow clichés about Israel in such a vain manner."
"It is in no way certain that the nuclear attack implied in the poem with which Israel 'could annihilate the Iranian people' will even happen in the foreseeable future. But one thing is certain: The lyrical first strike has already been launched -- from German soil."
Like other morally compromised critics, Hammelehle substituted invectives for well deserved praise, for doing what needs to be done, especially from someone of his distinction. There ought to be a Nobel award for that.
The New York Times also betrayed its readers. It's standard NYT policy. Instead of highlighting Grass' distinguished credentials and courage for doing the right thing, it mostly focused on critics and suggestions of anti-Semitism.
So did other major broadsheets, including the London Guardian. It quoted Henryk Border calling Grass "the prototype of the educated antisemite." He added that he's "completely nuts." It also highlighted some of Netanyahu's above quoted comments.
When facts are too important to ignore and someone courageously addresses them, critics and media scoundrels attack the messenger. Invectives substitute for truth, full disclosure, and for Grass, justifiable praise.
Even Gideon Levy fell short in his commentary headlined, "Israelis can be angry with Gunter Grass, but they must listen to him," saying:
His poem was "harsh, and in some parts infuriating. (He) indeed went a few steps to far (and too mendaciously) - Israel will not destroy the Iranian people - and for that he will be punished, in his own country and in Israel."
Levy may not fully realize the destructive power of nuclear weapons, including how radiation kills. If Israel and/or America targets Iran's underground nuclear facilities with these type weapons, millions of lives will be risked.
With or without nuclear weapons, if shock and awe tactics attack military and other targets, all bets are off. Perhaps he's not aware of the Hersh and Israel Shahak books discussed above.
He likely doesn't know or forgot John McCain once wanting to "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran." He hasn't changed his mind nor have other congressional war hawks.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's one of the worst. As a 2008 presidential aspirant, she threatened war on Iran, saying:
"I want the Iranians to know that if I'm president, we will attack Iran. In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them."
"Obliterate" suggests killing millions. Downplaying the risk is indefensible. Levy might reconsider his comments in a future op-ed.
At the same time, he called Grass criticism "exaggerat(ed)." He dismissed anti-Semitism suggestions. He said his Nazi past doesn't "warrant shutting him up" now, "and his opinion is far from vacuous."
"It can and should be said that Israel's policy is endangering world peace. His position against Israeli nuclear power is also legitimate. He can also oppose supplying submarines" as launching vehicles.
Grass isn't alone, he said. Indeed not, but anyone daring to criticize Israel publicly draws the usual type responses.
"(W)e must listen to these great people. They are not anti-Semites. They are expressing the opinion of many people. Instead of accusing them we should consider what we did that led them to express it."
Levy left unsaid the importance of confronting it beyond op-eds and the court of public opinion. Laws are made to be obeyed.
UN member states are obligated to punish violators. America and Israel top the list. Both threaten world peace. If that's not just cause to confront them, what is? Writers and others need to say so.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.