* In a poem published yesterday in several prominent European newspapers, including Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung (on its front page) and Italy’s La Repubblica, leading German writer and Nobel Prize winner Guenter Grass (pictured above) said Israel is a threat to world peace, and compared Israel with Iran.
* Tom Gross: It seems old prejudices die hard: Grass, now aged 84, was a member of the Waffen-SS, the organization responsible for murdering so many Jews and others in Hitler’s Germany. Hitler too repeatedly ranted in the 1930s that the Jews were a threat to world peace.
* Tom Gross: It is rare for newspapers in different countries to simultaneously publish the same piece, let alone a poem. (Some may not be surprised that some of the countries in which it was published have a Fascist past.) However, other German newspapers from both Left and Right were swift to criticize the author. “How blind do you have to be to ignore the actual circumstances in the Middle East?” wrote Die Welt, while Der Spiegel said the poem was in “poor taste”.
* Two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson (pictured above) is among three dozen British actors, directors and writers calling for Israel’s most famous theater company, Habima, to be excluded from performing in Hebrew at the upcoming Shakespeare festival in London.
* But these British cultural luminaries have no objections to the National Theatre of China performing “Richard III” in Mandarin, or the Palestinian Ashtar Theatre company performing “Richard II” in Arabic at the festival. Nor do they seem to care about Britain’s own human rights record, including the killing of civilians in Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere.
* Nor do they care that the Globe Shakespeare festival will host Iranian, Russian and Turkish theater groups. They seem unconcerned by women getting stoned or being raped in Iranian jails, or by the Russian occupation of Chechnya, or the Turkish occupation of Cyprus and Kurdistan.
* BBC Asian service: A five-year-old girl becomes the UK’s youngest victim of forced marriage. She was one of 400 children to receive assistance from the government’s Forced Marriage Unit in the last year. Britain is considering criminalizing the practice.
* As thousands of Jews from Israel and around the world gather for the Passover holiday in the Israeli seaside resort of Eilat, a terrorist grad rocket launched from Egypt overnight lands in the town. It caused no injuries as it landed on a construction site.
* Update. A reader writes: “My brother, having just arrived in Israel for Passover, was sitting on the balcony. He heard a whooshing sound followed by an explosion, and saw the plumes of smoke in front of him. The explosion was just across the road from where he was. It landed in a construction site, but flats (with sleeping families) surrounding the area are completely inhabited.”
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1. “Nobel winner Grass: Israel a threat to world peace” (Associated Press, April 4, 2012)
2. “Emma Thompson calls for Israeli theater’s ban” (Times of Israel, April 1, 2012)
3. “Forced marriage: Girl aged five among 400 minors helped” (BBC, March 30, 2012)
4. “The Anti-American Nobel Peace Prize” (By Jay Nordlinger, Wall St Journal, April 1, 2012)
I attach four articles below.
-- Tom Gross
OLD HABITS DIE HARD
Nobel winner Grass: Israel a threat to world peace
By Juergen Baetz
April 4, 2012
BERLIN (AP) – German Nobel literature laureate Guenter Grass labeled Israel a threat to “already fragile world peace” in a poem published Wednesday that drew sharp rebukes at home and from Israel.
In the poem titled “What must be said,” published in German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Italy’s La Repubblica among others, Grass criticized what he described as Western hypocrisy over Israel’s own suspected nuclear program amid speculation that it might engage in military action against Iran to stop it building a suspected atomic bomb.
The 84-year-old Grass said he had been prompted to put pen to paper by Berlin’s recent decision to sell Israel a submarine able to “send all-destroying warheads where the existence of a single nuclear bomb is unproven.”
“The nuclear power Israel is endangering the already fragile world peace,” he wrote. His poem specifically criticized Israel’s “claim to the right of a first strike” against Iran.
Grass also called for “unhindered and permanent control of Israel’s nuclear capability and Iran’s atomic facilities through an international body.”
Israel views Iran as a threat to its existence, citing among other things some Iranian calls for its destruction and fears that Iran aims to produce nuclear weapons.
Grass didn’t mention those calls, which have been made by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but obliquely referred to the Iranian people being “subjugated by a loudmouth.”
Israel is widely believed to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons but has never admitted it, pursuing instead an official policy of “ambiguity” to deter potential attackers.
Israel currently has three Dolphin submarines from Germany – one half-funded and two entirely funded by Berlin – two more are currently under construction, and the contract for a sixth submarine was signed last month.
Dolphin-class submarines can carry nuclear-tipped missiles, but there’s no evidence Israel has armed them with such weapons.
The West sees Iran’s nuclear program as designed to develop an atomic bomb, but Tehran denies the charge, saying an expansion of its enrichment program is meant only to provide nuclear fuel.
Grass said he long kept silent on Israel’s own nuclear program because his country committed “crimes that are without comparison,” but he has come to see that silence as a “burdensome lie and a coercion” whose disregard carries a punishment – “the verdict ‘anti-Semitism’ is commonly used.”
The left-leaning Grass established himself as a leading literary figure with “The Tin Drum,” published in 1959, and won the Nobel Prize in 1999. He urged fellow Germans to confront their painful Nazi history in the decades after World War II.
However, his image suffered a bruising when he admitted in his 2006 autobiography that he was drafted into the Waffen-SS, the combat arm of the Nazis’ paramilitary organization, in the final months of World War II.
Grass’ comments swiftly drew sharp criticism Wednesday.
“What must also be said is that Israel is the world’s only nation whose right to exist is publicly questioned,” the Israeli Embassy in Germany said in a statement. “We want to live in peace with our neighbors in the region.”
“Guenter Grass is turning the situation upside-down by defending a brutal regime that not only disregards but openly violates international agreements for many years,” said Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee in Berlin.
“Iran is the threat for world peace – and Israel the only democracy in the entire region, and at the same time the world’s only whose right to exist is openly questioned,” said Charlotte Knobloch, a former leader of Germany’s Jewish community.
Efraim Zuroff, who leads the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, called Grass’ poem “outrageous,” adding it appeared to be a sign of Israel “becoming the whipping boy for the frustrations of those who are sick of hearing about the Holocaust.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a staunch ally of Israel, and her spokesman reacted coolly to Grass’ remarks.
“There is artistic freedom in Germany, and there thankfully also is the freedom of the government not to have to comment on every artistic production,” Steffen Seibert said.
The head of the German Parliament’s foreign affairs committee – lawmaker Ruprecht Polenz, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats – told the daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung that Grass is a great author “but he always has difficulties when he speak about politics and mostly gets it wrong.”
“The country that worries us is Iran,” he was quoted as saying, adding that “his poem distracts attention from that.”
Grass’ assistant Hilke Ohsoling told German news agency dapd Wednesday that the author won’t explain or defend his poem, nor does he plan to comment on the reactions in the near future because of health issues.
EMMA THOMPSON’S SELECTIVE MORALITY
Oscar winner Emma Thompson calls for Israeli theater’s ban
By Nathan Burstein
Times of Israel
April 1, 2012
Two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson is among three dozen actors, directors and writers protesting the inclusion of an Israeli theater company at an upcoming Shakespeare festival in England.
Recent Tony winner Mark Rylance and seven-time Oscar nominee Mike Leigh are among the other artists who signed a letter expressing “dismay and regret” that Tel Aviv’s Habima theater will be participating in Globe to Globe, a six-week festival taking place at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London.
“Habima [sic] has a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory,” says the letter, published March 29 in Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
The document notes that unlike other members of Israel’s theater community, Habima did not participate in a boycott of a controversial cultural center that opened in Ariel, a West Bank settlement, in 2010. “By inviting Habima, Shakespeare’s Globe is undermining the conscientious Israeli actors and playwrights who have refused to break international law,” the letter says.
Signed by more than three dozen English artists, the letter declares that signatories have “no problem” with Globe to Globe’s desire to include Hebrew in the festival, which will showcase the Bard’s 37 plays in 37 languages. “But by inviting Habima, the Globe is associating itself with policies of exclusion practised by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theatre company,” the letter states. “We ask the Globe to withdraw the invitation so that the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonisation of occupied land.”
Other companies participating in the festival include the National Theatre of China, which will perform “Richard III” in Mandarin, and the Ashtar Theatre, a Palestinian company that will perform “Richard II” in Arabic.
Habima is currently scheduled to perform “The Merchant of Venice” at the festival twice in late May.
FORCIBLY MARRIED, AGED 5
Forced marriage: Girl aged five among 400 minors helped
By Poonam Taneja
BBC Asian Network
March 30, 2012
A five-year-old girl is thought to have become the UK’s youngest victim of forced marriage.
She was one of 400 children to receive assistance from the government’s Forced Marriage Unit in the last year.
The figures have emerged as the public consultation into criminalising forced marriage in England, Wales and Northern Ireland comes to an end.
Amy Cumming, joint head of the Forced Marriage Unit, said 29% of the cases it dealt with last year involved minors.
“The youngest of these was actually five years old, so there are children involved in the practice across the school age range,” she said.
To protect the child, the authorities have not disclosed details of the case or where the marriage took place.
But the case comes as no surprise to the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO), which deals with more than 100 cases of forced marriage a year.
“We have had clients who are in their very early teens, 11-year-olds, 12-year-olds, the youngest case we had was nine years old,” said IKWRO campaigns officer Fionnuala Murphy.
Now the consultation on forced marriage has come to an end, IKWROs hope it will become a criminal offence.
“Our organisation is pro-criminalisation because we believe that it will empower victims to know that this is a crime, to stand up to their parents and to stand up for their own rights and it will enable them to come forward and seek help and say what’s happening to me is wrong.”
Author Sameem Ali is all too familiar with the trauma of being a child bride - she was only 13 years old when she was taken to Pakistan by her mother on a holiday.
As a teenager she was excited about the trip, but when she arrived at the family’s ancestral village, she discovered she was to be married to a man twice her age, whom she had never met.
“The whole family turned up with an imam and they forced me into this marriage. I didn’t really understand what was happening at the time.
“I was only a child. There was no way I could say no. There was no support there whatsoever.”
Eight months later she returned to the UK after suffering months of violent abuse.
“I was brought back to this country when I was 14 years old and pregnant,” she said.
She eventually fled the relationship and is now happily married with two children and helps other young people at risk.
However, Sameem is concerned that making forced marriage a criminal offence will deter victims from speaking out.
“I think it will be detrimental to the victim. The victims will stop coming forward, because nobody will want to point the finger at their parents,” she explained.
“The young person will not come forward if it’s a criminal offence. They will not stand up in court and testify against their parents.”
In 2011 the Forced Marriage Unit helped deal with around 1,500 cases, but many more are thought to go unreported.
Forced Marriage Protection Orders were introduced in 2008 for England, Wales and Northern Ireland under the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007.
A potential victim, friend or police can apply for an order aimed at protecting an individual through the courts. Anyone found to have breached one can be jailed for up to two years for contempt of court, although this is classed as a civil offence.
The prime minister wants the law to go further and ordered a public consultation on making it a criminal offence in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to force a person to marry against their will.
In Scotland the breach of a forced marriage protection order is also a criminal offence in Scotland punishable by prisons.
Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said the government would now look at all the arguments.
“We will now consider all of those views and responses to the consultation before we make a decision on the best way to protect vulnerable people.
“We are determined, working closely with charities and other organisations doing a tremendous amount in this area, to make forced marriage a thing of the past.”
A decision is expected to be announced later this year.
SEVERAL “KICKS IN THE LEG”
The Anti-American Nobel Peace Prize
Norway’s judges don’t like the pro-freedom foreign policy of some U.S. presidents.
By Jay Nordlinger
The Wall Street Journal
April 1, 2012
In 1987, the Norwegian Nobel Committee gave its Nobel Peace Prize to Óscar Arias, the president of Costa Rica. Central America was beset by war, particularly in Nicaragua, and Mr. Arias had crafted a peace plan. In Washington, the Reagan administration was highly skeptical. The Nobel committee told Mr. Arias they were giving him the prize to use as a weapon against Reagan.
Robert Kagan writes about this in his 1996 book, “A Twilight Struggle.” Said Mr. Arias to Mr. Kagan, “Reagan was responsible for my prize.”
We could argue that Reagan was responsible for some other peace prizes out of Oslo, too. George W. Bush may have had some responsibility for five more.
In 2002, Nobel committee Chairman Gunnar Berge was blunt. After announcing the peace prize to Jimmy Carter for what the committee called his “decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development,” Mr. Berge said that the selection “should be interpreted as a criticism of the line that the current administration has taken. It’s a kick in the leg to all who follow the same line as the United States.”
“Kick in the leg” is a Norwegian way of saying “slap in the face” or “poke in the eye.” And when Mr. Berge said “line,” he meant the approach that President Bush was taking in the War on Terror (as we used to know it). Mr. Carter was one of Mr. Bush’s most prominent critics.
The year before, the committee had given its prize to the United Nations and Kofi Annan, who was then its secretary-general. This was weeks after the 9/11 attacks. One of the things this prize did was send a message to Mr. Bush: Don’t dare respond outside the U.N.
In 2005, the committee honored the International Atomic Energy Agency and Mohamed ElBaradei, then its director general. Was this another “kick in the leg”? The chairman, Ole Danbolt Mjøs, denied it, explicitly; but many had trouble believing him. A New York Times reporter expressed the general reaction when he wrote, “The award was a vindication of a man and an agency long at odds with President Bush and his administration over how to confront Iraq and Iran.”
Two years later, it was Al Gore’s turn and that of another U.N. agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Once more, Chairman Mjøs denied that the committee was kicking anyone in the leg. Once more, many doubted him. President Bush was anathema to the environmental left, as to the left at large.
In a quasi-official history, “The Nobel Peace Prize,” three Norwegian historians write, “The Committee hoped the prestige that comes with the Peace Prize would give Gore an even greater standing in the media and strengthen the Democrats’ fight for a new, eco-friendly USA.”
There also was a personal element for Mr. Gore, who had lost the presidency to Mr. Bush in a spectacularly hard way. Just as people called the 2005 award a “vindication” for Mr. ElBaradei, they called the 2007 award a “vindication” for Mr. Gore.
Finally came the 2009 award, which went to the new American president, Barack Obama. If George W. Bush was the committee’s nightmare president – and he was – Mr. Obama was its dream president. With its 2009 award, it was blessing a new day.
The announcement said, “[President Obama’s] diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.” At the prize ceremony, Chairman Thorbjørn Jagland echoed these words, citing “earlier American presidents who, above all others, were seen as world leaders also outside the United States: Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.”
Reagan? The committee’s bête noire from the 1980s? Chairman Jagland went on to quote that president, who said that American ideals lived not only in America but “in the hearts and minds of millions of the world’s people in both free and oppressed societies who look to us for leadership.”
That is exactly the sort of thing that Mr. Bush said, ad nauseam, for eight years. There will come a time when another conservative sits in the Oval Office. Will the Nobel chairman then quote George W. Bush, with wistful fondness?
Jay Nordlinger is a senior editor of National Review and the author of “Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World” (Encounter Books, 2012). He is also a subscriber to this list.