Free Speech Vs. Israel

by Mahmoud El-Yousseph
Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

On April 4, 2012, 84-year-old German writer and Nobel literature prizewinner Günter Grass published his poem: “What Must Be Said” (“Was gesagt werden muss”) in several European newspapers. In this poem Grass expressed concern that an Israeli military strike against Iran could “wipe out the people of Iran”.

In response, Israel declared him persona non grata. In fact, they went ballistic.
Why is it that a country claiming to be “the only democracy in the Middle East” cannot tolerate criticism?

Günter Grass was referred to as a “Nazi” and – surprise, surprise! – anti-Semitic.

Though the German writer had been drafted into the German army toward the end of the war, age 14, was assigned to a tank division and had not served at any prison camps. Moreover, there is nothing anti-Semitic whatsoever about his poem — unless you want to call the truth ‘anti-Semitic’.

Günter Grass is talking about Israel’s mighty nuclear arsenal and the danger it poses for world peace. He criticizes Germany for providing Israel with a submarine from which nukes can be launched. As a German, he doesn’t want to be held responsible for a nuclear war. That is perfectly legitimate.
It is quite bizarre that an Israeli group of writers should send a letter on April 11th to the Swedish Academy in charge of selecting laureates for the Nobel Prize in Literature, demanding that the earlier award given to Günter Grass be revoked. To their credit, the Academy refused.

This is by no means the first time Israel has acted with hostility towards it critics. Not so long ago, true humanists like Dr Norman Finkelstein and Professor Noam Chomsky had each received a ten year ban from entering Israel. Strong critics of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, Finkelstein and Chomsly have been vilified as “self-hating Jews.”

Keep in mind that Palestinians who live under the Occupation are often shot at or sent to jail for resisting the occupation and/or protesting the theft of their land and the separation wall erected by Israel.

When the International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that the “security wall” being built around the West Bank was illegal and should be pulled down, adding that it infringed the rights of Palestinians and that Israel should pay compensation for the damage it had done in building it, Israel openly flouted the court’s ruling. Nothing new here.

Another case worth nothing is that of Mordechai Vanunu. An Israeli citizen banned from leaving the country for the last nine years, as well as prohibited from having contact with any foreign nationals or foreign media, Mr. Vanunu was kidnapped from Rome by Israeli Mossad agents in 1996 and was smuggled into Israel where he was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

His only crime, according to American author Eileen Fleming, was “telling the truth and providing photographic proof to the London Sunday Timesof Israel’s seven-story underground WMD facility in Negev”.

A few months after his release in 2004, Vanunu was re-arrested on Christmas Eve for attempting to celebrate his first Christmas out of prison at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem.

As I am writing this, up to 1,500 activists from Europe and North America who had been planning to travel to Israel have been prevented from doing so, They had planned to go straight from Ben Gurion airport to Tel Aviv, and then on to Bethlehem in Palestine, for a week-long program of educational and cultural activities under the banner of ” Welcome to Palestine”. But no, Israel regarded this as a “threat to peace” and stopped them showing their sympathy for the Palestinians.


The latest news is that the Israeli military has deployed 600 soldiers at the airport near Tel Aviv and turned it into a military compound, with one section of the airport set up as a prison camp. Israel submittted a “black list” to various airlines of 342 participants from the ages of 9 to 83 to prevent them from boarding planes, thus sparking huge protests in several international airports.

As of this hour, 50 French peace activists and 9 Israeli citizens are behind bars.

The orgainizers of the event, who are mainly French and Belgian citizens, accused Israel of high-handed and hysterical behavior — indeed of paranoia. As she has demonstared often enough before, Israel is all too willing to detain people who have committed no crime.

All that visitors to Israel need to do to end up behind bars is to declare that their object in traveling to Israel is to visit the Palestinians.

Israel is perhaps the only “democracy” in the world in which no one has any rights whatsoever except Jews.

If you are an Arab citizen of Israel, you have second-class rights and have to put up with constant discrimination.

If you are a Palestinian, you have no rights at all and you are subjected to constant harassment, persecution, and the possibility of sudden death.

Finally, if you are a visitor to Israel, you have no rights whatever if you show the slightest sympathy for the Palestinians. You will either be deported at once or thrown into prison.
So much for “the only democracy in the Middle East.”

What a farce.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

%d bloggers like this: