Salman Rushdie has described Israel’s travel ban on fellow scribbler Günter Grass as an act of “infantile pique”. I would go along with Rushdie’s succinct analysis of the affair.
Grass was once a fairly decent writer, albeit not to my own taste, but in his dotage the one-time Waffen SS member has descended into vainglory and literary mediocrity. The poem that offended official Israeli sensibilities – Was Gesagt Werden Muss (What Must Be Said) – is a case in point. As verse it is unreadable, in either language, and to my mind this odious little poem borders on the antisemitic. But for Israel to declare Grass persona non grata is silly, as the ageing writer is hardly a threat to Israeli state and society. Grass is now no more than a prat with a pipe who for some reason continues to be humoured by editors in Europe and abroad.
Talking of state and society, what the ban on Grass isn’t is undemocratic. It was a decision that Israel was constitutionally permitted to make, and those who made the decision are democratically accountable for their actions to the people of Israel. That said officials are now subject to a rhetorical kicking in the Israeli media is encouraging.