* Israeli leader calls new Guenter Grass poem "shameful"
* Poet said Israel endangered world peace
JERUSALEM, April 5 (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday it was no surprise that
German writer Guenter Grass, who for decades had hidden his
membership of the Nazi Waffen SS, had described Israel as a
threat to world peace.
In a poem published earlier this week, the Nobel
Prize-winning writer criticised Israel and said it must not be
allowed to launch military strikes against Iran.
"Guenter Grass's shameful moral equivalence between Israel
and Iran, a regime that denies the Holocaust and threatens to
annihilate Israel, says little about Israel and much about Mr.
Grass," a statement from Netanyahu's office said.
Grass, 84, a seasoned campaigner for left-wing causes and a
critic of Western military interventions, such as in Iraq, also
condemned German arms sales to Israel in his poem "What must be
said", that was published on Wednesday.
"For six decades, Mr. Grass hid the fact that he had been a
member of the Waffen SS. So for him to cast the one and only
Jewish state as the greatest threat to world peace and to oppose
giving Israel the means to defend itself is perhaps not
surprising," Netanyahu added.
Grass's words were also criticised in Germany, where any
strong condemnation of Israel is taboo because of the
Nazi-perpetrated Holocaust. Grass's own moral authority has
never fully recovered from his 2006 admission that he once
served in Hitler's SS.
"Why do I say only now ... that the nuclear power Israel
endangers an already fragile world peace? Because that must be
said which may already be too late to say tomorrow," Grass wrote
in the German-language poem.
"Also because we - as Germans burdened enough - may become a
subcontractor to a crime that is foreseeable," he wrote, adding
that Germany's Nazi past and the Holocaust were no excuse for
remaining silent now about Israel's nuclear capability.
"I will not remain silent because I am weary of the West's
hypocrisy," wrote Grass, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature
in 1999 for novels such as "The Tin Drum" chronicling the
horrors of 20th century German history.
Israel is widely assumed to be the Middle East's only
nuclear-armed nation, which it neither confirms nor denies.
These could be carried by Dolphin submarines that it has bought,
at a sharp discount, from Germany.
ACTION AGAINST IRAN
The Jewish state has threatened to take military action,
with or without U.S. support, to halt what it sees as a nuclear
threat from Iran. Tehran says it is developing nuclear
technology for purely peaceful purposes.
"It is Iran, not Israel, that is a threat to the peace and
security of the world. It is Iran, not Israel, that threatens
other states with annihilation ... decent people everywhere
should strongly condemn these ignorant and reprehensible
statements," Netanyahu added.
Germany said recently it would sell Israel a sixth Dolphin
submarine and shoulder part of the cost, although it also
cautioned its ally that any military escalation with Iran could
bring incalculable risks.
One of the most powerful organisations in Nazi Germany, the
SS was first an elite force of volunteers that played a key role
in the Holocaust, operating the death camps in which millions
died. But by the war's end, most were drafted and many under 18
Grass said he was called up to join the SS as a teenager and
insisted that he never fired a shot. But some critics inside and
outside Germany said this explanation had come too late.
Grass made the confession shortly before publishing his
autobiography "Peeling Onions" which details his war service.
(Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Ben Harding)