In a new book of poems titled Eintagsfliegen, which was released on Saturday in Germany, Grass terms Vanunu, a former worker at the Dimona nuclear facility, a “hero” for his decision to transfer secret information to England’s Sunday Times in 1986. An Israeli court later convicted Vanunu of espionage and sentenced him to 18 years in prison.
In the poem titled “Hero of our days,” Grass praises him as a “model” because “he helped to bring the truth” to the public.
The Nobel laureate garnered fierce criticism from Israel, as well as from German politicians and many journalists, for another poem published last April titled “What must be said.” In it he blamed Israel for endangering world peace and accused the Jewish state of seeking to obliterate Iran.
Severe sanctions were placed on Vanunu after his 2004 release from prison. In their new book Spies Against Armageddon, Israeli journalist Yossi Melman and CBS News correspondent Dan Raviv write that “Shin Bet and Malmab [the director of security for Israel’s defense community] claimed that he continued to be a security risk because of the knowledge in his head. Thus, they insisted that he banned from leaving Israel and his movements were restricted.”
German media blanketed Saturday’s coverage of Grass’s new attack on Israel. The television station n-tv wrote on its website “Grass attacks Israel again,” and the daily Die Weltwrote on its own website “Grass provokes Israel with new book of poems.”
In his new poem, Grass writes about Vanunu’s upbringing in Beersheba as the son of a rabbi, who “pursued the study of the Torah’s rules and then decided to convert to Christianity.” He depicts Vanunu as being in the same predicament as the biblical Joseph and how his brothers tossed him into a cistern.