JERUSALEM — Israel on Sunday declared Guenter Grass persona non grata, deepening a spat with the Nobel-winning author over a poem that deeply criticized the Jewish state and suggested it was as much a danger as Iran.
The dispute with Grass, who only late in life admitted to a Nazi past, has drawn new attention to strains in Germany's complicated relationship with the Jewish state — and also focused unwelcome light on Israel's own secretive nuclear program.
In a poem called "What Must Be Said" published last Wednesday, Grass, 84, criticized what he described as Western hypocrisy over Israel's nuclear program and labeled the country a threat to "already fragile world peace" over its belligerent stance on Iran.
The poem has touched a raw nerve in Israel, where officials have rejected any moral equivalence with Iran and been quick to note that Grass admitted only in a 2006 autobiography that he was drafted into the Waffen-SS Nazi paramilitary organization at age 17 in the final months of World War II.
Grass' subsequent clarification that his criticism was directed at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not the country as a whole, did little to calm the outcry.
On Sunday, Israel's interior minister, Eli Yishai, announced that Grass would be barred from Israel, citing an Israeli law that allows him to prevent entry to ex-Nazis. But Yishai made clear the decision was related more to the recent poem than Grass' actions nearly 70 years ago.
"If Guenter wants to spread his twisted and lying works, I suggest he does this from Iran, where he can find a supportive audience," Yishai said.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused Grass of anti-Semitism.