On 11 April 2012, a poem appeared in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and in other European newspapers which led to a controversy in the west and definitely would cause concern in the western elite as the poem exposed the flaws in the international political system marred by the western hypocrisy in the name of peace and democracy. German Nobel Laureate Gunter Grass through his poem entitled Was gesagt werden muss – or ‘What Must be Said’ – termed Israel a threat to world peace and exposed the western hypocrisy in dealing with Israel and Iran’s nuclear programmes.
Grass points out that German government’s decision to sell sophisticated submarines equipped with nuclear capability to a country like Israel possessed with nuclear weapons and threatening to go for first strike against Iran prompted him to stand against western discriminatory policies.
He warned of the catastrophic consequences of an Israeli attack on Iran and called for the international community to take control of Israel’s nuclear installations and also check the Iranian nuclear ambitions. He warned the west of consequences of continuing appeasement of Israel.
Israel is widely believed to have produced enough plutonium for 100-200 warheads and possesses approximately 80 fully developed nuclear weapons. However, it was exempted by the western powers from their efforts for nuclear disarmament. At a Review Conference held in New York in 1995 to consider the indefinite extension of the NPT, the original document sponsored by Arab countries called on Israel to sign the NPT and place its nuclear installations under international control was rejected. Syria’s delegate to the conference said that it could not accept that Israel did not become a member. Iran also insisted Israel’s inclusion in it. Jordan which signed peace with Israel in 1994 said that there should be no exceptions in the NPT. Qatar’s media said that Israel’s refusal to sign the NPT puts the Arabs at Israel’s mercy. However, no pressure was exerted on Israel and at the end of the Conference, the government of Israel sent a message of thanks to the then US president Bill Clinton for keeping it out of the UN document. This is enough to understand the mindset of the western powers how much they are sincere towards the goal of nuclear disarmament and establishing peace in the world.
Despite the nuclear weapon states’ pledge under Article VI of the NPT to work towards universal nuclear disarmament, we see their persistent agenda to ignore the nuclear programmes of Israel and India and keep pressure on Pakistan and Iran. The NPT was signed in 1968 with the commitment by the signatories for complete and universal disarmament. Today, where do they stand with regard to their commitment? Are they even close to it? On the contrary, we see that the non-nuclear countries frustrated with this situation are now planning to purchase the nuclear weapons if they are restricted to develop nuclear capability under discriminatory treaties like NPT and CTBT.
Being a Pakistani, I would not miss the opportunity to mention here that Pakistan had also been subjected to western hypocrisy through its selective and discriminatory policies with regard to its nuclear programme vis-à-vis India. Numerous laws were invoked by the US Congress to curtail Pakistan’s nuclear programme while India was exempted from these punitive measures to make it a bulwark against China. Pakistan strongly criticized the double standards pursued by the western countries in their effort to make the world free of nuclear weapons. It is generally believed in Pakistan that discriminatory policies of the west played an important role behind Pakistan’s decision to go for acquiring nuclear capability.
In case of Israel, besides its refusal to join the international nuclear regime and its illegal occupation of east Jerusalem and the West Bank, it never came under pressure by the western countries. Combined actions on the part of the west led by the US to attack Iraq on the pretext of it possessing weapons of mass destruction and then taking control of Afghanistan in the name of terrorism failed to prove their claims. This situation created resentment throughout the Muslim world and paved way for acts of terrorism and extremism.
In this perspective, an initiative, emerging from the west, taken by Gunter Grass to speak against the western hypocrisy is a welcome sign for those who advocate a change in the existing international system. There always comes a point which becomes a crucial point for change. We can see the case of Arab Spring where an incident of self-immolation by a Tunisian vegetable vendor in reaction to degrading attitude of the police gave way to a movement against exploitation which engulfed the Middle East and North Africa.
I think this is the need of the time, particularly when the world is faced with a danger of eruption of a nuclear world war, that more people from the west should come up to join Gunter Grass to make it a unified global movement against a threat posing danger to world peace irrespective of religion and region with the objective of ‘A Just Peace’. It would help to alleviate the grievances of Muslims who feel that they are the sole target of western imperialism and the western people are prejudiced and indifferent to their government’s exploitation against militarily weak countries.
The collective effort on the part of the people of the world may build a pressure on western governments to stop using religion as an instrument to achieve their foreign policy agenda. In my view, Grass’s poem is an initial step in the right direction but he himself, historically in the Waffen SS at the tender age of 17 in 1994, is accused of anti-semitism. But he ripostes, as stated in the Economist, that “he did not mean to attack Israel, but the policies of its prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.”
The nuclear arms race could be checked and peace in the world could only be established if it is pursued through adopting measures based upon equity, justice and the will to address the security concerns of the vulnerable states.
Tehmina Mahmood, Senior Research Officer, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, Karachi. The views of the author are her own and not necessarily those of the PIIA or Pakistan Horizon.