German author and Nobel laureate Gunter Grass has been hospitalized in the northern port city of Hamburg following heart problems, AFP reported on Monday, citing the German Bild newspaper. No further details were provided.
84-year-old Grass sparked outrage at home and abroad a few weeks ago, after he published a poem in which he said he feared a nuclear-armed Israel “could wipe out the Iranian people” with a “first strike”. He also charged Israel with being the greatest threat to world peace.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu later blasted Grass and said, “Gunter 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.”
Grass subsequently claimed that his critics were holding a “campaign” against him. He said that the media had piled on him without understanding his message and added that although he found the personal accusations against him “hurtful”, he had no plans to back down.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai later banned Grass from entering Israel, declaring him “persona non grata” in the Jewish State and saying his poems were an attempt to “fan the flames of hatred against the state, and against Israel.”
Yishai’s actions caused Grass to criticize Israel yet again and compare the decision to ban him from entering the country to actions taken by the former communist East Germany and Myanmar.
"I have been prohibited entry to a country three times," Grass wrote, referring to similar cases that occurred when the ex-German Democratic Republic (GDR) banned his entry and a thwarted 1986 attempt to travel to Myanmar.
“Now it is the interior minister of a democracy, of the state of Israel, who is punishing me with a refusal of entry and whose grounds for the imposed compulsory measure - according to the tone – recalls the verdict of Minister Mielke,” Grass added, referring to Erich Mielke who was head of the Stasi secret police in East Germany, which he also noted, no longer exists.