Why have I kept silent, held back so long,on something openly practised inwar games, at the end of which those of uswho survive will at best be footnotes ?It’s the alleged right to a first strikethat could destroy an Iranian peoplesubjugated by a loudmouthand gathered in organized rallies,because an atom bomb may be beingdeveloped within his arc of power.Yet why do I hesitate to namethat other land in whichfor years – although kept secret –a growing nuclear power has existedbeyond supervision or verification,subject to no inspection of any kind ?This general silence on the facts,before which my own silence has bowed,seems to me a troubling, enforced lie,leading to a likely punishmentthe moment it’s broken :the verdict "Anti-semitism" falls easily.But now that my own country,brought in time after timefor questioning about its own crimes,profound and beyond compare,has delivered yet another submarine to Israel(in what is purely a business transaction,though glibly declared an act of reparation)whose speciality consists in its abilityto direct nuclear warheads towardan area in which not a single atom bombhas yet been proved to exist, its fearedexistence proof enough, I’ll say what must be said.But why have I kept silent till now ?Because I thought my own origins,tarnished by a stain that can never be removed,meant I could not expect Israel, a landto which I am, and always will be, attached,to accept this open declaration of the truth.Why only now, grown old,and with what ink remains, do I say :Israel’s atomic power endangersan already fragile world peace ?Because what must be saidmay be too late tomorrow ;and because – burdened enough as Germans –we may be providing material for a crimethat is foreseeable, so that our complicitywill not be expunged by anyof the usual excuses.And granted : I’ve broken my silencebecause I’m sick of the West’s hypocrisy ;and I hope too that many may be freedfrom their silence, may demandthat those responsible for the open dangerwe face renounce the use of force,may insist that the governments ofboth Iran and Israel allow an international authorityfree and open inspection ofthe nuclear potential and capability of both.No other course offers helpto Israelis and Palestinians alike,to all those living side by side in enmityin this region occupied by illusions,and ultimately, to all of us.
The English translation was published by the Guardian.
Translated by Breon Mitchell. You can read the poem in the original German here.
This poem was amended on 10 and 11 April 2012 after it was revised by the translator. This was further amended on 13 April 2012 to include a link to the original poem in German.