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From Sderot, an Open Letter to Gunter Grass

Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders have said many times that they want to use that capability to kill all Jews everywhere. They hope to finish the job your old leader began -- the one whose uniform you wore in 1945.

Israel is taking and continues to take measures to prevent the kassams from being fired from Gaza into Sderot and other Israeli towns. During the most recent period of intense shooting from Gaza, Israel was able to prevent heavy damage with its recently developed anti-missile system, and because Israel's air force struck a number of Hamas missile-firing teams before they could shoot their weapons at Israel's civilians. It was therefore less urgent for Israeli ground forces to enter Gaza now than it had been earlier.

These Muslim missiles were aimed at Israeli towns; their targets were ordinary Israeli civilians who live in those cities, people like the little girl who wet her pants during that conversation. A kassam has no purpose besides killing people and terrorizing civilians.

Israel's armed forces are today more capable of defending her citizens against these attacks, but the emotional damage remains. Children and old people suffer most, but a chiropractor volunteering in Sderot told me he had never seen such a high proportion of stiff, tense backs while he walked down the street. I have no statistics, but I seem to hear about a lot of bed-wetting children, and parents have told me they do not like to see their children go outdoors to play. Tension rises between parents and children: the children feel guilty about wanting to go outside, and the parents feel guilty about worrying about their playing in the park. Even though the chances are against a rocket exploding in Sderot now, hearing that alarm several times a day is a painful and damaging experience.

The child who wet her pants, she was about ten years old -- she was born around the time the rockets began. Sderot is a wonderful, green, friendly little place where children should spend happy years; what effect will these rockets have on the way that girl raises her own children?

Your Iranian friends for whom you profess so much worry have proved their murderous intentions here in Sderot. They are now building nuclear weapons in order to kill that little girl before she is old enough to worry about her own children. The Israeli government's job is to protect its citizens. Israel has developed and deployed nuclear weapons to that end. Their purpose is to deter the Iranians from doing what they want to do, which is to commit genocide. Israel will also deploy an anti-missile system that will hopefully intercept incoming Iranian nuclear missiles before they hit Israeli cities. Many voices have been raised in Israel and elsewhere in favor of Israel and other countries knocking out the Iranian nuclear capacity before it can be fully deployed. People can read the various arguments for and against a preemptive strike elsewhere -- the pros and cons of preventive war are not my subject here. Israel's counter-measures are, however, exactly that: we find it necessary to defend ourselves against people who want to exterminate all of us, and who are actively working to achieve that goal. Whether the ways in which Israel is compelled to defend herself are "nice" or not is another question. Juries are supposed to consist of the "peers" or equals of those they judge; the jury judging Israel should be empanelled from countries that have been exterminated within recent memory, and whose enemies constantly state their intentions to do so again. Germany and all other European countries might well be eligible for that jury after Iran gets rockets that bring Europe into its range.

Former SS men in particular are spectacularly ineligible to serve on that jury.

And so, Mr. Grass, I repeat my invitation to you to visit our little town of Sderot. You will learn a few new things. You have nothing to fear from the people of Sderot; murderous vengeful hate is conspicuously absent from Jewish culture. The only danger you will fear will be the outside chance that your friends might hit you with one of their kassams while you autograph your books in Hebrew translation for Sderot's public library.