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DSK: Bad for the Jews

Alleged sexual predator may have empowered France’s National Front

Marc Tracy
May 16, 2011
DSK yesterday outside a New York police station; he remains in custody.(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)
DSK yesterday outside a New York police station; he remains in custody.(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

If every shanda were worthy of our digital pages, we would have room for little else; and besides, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund and (until this weekend) the leading candidate for next year’s French presidential elections, is being seen worldwide as an embarrassment to France, not to the Jews, for his alleged sexual attack on a maid at his midtown Manhattan hotel over the weekend. (The accuser has picked him out of a line-up, although Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer claims his client has an alibi, and there is also a chance DSK, as he is known, is protected by diplomatic immunity, although it seems quite faint. There are also whisperings this could have been some sort of honeypot trap set by DSK’s political enemies.) DSK is, of course, odious: He has a history of extramarital dalliances (though not necessarily of rape, which, as Adam Gopnik notes, is still utterly unacceptable even in France’s relatively libertine sexual culture) and seems to have been living an awfully nice lifestyle for a government bureaucrat. Oh, and he, a man in a position of great power, allegedly attempted to force himself on a lower-middle class African immigrant worker, so he can kinda, y’know, go do it to himself. But the IMF duly replaced him with a guy named Lipsky, so, beyond the fact that now the next French president is likely not to be a Jew, why should the Jews care especially?

Here’s why. DSK was the leading candidate of the leading party, the Socialists. The frontrunner is now François Hollande, but he is not quite the candidate DSK was, and besides, this scandal could tarnish the Socialists generally. And if they hemorrhage voters, some may go to the incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing party, but some more may find themselves drifting to the far-right National Front, which also aligns itself as the party of the working class (complete with a May Day parade and everything). The FN is led by Marine Le Pen, daughter of the notorious anti-Semite Jean-Marie Le Pen, and she has refashioned her party to make it more acceptable to the mainstream.

She is the weekend’s big winner: The weakening of the Socialists makes it more likely that her party will advance to the second round of France’s presidential elections next year, in which she would be pitted against only one other party. And while she has formally repudiated her father’s and her party’s past of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, she is not someone whom Jewish folks should be all too excited about. It will be bitterly ironic if she ends up gaining greater legitimacy and power due to the personal misconduct of someone who happens to be Jewish.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.