eyes on the U.S.

Just Like Bill Clinton, Strauss-Kahn Is Set To Face The Wrath Of American Puritanism

Editorial: Americans used to like France's Dominique Strauss-Kahn. From today onwards, they are going to hate him.

IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn and former U.S. President Bill Clinton
IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn and former U.S. President Bill Clinton
Philippe Boulet-Gercourt

A couple of days ago, few Americans knew who Dominique Strauss-Kahn was, and those who knew that he was the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Chief had nothing but praise for him. On Sunday, DSK (as he's known in France) discovered a new face of America, a face which will have no compassion for an all-powerful man charged with sexual assault and attempted rape.

Worse even is that the Frenchie is suspected of trying to flee from American justice by hopping the first Air France flight out of the country. In the coming days, a flood of headlines and old clichés about French people being cowardly and depraved will probably come up.

If proven guilty, Strauss-Kahn will have difficulty remaining out of prison, and relentless media pressure in the US will certainly make sure that he gets a heavy sentence. At the very best, he will be called a "sex addict". That was what happened to the golfer Tiger Woods.

On the contrary, if Dominique Strauss-Kahn is the victim of a conspiracy, things will not be better. In the US, politicians can be tempted by extra-marital activities (affairs) only if they remain secret. Once their misdemeanors are revealed, they have no other option than to resign, to pronounce a statement of contrition or to deny the obvious. Bill Clinton chose the latter option, until an infamous semen stain forced him to confess that he did have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.

Last year's countless scandals were at least quite effective. Moralistic, Puritan and homophobic politicians were caught in the act. In Washington, Bernard Debré used to describe Strauss Kahn as "a disreputable man" who "wallowed in sex", but now he seldom makes this kind of comments. People have to be very cautious about what they say.

The Monica Lewinsky Scandal left definite marks on people's minds, even on those who have no sympathy for these hypocrites. For many, the argument that "it is an act between consenting adults' disappeared to make room for unvoiced criticism against Bill Clinton: the former President of the United States is still being criticized for being selfish and irresponsible, and because he let his one indulgence ruin Al Gore's chances of being elected. And let's not forget the huge consequences it had on the fate of America, and the world.

Read the original article in French.

Photo - WTO/Jacromer

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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