Sisterhood Blog

Hello, France: Welcome to Israel's Katsav-ian Nightmare

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

  • Print
  • Share Share
Getty Images
Dominique Strauss-Kahn

The French public is wrestling with the arrest a man who sat proudly on the top of the ladder of prestige and privilege, who is supposed to represent their country to the world and bring it pride.

Instead, they are wallowing in the sordid details of his alleged sexual attack on a maid in a $3,000-a-night New York hotel room, and the possibility that he had previously taken advantage of his status and privileges to exploit women. The New York Times reports on the “soul-searching” taking place among the French:

The arrest in New York of one of France’s leading global figures and a possible next president, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, on charges of attempted rape produced an earthquake of shock, outrage, disbelief and embarrassment throughout France.

That description sounds very familiar to Israelis, who have been carrying around that particular cocktail for several years now, when the rape charges against former President Moshe Katsav were first announced in 2007.

So does this part of the Times report:

As the impact of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s predicament hit home, others, including some in the news media, began to reveal accounts, long suppressed or anonymous, of what they called Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s previously predatory behavior toward women and his aggressive sexual pursuit of them, from students and journalists to subordinates.

This history, together with the fact that Strauss-Kahn plans to plead ‘not guilty’ leads me to the conclusion that the French are heading directly for a very Katsav-esque experience. In the Katsav case, court testimony — and media interviews — painted a roadmap of how a man who feels his status, success and importance entitles him to sexual access to any woman in vicinity who catches his interest, whether or not she is interested.

Like the French, Israeli politicians traditionally have enjoyed an environment in which infidelity, even when admitted, does not disqualify one for the corridors of power. The problem with a society in which such behavior is tolerated, the line between harmless, consensual hijinks and criminal sexual harassment and assault becomes blurred.

If the French want to look on the bright side, they can comfort themselves with the fact that this occurred before his run for the presidency, and that, unlike Israelis, they will not have to watch their sordid episode of “Law and Order: SVU” play itself out against the national symbol of prestige that is their President’s residence. Now the shame officially belongs to the International Monetary Fund, not to the French nation.

And finally, yes — unfortunately — what anyone who hears his name would imagine is true. The embattled politician is most definitely Jewish. The London Jewish Chronicle took a tongue-in-cheek look at his Judaism following his last sex scandal in 2008:

Sacre bleu — according to our team of halachic researchers, Strauss-Kahn is half-Ashkenazi, half-Sephardi, but completely Jewish by birth. He has associated himself with the fight against antisemitism — he was MP for Sarcelles, an area with France’s highest density of Jews, and said: “Antisemitism in our country is growing and it would be wrong not to see it.” His wife, Ann Sinclair, is also Jewish. Strauss-Kahn follows in a tradition of Jewish bosses of international financial institutions becoming embroiled in scandal… No, stop, we’re really not going to go there. Not helpful to the Jews.

No, definitely not helpful …


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sexual Assault, Rape, France, Moshe Katsav, Dominique Strauss-Kahn

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.