Monday, May 16, 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Shades of Dreyfus?

In a recent post on a Rabbinic Listserv to which I subscribe, a colleague of mine, Rabbi Dan Gropper, posted the following:

"With the news of the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn for raping a woman in NYC, do we need fear a reprise of the Dreyfus affair? Will another Herzl emerge from this?"

An interesting and frightening question. For those who aren't familiar with my colleague's reference here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article entitled: "Dreyfus Affair" (

The Dreyfus affair (French: l'affaire Dreyfus) was a political scandal that divided France in the 1890s and the early 1900s. It involved the conviction for treason in November 1894 of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a young French artillery officer of Alsatian Jewish descent. Sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly having communicated French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris, Dreyfus was sent to the penal colony at Devil's Island in French Guiana and placed in solitary confinement.[1]

After the trial, it became clear that Dreyfus was innocent of all charges. During the trail and the scandal that emerged in its aftermath, anti-Semitism in France rose to new heights. Emil Zola, in his famous essay, J'accuse, shined a light on the hypocrisy and bigotry that rose to the surface during the affair. A young journalist named Theodore Herzl was covering the trial for an Austrian newspaper and, as a result of what he saw in France, decided to dedicate his life to the creation of a Jewish State. Herzl, of course, is now known as the Father of Modern Zionism.

We don't know if Strauss-Kahn is guilty or innocent of the charges that have been brought against him. What is quite clear, however, is that there will be those who will use the fact that a prominent Jewish economist and a (formerly) rising international political star has been brought down by accusations of sexual impropriety. The racist/anti-Zionist blogosphere is already filled with posts about Jewish conspiracies - fueling their rants with ancient stereotypes lifted from the pages of the notorious 19th Century forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

In addition, the images of coordinated attacks on Israel in conjunction with Palestinian commemorations of the "Nakhba" – a Palestinain day of mourning that takes place on the Israel Independence Day – make it very clear that Syria, Iran, Libya, Hezbollah and the Palestinians are eagerly seizing on any opportunity to deflect world attention from the revolts that are taking place on the streets of Arab capitals around the world.

History does tend to repeat itself – especially in a climate where memories are short and easy answers are the norm.

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