This has been a week rich in racist pickings, if ever there was one that was not. First we had IMF chief, French Socialist Dominique Strauss Kahn’s arrest for allegedly raping a Guinean hotel worker in his $3,000 a night hotel room in New York. DSK’s (as the French media affectionately call him) history as a sexual predator and the collusion in covering this up by the left-wing media in France has been documented by the Les mots sont importants collective. Publishing an old article detailing his past misdemeanours at this time, they remind us of France’s sordid history of denial of sexual abuse and the misuse of patriarchal power. Elsewhere, the sociologist Eric Fassin points out that the behaviour of powerful white men such as DSK is shrugged off as ‘naughty skirt-chasing’ precisely because they are powerful and white. The scenario is all so different when the behaviour of sexist young Arabs or patriarchal Muslim fathers is under scrutiny. France, under the tutelage of its feminist (didn’t you know?) President, Sarkozy, rushes to defend its daughters (including secular Muslims) from the chauvinism of their brothers and fathers when their skin colour is brown.
As the unfolding DSK saga had barely begun, another racist hit the headlines in the form of the bizarre Lars Von Trier who during a Cannes Press Conference, proclaimed to understand Hitler and to sympathise with him to some extent, despite his upbringing as the son of adoptive Jewish parents (gee, thanks, Lars!). Drug-fuelled as it may have been, his rant was revealing at one particular juncture, when he said “I’m not against Jews… Well, Israel is a pain in the ass but…” In other words, Von Trier tried to right his antisemitism by dressing it up as anti-Zionism. This is as bad as the Zionists who accuse anyone who opposes them of antisemitism. It is reverse antisemitism, justified by anti-Zionism. And it’s not OK.