by Nidra Poller (February 2010)
Jessica Sebaoun-Darty, the wife of the French president’s second son, Jean, gave birth to a boy on January 13th. By no fault of his own the child was born on the day of the catastrophic Haitian earthquake.
The dearth of human interest details on the birth of Nicolas Sarkozy’s first grandchild could be attributed to the media’s respect for the privacy of the president and his twenty-three year-old son who is already a public figure in his own right. But the low profile reports on the event provoked an outpouring of sarcasm with unsavory undertones from a wide range of readers.
Photos of the president and his third wife Carla Bruni with broad grandparently smiles appeared in some “peopul” magazines. We learned that the president was pleased by the choice of the name Solal, reportedly inspired by the hero of Albert Cohen’s “Belle du Seigneur,” and that Carla Bruni–whose own son Aurélien is nine years old–voluntarily assumed the honorary title of grand-mère. The rest was not so pretty.
Here is a report from the site of the state-owned France-Info all-news radio station:
“Birth announcement in the kingdom of bling-bling… The daughter-in-law of the chief executive, wife of “Prince Jean” as Jean Sarkozy is nicknamed, gave birth last night in Neuilly-sur-Seine to a baby boy named Solal…”
This echoes the recurrent accusation that the upstart president rules like a monarch. Jean, who is still in law school, is already following in his father’s footsteps as an elected official at the local level in Neuilly-sur-Seine. But he was forced to withdraw his candidature for the post of Chairman of the Board of EPAD (public development office of La Défense business district) under a barrage of accusations of nepotism. Fair enough. But it would take volumes to track all the young French politicians boosted by fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, and lovers into precocious political careers and undeserved distinctions.
Talkback on media sites was heavy with snarls over the royal pretentions of the young Sarkozy and the royal privileges enjoyed by the young couple—Jessica Sebaoun-Darty is the heiress to the fortune of the Darty home appliances “empire.” Their freedom from want is denounced as an insult to the masses of struggling unemployed youth. Anti-Sarkozites bemoaned the addition of another generation to the “dynasty,” as if two Sarkozys—the one they call “le petit Nicolas” and now “Prince Jean”— weren’t enough. No one dared call for the slaying of the firstborn son, but the intention was clear!
Another slew of readers raged at the bare mention of the event. So what? Who cares? I don’t give a f__k. My guinea pig had babies yesterday. My neighbor became a grandmother last week. My second grandchild was born a month ago. What’s the big deal?
A reader of the nominally conservative Figaro newspaper commented on the choice of the name “Solal” as related to the ongoing government-initiated debate on “national identity,” construed by its opponents as an assault against immigrants, a return of pétainiste collaboration with Nazi-style racism, an appeal to voters of the far-right Front National and, of course, Islamophobia:
“For Sarkozy, national identity is a rampart against communitarianism [clannishness]…. So a communitarian is not French. Since 1789, casts and tribes have been swept away and replaced by a state that recognizes citizens only as individuals [not members of ethnic or religious groups]. What conclusion can be drawn about the nationality of Prince Jean who gave a communitarian name to his heir?”
Comments inthe left wing weekly Nouvel Observateur were more vicious:
« Little Sarko
« Is he the father??? Maybe ??? It seems she wasn’t only his. OK, he’s the one who’s going to feed the kid…it’s already a good thing…”
“jean valjean sarkozo
« Hey there, kids !
« Bravo Jean you’ve got a kid, bravo boy !!! But tell me what do you do for a living because you’re going to have to feed the little one, don’t count on welfare, hunh!
“’Cause in the real every day world you don’t jump for joy when a child is born into a family where the father and mother don’t have jobs, and they’re in their twenties!
“But you’re really Exceptional Jean.”
It is safe to presume that many of those snide remarks come from the Left. But Jacques Chirac, who belongs to the same UMP as the current president, was not vilified in these terms. No snide remarks about communitarianism when his daughter Claude, who handled his PR, was in concubinage with a Muslim judoka. Not a word about his sexual turpitudes—in private he was known as “between two landings”—or his illegitimate Japanese daughter.
François Mitterand’s son Jean-Christophe, nicknamed “Papa m’a dit” [daddy told me], served as his father’s errand boy and caretaker of French interests in Africa. But the pretentious, ambiguous French president was idolized as a scion of culture, a literary genius, an inspiring humanitarian, a model of virtue. Monarch? Mitterand? Why not? His physicians dutifully hid the truth about the fatal illness that left the president unfit to govern in the last years of his reign. And when his long time mistress showed up at the funeral with their daughter Mazarine Pingeot the same journalists who had kept the president’s double life secret burst into oohs and aahs of admiration. How elegant of the late president to invite them to the funeral! The young lady went on to write novels that are praised as works of genius by critics who swear it has nothing to do with the fact that she is the late president’s love child. Ms. Pingeot has three children with her companion Ali Baddou but this does not create significant outrage about communitarianism and silver spoons (his parents are wealthy upper class Moroccans) or nepotism (Mazarine and Ali soared from academia to dazzling careers in the heights of culture).
Everyone knows but no one outside Jewish media is mentioning that President Sarkozy’s grandson entered into the alliance (B'rit Mila or rite of circumcision) and will be raised Jewish by his observant mother. Nicolas Sarkozy's grandfather, Benedict Mallah, a Jewish immigrant from Salonika, converted to Catholicism in 1917 to marry his French sweetheart. But the Mallahs went into hiding with their daughters during the Occupation, knowing that the conversion would not suffice to protect them from persecution and eventually deportation and death. Nicolas Sarkozy grew up in the home of this once-Jewish grandfather, with his brother and mother, after she divorced her Hungarian husband.
Does that make the French president a Zionist tool? A hook-nosed capitalist? An uncouth, flashy, overly ambitious vulgar upstart? A sex maniac? An elder of Zion grasping control of France and the world? A punky little fake Napoleon? A nauseating playback of racist, collaborationist, fascist pétainisme? And, to top it all, a Franco-American joke who thinks he can compete with the tall, dark, handsome American Idol President Obama the Great!!!
Legitimate criticism of President Sarkozy’s government is consistently mixed with innuendoes more openly expressed in flourishing online gutter sites. While many Zionists are disappointed by his policies, the anti-Zionists portray the French president as the long arm of Tel Aviv. The same lethal narrative that turns Israelis into Nazis is used to demonize Sarkozy’s modest efforts to stem the tide of Islamization. Illegal immigrants–many of whom come from Jew-hating countries, cultures, and religions—are portrayed as today’s Jews who must be saved from extermination at the hands of the evil Immigration Minister—the Socialist “turncoat” Eric Besson—charged with deporting them by the tens of thousands. As many readers gleefully observed, the initials of Solal Sarkozy are SS. What more need be said?
Everything… on the toutsaufsarkozy.com [anyone but Sarkozy] site where the president is shown standing in front of an American and an Israeli flag, with the legend: “What does he represent? The axis of hatred!” The latest article lambasted him for speaking about the Shoah on January 27th.
In the summer of 2008, when Jean Sarkozy announced his engagement to his childhood sweetheart Jessica, the bitter satirist Siné wrote–in his Charlie Hebdo column– that the young Sarkozy knew how to get up in the world; he was going to convert to Judaism and marry a rich Jewish girl. When Charlie Hebdo editor Philip Val–who is known for courageously publishing the Mohamed cartoons– fired Siné, he was accused of censorship. Here’s what I wrote at the time:
TEMPEST IN A TRASH CAN (New English Review)
Paris 8 August 2008
The Observer, Haaretz, and the International Tribune devoted extensive bittersweet articles last week to the scandal raging around the dismissal of Siné, a founding contributor of the proudly offensive Charlie Hebdo magazine. The snarling cartoonist-columnist mentioned in passing in his July 2 column that president Sarkozy’s son Jean was converting to Judaism the better to marry his wealthy Jewish fiancée and get ahead in life. Editorial director Philippe Val, who admits he’d taken to publishing Siné without even reading his distasteful boring material, asked the 79 year-old curmudgeon to apologize to the victims of the “antisemitic” slur. Siné replied, in typical Charlie Hebdo language, that he’d rather snip off his family jewels. Val hit back with a pink slip, but in Charlie Hebdo gutter terms the color would be… I spare you the precision.
The incident was like a spark in a parched pine forest whipped up by the Mistral. In no time the summits of French print media and associated blogs were ablaze with comments, criticism, petitions, manifestoes, cris de coeur, insults…everything but a duel. An international petition in favor of Siné’s right to take jabs at Jews has reportedly gathered more than seven thousand signatures. On the other side of the quarrel, top-ten philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy, moralist Elie Weisel, and a handful of distinguished minds penned a manifesto supporting Philippe Val. Every article on the issue ignites hundreds of reader’s comments. One might want to take advantage of free wireless access in Parisian parks to plough through them while getting a breath of fresh air. But the tedious exercise is essential to an understanding of today’s post-antisemitism.
This lackadaisical guilt-free antisemitism without antisemites flows in the wake of the flagship Muslim Jew hatred that inspires and guides it. “No one can say anything about the Jews without being accused of anti-semitism,” whine the trendy Jew haters, proclaiming and denying their true feelings in the same voice. Flaccid as they are, they pack a double whammy. Availing themselves of free speech they regurgitate contempt, hatred, or death wish for Jews and/or Israelis but if we—I am Jewish– dare object they slam us with second-level accusations—“ah, so, it’s okay to make fun of Muslims but if you say a word about Jews…” “Oh, it’s ok for Jews to murder Palestinians but if you dare to mention it…” Jews are attacked, physically and/or verbally in reaction to Israeli “crimes” against Palestinians but if we assimilate anti-Zionism with Jew hatred we’re wrong again. (Given that half the world’s Jews now live in Israel, we could call these folks demi-antisemites.)
Today, Siné threatens to sue Philippe Val for defamation for calling his remark antisemitic but this is the same Siné who proudly declared, after the August 9, 1982 machine gun and grenade attack against Goldenberg’s Restaurant on the rue des Rosiers, attributed to the Abu Nidal group, in which 6 people were killed and 22 injured: “I’m an antisemite, and I’m not afraid to admit it. From now on I’m going to draw swastikas all over the walls. I want every Jew to live in fear, unless he’s pro-Palestinian. Let them die.” That being said he merrily pursued his career for another 2 ½ decades.
It is certainly nasty to accuse the young Sarkozy of converting to Judaism to get his hands on the Darty fortune. (For those who know Darty, France’s biggest chain of household appliance stores, the story acquires a Jamesian twist!) However, until and unless Jean Sarkozy converts, the antisemitic slur can’t apply to him…he’s Catholic. The young man’s great-grandfather, a Jewish immigrant from Salonika, did convert…to marry his French sweetheart. Then again, according to good old Nazi rules the young Sarkozy doesn’t have to convert, he is Jewish by blood.
Setting aside these genealogical complexities, the dismissal of Siné can be considered unfair, unwise, unscrupulous, unfounded but it is definitely not an impingement on his freedom of speech. Even in France, editorial director Philippe Val is supremely free to hire and fire collaborators. But the brouhaha, mistakenly attributed by some commentators to the summer doldrums, is in fact a deep reaction to a major issue:
The right to slander Jews– in any and all terms, from Biblical epithets to the latest Ahmadenijadism—is de facto granted. What’s contested is the freedom of Jews to strike back! Precisely because we don’t burn embassies or slit throats, slurs, slanders, and snide remarks against us are supposed to be risk-free. If Philippe Val, who presides over the out-of-bounds Charlie Hebdo, could discern antisemitism in the harmless remark of the venerable Siné, no one is safe anymore.
Customarily described as a “satirical weekly” (I probably used the term myself when they published the Mohammed cartoons) the overpriced undernourished Charlie Hebdo is actually a hump-it-all ramp from kindergarten pipi-caca through to dirty old man ruminations. A traffic of filth and kinky objects in & out of all the body’s orifices feeds a mulch of scatology and pornography with a scattering of political and social commentary, most of it in rusty tin cans.
Though the dismissal of the unrepentant grouch would suggest the existence of a sensitive filter somewhere in the magazine’s bowels, an op-ed on the al Dura affair published on July 9th, one week after Siné’s Jews-money-opportunism jingle, proves the contrary. “Little Mohammed is still stirring,” by Charb– Philippe Val’s second in command–is fresh, modern, and youthful as its author, born in 1967.
Deliberately ignoring contradictory evidence collected over the past eight years and recently validated by an Appellate Court decision [see “A Hoax?” Wall Street Journal Europe, May 27 2008], Charb retells the original al Dura myth. The death of the Palestinian child, caught in a cross fire between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli soldiers, was filmed, says Charbn by a France 2 cameraman. Charles Enderlin, the station’s Jerusalem correspondent affirms—to this day– that the murderous gunfire came from the Israeli side. As a result, “pro-Israel propagandists” have been dragging Enderlin through shit for the past eight years.
Charb, boasting of his ignorance about what really happened in Gaza that day, does know that Palestinians who use the al Dura image to prove that the “Israeli occupation army” kills civilians are knuckleheads. If the images didn’t exist, the kid would have been added to the list of 5 to 800 nameless Palestinian children killed by Israelis, he says. The cadavers aren’t displayed [sic] on TV when the Israelis bomb a building in Gaza so the Great Israel fanatics don’t bother to deny it. If the Palestinians think the world needs the al Dura image to show that Israel is fighting an “illegitimate” war and denies their right to self-determination, they're out of luck. Freedom-loving people shouldn’t need an al Dura to mobilize and defend basic Palestinian rights…like the right to go out to buy a loaf of bread and come home alive [sic].
The al Dura debunkers, says Charb, quibble over a detail because they deny the essential truth. Turning poor Enderlin into a Palestinian agent, turning Zionism into colonialism, “these Thierry Meyssan [best-selling French 9/11 conspiracy author] look-alikes who never saw a Palestinian killed by Israeli gunfire in Palestine” have convinced the CRIF [Jewish umbrella organization] to ask Sarkozy to set up an investigating commission. What does the CRIF have to do with this, what do the Jews in France have to do with it, why doesn't the UOIF [French Muslim Brotherhood association] demand its own investigating commission?
Young Charb, who is certainly not an antisemite, concludes: “And then those mature adults can scold the dimwitted banlieue Beurs for identifying with the Palestinians… Why don't the communitarian cunts set a good example!”
The al Dura article, which appeared to the left of Siné’s last column, sparked no controversy, inspired no petitions, sent no philosophers rushing to the barricades.
But Siné may have inspired the 63 year-old man—certainly not an antisemite—who scrawled “Sarkozys Jews Thieves” on the walls of several buildings near Jean Sarkozy’s home in Neuilly-sur-Seine last night.
To comment on this article, please click here.
To help New English Review continue to publish interesting and informative articles like this one, please click here.
To help New English Review continue to publish interesting and informative articles like this one, please click here.
If you have enjoyed this article and want to read more by Nidra Poller, please click here.
Nidra Poller also contributes to our community blog, The Iconoclast. To see all her blog posts, please click here.