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April 26, 2015 8:18 pm

French Philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy Says ‘New Wording’ is Making Antisemitism ‘Acceptable’ Again

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Bernard-Henri Levy. Photo: Itzik Edri via Wikimedia Commons.

French philosopher and public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy told a New York audience on Sunday that an emerging new language for antisemitism is once again making the world’s “oldest hatred” acceptable.

“Antisemitism in Europe is taking on a new form, is adopting a new wording which makes it again acceptable … by a growing number of French and European people,” he told an audience at the Consulate General of France in Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

He said the new antisemitism rested on the three pillars of anti-Zionism, Holocaust denial and using the Holocaust to “shut up” other human catastrophes.

Explaining his thesis, Lévy said that “one of the questions … of antisemitism … is to inhabit the wording which makes the hatred possible and legitimizes the hatred. It gives the feeling to the one who hates that he hates for good reasons.”

Throughout history, as the justification for antisemitism, Jews have at times been despised for “killing Christ” and at other times resented for “inventing Christ,” Lévy said. During other periods Jews were considered to be a corrupting race. These historic forms of antisemitism are now in the “process of disappearing” he said.

According to Lévy, today’s emerging anti-Jewish bigotry rests on three arguments.

The first of them is anti-Zionism. That “Jews deserve to be hated because they are faithful…to an illegitimate state.” The second is Holocaust denial. “Jews deserve our distrust…our hate…because they traffic what should be the most sacred part of themselves.” And the third justification antisemites are using, Lévy argued, is that Jews use the Holocaust to “shut up” the suffering of others and other genocides, “particularly the Palestinians.”

The widespread adoption of these three smears “could be the spark of the atomic bomb of antisemitism,” Lévy warned.

Describing the overall climate for Jews in France, which has seen some of the most deadly and brutal attacks against the community in the past decade, the philosopher was nuanced.

“For the Jews in France, the situation is dramatically critic [sic], but it is not a desperate situation, far from it,” he said. “We are not facing or living the return of the thirties, as some are saying in France and also in America.”

But, he warned, “the situation is critical of course, for the first time since long [ago] … Paris and France is a place that Jews are killed because they are Jews.”

Lévy listed the major recent attacks against Jews on French soil and admitted to those gathered that “I don’t know any French Jew today who does not feel concerned … who does not feel threatened by this atmosphere.”

“I know a lot of French Jews who live under protection, who cannot move from their home to a restaurant without being escorted by two or three or four brave policemen because they are under threat of this new criminal ideology of our time, which is world Jihad.”

“The Jews are not the only target of course,” he added, but “for sure, Jews today are on the top of the top of the list of the potential victims of this world Jihad.”

Lévy was the keynote lecturer at a fundraising event held in support of the David Gritz Scholarship at Paris’ Sciences Po, which was established to honor the memory of David Gritz, a French-American student killed in a terrorist attack at Hebrew University of Jerusalem on July 31, 2002.

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  • Fabián Natanowicz

    No one should be surprised on French anti-semitism, it is like Bordeaux wine or Pathe de Foie for a French , they have it in their blood stream, they were born with it. And why such a thing?, well, there are a number of issues, but basically, the Catholic Church, the first and most common instigator on anti-semitism over the centuries, playas the most importante role in your country.

  • James Brush

    Thanks Esther Pam Zibell. You are not only artist but philosopher!!!! Bernard’s Essay did not give credit to Jean Paul Sartre original writings… Google search: “Anti-Semite and Jew (French: Réflexions sur la question juive) is an essay about antisemitism written by Jean-Paul Sartre shortly after the liberation of Paris from German occupation in 1944. The first part of the essay, “The Portrait of the Antisemite”, was published in December 1945 in Les Temps modernes. The full text was then published in 1946.” French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy gave no references to his original sources and mentor…in his lecture to audience in Manhattan’s Upper East side.

    • Ben Canet

      Sorry James, i was at the event and he did mention Sartre. You must have missed it. Levinas is more his intellectual mentor than Sartre bu the way.

  • Shirley Hiller

    When WW11 ended anti-Semitism stayed, so to say that it is on the rise again is complete nonsense, just like this article is. We are not allowed to speak of the Holocaust? We are not allowed to be Zionists? Oh you make me want to throw up.
    I will say what i like when i like, and the anti-Semites can rot in hell.
    Remember anti-Semitism stayed, yes even when the Jewish people tried to get their meagre homes back in Poland, there they were called dirty Jews and told to clear off, by those who never smelled the burning flesh of my people, who never saw them lying in the streets dying from hunger.
    Nothing has changed, there were pogroms before the war began, there was hatred of the Jewish people before the war began, did you really thing it had gone away and now was coming back? If so you sure need educating.

  • Why are they so afraid of us? I suspect it is because as long as there are Jews successfully walking about, there is a doubt about their ‘messiah’….who never has brought the Messianic Age. And so we continue to survive and flourish! We are strong, intelligent and fruitful. And, one day, Messiah shall come.

  • Alexi

    The problem is the MEDIA.

    Each time a member of the media interviews an “Ant-Zionist” and fails to call them out, to their face, for the double standards they promote with regards to Israel the cause of the Antisemites is advanced.

    The ridiculous questions about the Holocaust that went something like “Why did go to slaughter like sheep”? Are now turned into, “How dare you defend yourselves”.

    We should all raise a ruckus each and every time we see it.

    Nobody else will. You can be sure of that.

  • I produced a rap video about the rise of anti-Semitism in Israel. Its going viral. Please check it out:

  • Genghis Cohen

    o.k I have read and reread every post and the three arguments of Bernard-Henri, and although there is some merit in each of these, it amazes me that none mention the leadership role of academia in Europe and America in fomenting antisemitism. The jihadis of Islam do not win converts to antisemitism by crashing passenger airliners into office buildings. Isis does not inspire Frenchmen to hate Jews by killing captive Christians. The hatred of Islam for all infidels is as old as Islam. Why does this philosopher not even mention academia, where most of the recent public displays of antisemitism originate? The answer may be that He does not wish to call attention to the DISEASE OF LEFTISM which has infected much of academia and major media such as the New York Times. It is a disease which destroys the memory and the acumen of pseudo- intellctuals

    • Eric R.

      Just had to chime in here to say that your screen name is fantastic.

  • Ben Strogen

    How Europeans can take a man with such a silly hair and clothing style seriously is beyond me. He looks like a stock-character narcissist. Someone needs to tell the French that existential philosophy is very much passé today. Jews too would be much better served by a less blowhard champion.

    • Ben Strogen

      Also, is “philosopher” really supposed to be a serious, grown-up job description?

  • HaroldT

    When will Jews in France wake up to the fact that they live in a anti-Semitic country.
    Have you forgotten Dreyfus and the mass roundup of Jews in WW2
    How many times has France voted FOR Israel at UN. Name one !
    And now France is putting forward the UN resolution to recognise “Palestine based on the 1948 borders”, thus working for the destruction of Israel.
    They are much more subtle than Nazi Germany, but the aim is the same.

  • Otto Schiff

    In my opinion, it is clear that the anti semites are the
    inferior race.
    The best choice for them is suicide like Hitler Goering and Goebbels.

  • “Is it racist to criticize the Palestinians as the world’s most tiresome cry-babies, with a bogus cause, and a plight that is entirely self-inflicted?

    …I see the Palestinian cause as a lie; a lie designed to exploit Western liberal guilt…”

    “Every concession Israel makes is met with more demands, and more excuses not to negotiate; they [the Palestinians] could have had peace ten times over if they wanted it, but they [the Palestinians] don’t want peace, they want victory, and they won’t be happy until Israel is wiped from the map.”

    SOURCE: Pat Condell Finally Gets it on Israel

    Pat Condell is an atheist who was born in Ireland around 1950 CE and raised in England as a Roman Catholic and educated in Church of England schools.

  • The bottom line is society using Jews (an easier target than being responsible)to vent our fears, red herring for bad gov. and religious extremists and ultimately sidestepping the hard decisions for justice – ex. not confronting Hitler immediately, not confronting Arabs/oil in the early 1900’s. Let alone world society sounds like whining jealous 5th graders when Israel responds with immediate support to a disaster or achieves tech and medical innovations. We never liked when ‘that person’ handed in their homework on time, made good grades and helped the teacher.

  • bea green JP BA

    When I was interviewed on Bavarian Radio a while back, I said I thought antisemitism was a disease. The wonderful interviewer came back with:
    “If it is a disease, is there a remedy?” and I had to do a bit of quick thinking. So I said:
    “If you could go into a chemist’s shop, an apothecary, and get medication that instils reason, yes!”

  • Elisheva

    When God gave Israel the Torah, He knew it would create antagonism with the other nations – he even turned the curses of Bilaam into blessings. He did not mean for Jews to remain in the exile and be spat at, neither did He request of them to “look good” in the eyes of the Gentiles.
    BHL is afraid of the “atomic bomb of antisemitism” and he tries to deny it in his own way – one of them was the suggestion that if only the Muslims would study Talmud, they would change the color of their skin and make peace with the Jews… well, it does not work that way.

  • Dr. Joseph Levy

    Right on!! When will Jews and the world wake up??? Israel needs to be protected and supported in the most vociferous ways! Jews around the world are being marginalized and stereotyped again using all the old stereotypes in the guise of new acceptable “liberal” terminology.
    When will all the Jews around the world wake up to the reality of a GLOBAL JIHAD aimed at exterminating Israel and the Jewish people. I wish ISIS, SYRIA, IRAN, LEBANON, YEMEN, SAUDI ARABIA, years and years of wars that will weaken their resolve to destroy Israel.

    • Duncan

      I agree, but the only thing that will ever weaken the resolve of those who hate a Jew for breathing is strength! Israel must stand strong and demand equal treatment or explain carefully the price of any new attempt at a Holocaust. It is WAY past time to worry about “offending” those who would eradicate he Jewish state if they had the power to do so.

  • Excellent Analysis and Evaluation. I trust that this material will be incorporated into many of the numerous essays and articles on the subject.

  • Why does the philosopher think that the old wording has disappeared? Are we suddenly all moderns? Do we understand individuality? Have we realized the promise of free speech, or are we caught in the deferential ways of feudalism? See

  • Bonnie Loranger

    He is right, Horrible.

  • Aviva-Roth Sucher

    This is of course troubling for the civilized world, because the Church has not openly accepted responsibility for this, and when it starts with the Jews, it spreads to accepting hatred towards anyone, anyone anywhere who is different from the hater.. Hence chaos in the world.. There is a G-d, and call it karma, or whatever you like. IT IS UNACCEPTABLE, and usually the anti-semites or the haters pay the highest price— in eternity.

  • 10

    why the jews entire history and 70 years ago including the synagogues extinguished.
    god did not name called shuls god name.

  • Can I take issue with one point?

    “…At other times Jews were considered to be a corrupting race. These historic forms of antisemitism are now in the ‘process of disappearing’ he said.”

    This form of antisemitism may be disappearing among Europeans, but I think it’s alive and well in the Muslim world.

    Take a look here, for example: (My personal favorite remark there is the imam who manages to blame Jews for anti-Muslim riots by Buddhists in Burma.)

  • 10

    the copied religions god receives minimal due to the fact it came from the original first religion. god input white and other ownership so god increases the power but still less then half. god religion was skipped so all prayed with copies and half religion. unfair suffering on earth while god saves with selective to unfair unable to reach.

  • edson

    Tem coisas dificieis de se dizerpor poderem ser mal interpretadas mas TUDO E A TORA. A felicidade e infelicidade do POVO JUDEU esta no cumprimento da TORA

  • Zukile Joseph Mpeta

    0h! I’m deeply touched by this article about Jews.I am a South African but I believe in Torah.I sometimes say if it is because of the sins we commit everyday or it is about prophecies,but where are the prophets today to can talk about what ALMIGHTY says we must do,because it seems as if this attack never ended ever since it started years and years ago.It is also my concern that the devil is using countries to fulfil his objectives.May ALMIGHTY fight for YOU till the end.I am with you in prayers as I know that all those who believe in ALMIGHTY will be persecuted.

  • M. Otero

    Out of deference to the pride and divisiveness of special reference to our 1948 Mizrahi refugees from the Muslim world, few people are even aware of them. It all began in 1941 with Hitler and Husseini’s radio broadcasts to North African Muslims who now carry on their hatred of the Jews and French imperialism to the mainland of France. If this is a step to the Caliphate, all of France is under threat. In recent years, more than two million Arabs have settled in Spain ostensibly to father a new Golden Age
    . Leaving the matter of the Mizrahis to Kerry, Obama, or Hillary nothing will happen although the Congress made that very issue deserving of their attention in recent years.

    • DA Paul

      Most Jews are familiar with what happened to the Jews of Arab lands. We all share a common history and destiny. Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh.

      If not, one should read the late Martin Gilbert’s “In Ishmael’s House” or the excellent books by Sara Taeib-Carlen which cover the Maghreb.

  • dante

    the most amazing thing is that, in many cases, the people who esteem themselves the most moral, the most enlightened, the most noble, the most dedicated to human rights, are the people who are in the vanguard of hysterical Jew-hatred or hatred of Israel. (of course, I’m not talking about the jihadists but, rather, of their western collaborators and enablers.)

    it reminds one of the exuberant Red Guards in the USSR implementing terror against the peasants and, 40 years later, of the Chinese Red Guards destroying academics, libraries and antiquities, and of the German students angrily attacking their Jewish professors and gleefully consigning their books to the flames.

    “oh, I didn’t know” “I didn’t realize” “I’m sorry” will not work. those who deliberately dedicate themselves to this ancient hatred will have to answer for their crimes.

  • Bernard-Henri Levi is right to make clear that the principal engine of anti-semitism today is Islam.

    Muslims are furious that the ONLY people who have stood up to them are the once despised pariah Jews.

    Levi does NOT discuss the existence of Israel. Israel is a fall-back. Many French Jews are taking advantage of it and moving there.

    Finally, Levi, or someone of his influence, needs to point out that anti-semitism is as much a problem, if not more, for France as it is for Jews. France is in danger of Islamising. It is fast reaching a tipping point of no return.

  • Eve Laing


  • David Goshen

    The Nazis left so much evidence of the Holicast that there is no way that antisemites can deny that it took place.
    The fight against antisemitizm needs a much moreL imaginative agenda.Security forces which persue perpetatrators aggressively will soon lead to reduced numbers of antisemites.Like every society small minorities are favored to be attacked.Larger minorities like Christians do not realize that when the antisemites persue Jews less they will start on the Christians.

  • Charles Oren

    Jews are guilty of GENOCREATION and not genocide. We created the “Palestinians” There has never been an Arab Muslim Palestinian people. Arabs can not even pronounce the P of Palestine. Palestinians during the British mandate referred to the Jews living in Palestine. The Romans coined the term Palestine to refer to the Jews and this was 600 years before Muhamed was born.
    There were about 200,000 Arabs living in Palestine when Mark Twain visited the Holy Land and today they claim that there are 14,000,000 Palestinians living in Israel and the Diaspora……yet another word they have stolen from us!

    • Otto Schiff

      A very sound observation.

  • Eve

    Time for a new old day for the Jewish people. Time for the resurrection of the civil forces of angry, formidable Jews that protected their people. I will remind everyone that the few moments of peace and quiet that Jews enjoyed in this world was fostered by the presence of groups like the *JDL*, and emphatically encourage the return of aggressive self-protection of the Jewish community. I will remind that tormenting Jews became quickly undesirable and “out of fashion” when there were broken heads and “missing persons” to pay for that; when violence against Jews was not without PENALTY, when it was met with swift and direct accountability, in kind. And I will assert that all of the “standard” qualities of Judaism, as exist in modern terms, never have, are not, and will never be, enough to earn Jews a peaceful existance in this world; that that alone is not good enough. Jews need to be mindful that in this profane world, if you want to survive, you must also possess and exhibit a superior and righteous *STRENGTH* – – and the FURY of God. It is the by-product of intellectualism, namely, the *suppression of ANGER*, that is the enemy of the Jewish people. Jews need to go back to an examination of their bibles and acknowledge that there were no namby-pamby Jews in the Old Testament. Time, again, to GET UP, GET STRONG, GET ORGANIZED, AND GET REALLY, REALLY ANGRY. Strong and immediate aversives are called for.

    • thank you Eve,
      you express very clearly what should be said in every Synagogue and every church.
      It should be told again and again to those Jews-in-name only working for and assisting the current US administration which would gladly sell out Jews world wide.
      Those Jews are supporting the insane foreign policies of the Obama Regime created to do exactly that.

      Unfortunately too few Jews stand up and speak out.Not then and not now.Remember Rabbi Kahane?
      Never again,ever,no matter what it takes!

  • Steve Wenick

    Anti-Semites do not need to search for reasons to hate Jews because they are so adept at inventing them.

  • mireille mechoullam

    I agree with the Professor. Antisemitism is a decease that can be compared to cancer. From time to time it’s dormant but never curable. With the influx of Muslims in Europe it became extremely difficult to be Jewish in Europe.

  • Martial

    It now becomes apparent to me that Jew baiting is quite often a cover for Jihadism, the desire to conquer the planet, just as it was for the conquest of the planet by Nazi Germany. Mr. Lévy should evaluate carefully the fascist nature of Mr. al Husseini, Mr. al Banna, & Mr. Qutb, all of whom began the current plague of Jihad. He will discover that, just as with fascism, Mr. Qutb believed in an organic State; this combined with his belief that this State could indeed be embodied in a single individual, such as a King, made him a fascist. The World Conquest, of course, was part & parcel of Jihad. Al Banna was a horrific Nazi monster, as anyone who reads about him will conclude. As for al Husseini, well, he did start an SS regiment.

    In the end, it was the actuated desire to conquer the world that made the WWII fascists the monsters they really were. We Jews would not have had any problems but for that; there were only 600K in 1936 in Germany – they would have found sanctuary elsewhere. It was the conquest of Europe that doomed us & the Roma.

    Once this is realized, much becomes clear. Yes, there are anti-Semites who are not out to conquer the world; these, thank heavens, when in power, are in power in countries devoid or nearly devoid of Jews. The danger to Jew & non-Jew, however, lies in the fascists among them who do want to conquer the planet, ISIS, al Qaeda, Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, etc.

  • Alice

    You nailed it Mr. Bernard-Henri Lévy. Unfortunately, this new wording of antisemitism will not disappear with words… because the masses of djihadists are largely illiterate/uneducated and are constantly brainwashed hence dangerous. All those who think that dialogue is possible are deadly wrong.

  • Peter

    Why does Levy (and any other Jews) stay in Europe? Time to leave for greener pastures.

    • Aviva

      Excellenty stated!

  • Sol Kohan

    I definitely agree with the philosopher’s points. I lived in Paris for one year to explore the culture and I was faced with anyisemitism sentimate almost daily through my
    Interaction and conversation with people and even with those who considered me a friend. The main argument was always against Israel occupying the Palistinians lands

    There is thin line between anti israel and antisemitism sentimate .This group of people who are actually the majority of the youth and left activists (who consider themselves intellectual social movement of France) express their hatred as “hatred against Israel and not Jews.” Which gives them the legitimacy for hating Israel and the jews Who are pro Israel . And that practically encoumpasses almost all the Jews in the world. This is a sad truth.

  • Rhialto

    I seriously doubt that you want to read what I am about to write.
    However, the slow accumulation of opprobrium may have some effect after some time. What Levy-Strauss speaks of could quite easily be applied to the racist language Netanyahu used to get re-elected recently. Also, what you really don’t want to read or hear, the actions of Israel are fostering anti-semitism. The way Israel treats the people of the west bank and indeed, how it treats its own non-jewish citizens are causing large numbers of people to feel that the Jews are repeating the holocaust, with
    Palestinians in the role of Jew this time. So, your country faces a stark choice. The country can continue along the path which the arch-opportunist, Netanyahu, has charted and feel the joy of the bully while collecting ill will from all over the world. OR, Israel can straighten up and fly right. The choice is yours.

    • Unadulterated garbage and covert anti-semitism.

    • Shirley Hiller

      The name palestinans is as fictitious as your comments. Have you been taking lessons on propaganda from Hamas?

  • bsteve2

    The way to combat antisemitism is to fight back. We are easy targets.

  • Genghis Cohen

    How is it that Bernard-Henri fails to comment on the antisemitism of the New York Times? Is there some aspect of antisemitism that is shared by Europe and the Times that is missing from Mr. Levy’s three arguments. I suggest that leftism is the common factor which is new in today’s antisemitism.

  • Dani

    I would like to ask to this thinker what would it take to make the situation “desperate” when some Jews already can not even go around the corner without protection.

    Another question is why nobody talks about the role and the gilt of European left in reaching to this unacceptable situation.

  • IF it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it must be a duck…Anti-Semitism is Anti-Semitism and when you are attacked as a Jew you will know it is anti-Semitism

  • art

    Remember after the Madrid Conference we were told Anti Semitism was over, the Arab boycott would end and all would be good, Remember after Oslo we were told that anti Semitism was over, and after the withdrawal from Southern Lebanon, and after withdrawal from Jenin, Ramallah and area C, and after withdrawal from Gaza….
    There is a lesson, third party guarantees guarantee war and death .. All the concessions and withdrawals have lead to a weakened and hated Israel. Only through strength do Jews get respect