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December 4, 2016 4:29 pm

Bernard-Henri Lévy Says Election of Donald Trump a ‘Major Event for Jews’; Warns of Rise of ‘American Antisemitism’

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Famed humanitarian and philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy.

Famed humanitarian and philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy.

Editor’s note: Bernard-Henri Lévy — French philosopher, filmmaker, and activist; defender of Israel and of Jewish values — returns to New York on January 11 for a conversation with Charlie Rose at the 92nd Street Y. On the same day, Random House will publish The Genius of Judaism, an English translation of Lévy’s best-seller, L’Esprit du judaïsme. The following brief interview provides a sample of what you’ll hear:

Why did you choose the Y for the launch of your book?

Because there is in New York no finer locus of Jewish thought and culture than the Y. Known all over the world, it is a model for the great European community centers. I am not aware of many other places where “knowledge” and “study” are found together in such perfect balance. For a book like The Genius of Judaism, which advocates for an affirmative Judaism, there could not be a better place for the launch.

What do you mean by affirmative Judaism?

A glorious Judaism that is proud of itself and its values. A strong Judaism. But hold on! I don’t mean naked strength or brute force. I mean the force of intelligence, the strength that comes from reflection and commentary. The strength that Jews derive from familiarity with their sacred texts, notably the Talmud.

You are aware, of course, that your presentation will occur just a few days before the United States inaugurates a new president?

Of course. And, with all of the humility required by my status as a foreigner accepting the hospitality of an institution of high American culture, I will express how I view this event. I will discuss Mr. Trump with respect to Jews, Judaism, and what I know of his, at least very strange, relationship with Israel. Once again, I will do so with courtesy and care, and in a way that reflects my unconditional love for America and its credo. But I will not dodge the issues or dance around the tough questions.

Are you among those Europeans who are condemning the president-elect in advance?

“In advance” is not my style. I believe that the most decent stance, for someone who believes in democracy, is the one taken by Barack Obama, by Hillary Clinton, and, indeed, by The Algemeiner — namely, that the people have spoken, that Trump has been elected and that we all have to wish the United States and its administration the best of luck. That said, I have my own ideas about what is occurring in the US heartland and my own ideas about what today’s American Jews should be alert to. I believe that this election is — in addition to everything else—a major event for the Jews. And I will explain why.

Can you share a bit more about that?

I would prefer to wait until January 11, if you don’t mind. Especially since the book, which addresses this point squarely, is embargoed until then. I can tell you one thing, however. American Jews are rightly horrified by the rise of antisemitism in Europe generally and in France in particular. One of the themes of the book is that the United States is not just a spectator here. Unfortunately, there exists an American antisemitism whose genealogy and triggers I explore in the book. And that American antisemitism is undergoing a resurgence.

Can you cite some examples?

Here again, let’s wait until January 11. But one example is all the antisemitic voices (KKK, white supremacist and so on) that the Trump event liberated and emboldened. And another one is, of course, the BDS movement, which stands for boycott, divestment, and sanctions. I will retrace the movement’s history. I will demonstrate that its deepest roots lie in the soil of European Nazism. And I will explain how and why this manner of being anti-Semitic without appearing to be and without suffering from a guilty conscience is just getting started in this country, to my great dismay. Please forgive my bluntness. But when you see the enemy coming, when you know his true face, you have to find ways to fight him. And that’s what we’ll talk about, this night, at the Y. Be there.

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  • TJ Martin

    Is that a fact . Hmmm . So Steve Bannon isn’t an Alt Right racist and anti semite giving a platform to the lowest values to be found in the US ? Trump’s well documented past as well as his families hasn’t shown a long record of bigotry , racism and anti semitism ? The RNC isn’t going out of its way in the name of victory at all cost despite the consequences to court the Neo Fascist and Neo Nazi extreme right along side their NRA blacks shirt cohorts ? Hmm .. methinks thou shouldest do a little digging into the facts rather than the conspiracies and Cult of Personality rhetoric before spouting off thusly . Because the simple and very sad fact is BHL probably at this point in history has a better insight as to the goings on in America than the majority of Americans themselves

  • Lloyd Kennedy

    There is no substantive rise in anti-Semitism in Europe despite it being the agenda of pressure groups like the Community Security Trust in Britain to make everyone believe otherwise. The CST can report the most spurious of “anti-Semitic” incidents and it’s then recorded as a statistic. And I haven’t seen a marked rise in anti-Semitism in France either so whilst no one is denying that there are genuine cases it is not rampant in Europe as certain sections of the American media would have everyone believe.

  • Abu Nudnik

    BHL has a blind spot. He’s like a guy who was run over by a blue car who thinks red cars can’t do him harm.

  • Jennifer Chantrell

    Can you please explain what you mean that the Jews supported the influx of Muslims into France. Tnx

  • Kish Mirtuches

    rightly so to boycott German imports in 1933, no comparison here with Israel today, Mr Laskin.

  • Kish Mirtuches

    Israel bashing by Obama has been instrumental in setting the tone from the top. Eight years of it. Anti-Semitism has been on the rise for a number of years, and it is spelled O-B-A-M-A.

  • Salomon

    Not very smart M. BHL, he advised and influenced M. Sarkozy (former France President, a schmuck that received moneys from Qaddafi) to attack Lybia and depose the dictator Qaddafi…a brutal and bloody schmuck. But this schmuck contained other more crazy Arabs…besides containing the invasion of Europe by the desperate Africans and ISIS agents… By the way BHL should better explain why the French licked the asses of the boches during three years 1941-1944, just to be rescued by the Anglo-Saxons.

  • herbcaen

    He should work on anti-Semitism in France first

  • Stevie

    “one of the bastions of the self-satisfied wealthy left-liberal Jews.” You sound like an anti-semite, or a self-hating Jew as the case may be, yourself. Have you even BEEN to the 92StreetY? I doubt it. It’s a cultural institution. And they have Israeli dancing as well.

  • Mutali

    BHL is True Satan on Earth.

  • ricardo

    It is very strange how the world perceive us in the United States, perhaps fed by our own hysterical reporters… Yes, it is true that a few hundred filthy insane neo-nazis and perhaps as many as ten thousand racists dressed in white clown suits voted for Trump and is is quite possible that in their delusion they think that Trump will further their insane agenda. But that is a tiny minority of his electors – give or take half the America electorate, about 60 million people voted on Trump because they are sick and tired of either being unemployed, or having to juggle two jobs, or working really hard just to be able to pay the bills at the end of the month. They are scared about terrorism, their own retirement when they grow old, and how to send their kids to college – and they perceive that President Obama policies got them in this situation

  • elixelx

    “But one example is all the antisemitic voices (KKK, white supremacist and so on) that the Trump event liberated and emboldened.”
    So Bernie, you’re saying that these antisemitic voices would NOT have been liberated BUT for the Trump Event?
    You’re saying that a Hillary or Bernie win would have suppressed these voices?
    Are you suggesting that these voices were non-existent before the Trump event?
    Are you, heaven forfend, suggesting that Trump is somehow RESPONSIBLE for your worst fears being realized?
    You do realize, don’t you Bernie, that it is YOU who are the provocateur in this Levy event; it is YOU who is giving oxygen to this meme; YOU, who with your reputation and gravitas are somehow creating the conditions which “embiggen” these swine!
    Yes, Bernie; check the beam in your own eye before commenting on the mote in Trump’s!
    TRUMP EVENT, indeed. Only a disappointed loser, only n deplorable Liberal could call this magnificent Triumph an event!

  • Edan Orvitz

    President Trump is a friend of the Jewish people unlike Obama .

    • TJ Martin

      Trump is no friend of anyone but himself .

  • Paul Caplan

    Mr. Levy’s comments are those of a typical American lefty Jew whose world view is precisely what was rejected by the American electorate.

    In short, he begins by causing anti-semitism, and then he warns about it.

    Jews like him are a dime-a-dozen, and every one of them causes problems for us.

    This subject is discussed fully on the website


    • Stevie

      Actually, 2.5 million more Americans voted for Hillary, so I would not say these views were rejected by the electorate.

      • Paul Caplan

        Fair point.

  • JJ Gross

    One need not wait until his talk at the Y. Bernard Henri Levi is as predictable as tonight;s sunset — a slick, Euro leftist who makes his money pandering to the prevailing Zeitgeist among European pseudo-intelligentsia. If he were American he would be secretly voting for Sanders while openly supporting Hillary, showing his kosher pigs feet for having spent a few weeks in Israel while stabbing Israel in the back with the dagger of Jewish defeatism.

  • johan eary

    Jews in the US may well have to make a stark choice very soon. Keep supporting a party that is increasingly being infiltrated by radical anti Semites like Keith Elison, who hate israel and side with Israel’s enemies. Or support those politicians who want to keep the special relationship between Israel and the US as it is and who sii Israel as an asset and an ally to the US. Even if those politicians are Republicans.

  • Charles Press

    Mr.Levy is probably the sanest Jewish voice in the world today.

  • Peter Joffe

    Antisemitism which is the ‘politically correct’ name for racism is going to increase anyway as Islam grows and spreads its evil disease as instructed by the Koran..

  • Jonah

    In America the Christian evangelicals are the strongest force on this earth protecting and defending Israel. Europe is losing its Christian soul and becoming a strong force for Islam that is what’s fueling most of its antisemitism. American Christians have their guns and bibles along with their love of Israel stoke that fervor with Trump and the antisemites are about to be steamrolled.

  • Lauren Goldman

    American anti-Semitism did not go away after WWII, it went underground, just out of view.
    I am seventy-one, and the town where I grew up, in the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles), always had a whispered anti-Semitism. Every couple of years, the old blood libel, that Jews stole Christian children to sacrifice and use their blood to make matzo for Passover, would make its way around the neighborhood. Along with the perennial ‘knowledge’ that we have horns.
    Fast forward to the present in San Francisco, where I now live. Last year, I overheard people, on multiple occasions, saying that the economy is a mess ‘because of the Jews.’
    Early this year, as I was riding on a public bus, some boys got on at the stop by their high school. In a couple of minutes, one of them said something about Hitler (yimach sh’mo) then one of the others said that ‘the Nazis should have killed them all.’ When I turned around, I was shocked to see that they were five Asian-American boys.
    Later this year, as I was walking home, I was verbally accosted on the street for being Jewish because I was wearing a Star of David.
    Thanks to some of the rhetoric during the presidential campaign, the forces of intolerance and hatred have felt legitimized.
    As I was leaving my counselor (who is not Jewish) at the Vet Center, she didn’t say, “See you later,” as she usually does. This time she said, “Be careful.” When I said that I always am, she said, “No, I really mean it, please be safe.”
    I had already been planning to move to Israel well before the election campaigning began and now it has taken on a sense of urgency.

  • Sonia

    Jews should compare the author’s views with those of MK Moshe Feiglin, see Moshe Feiglin is heading a new and brave movement and sees Donald Trump’s election as positive. Hilary’s strong connections to people associated with child pornography and blood-drinking should worry any sane Jew; nevermind Benghgazi the lies and the copious evidedence of a trail of death blazing behind the Clintons (and Bushes) going back to Mena Arkansas. I cannot understand how ONE Jew would vote for Hilary; whilst I do understand the concerns regarding the far right, of course.

  • bigrobtheactor

    A real cliff-hanger…

  • tom

    The rise of anti-semitism has nothing to do with Trump , but the rise of Muslim
    immigration .