Some while back, the top French-Jewish philosopher, Bernard-Henri Levi, who wrote lovingly of Daniel Pearl after his murder, was interviewed in the Jerusalem Post.
For a philosopher known for having an opinion on virtually everything, Bernard-Henri Lévy can be surprisingly terse. Shrugging his shoulders and raising his hands as if to ask “isn’t it obvious,” Lévy responds to the question “why as such a staunch supporter of Israel did you put your name to the recent JCall petition,” with the answer “because I am a supporter of Israel.”
But, I put to him, the Right accuses JCall of being shortsighted, of not understanding history and of erroneously putting the onus on Israel when the formula of land for peace is dead and when it is incumbent on the Arabs to recognize Israel as a Jewish state for peace to be made.
The accusation seems to animate Lévy. ”There are two different things,” he explains as he leans forward across the table in the lounge of Tel Aviv’s chic Hotel Montefiore. “Israel recognized by the Arabs, of course. But Israel recognized as a Jewish state by the Arabs, why? The Arabs absolutely must recognize Israel. But the question of whether Israel is a Jewish state or a secular state or whatever is for Israel to decide, not for the Arabs.
“This [Binyamin] Netanyahu claim is absurd on an international level. You cannot ask anybody to recognize a state as a Jewish state or a Christian state or a Muslim state or a secular state. It’s not the problem of international law. International law supposes that the Arabs recognize, definitely, forever, clearly, the full legitimacy of Israel. This is clear on an international level. Recognize Israel as a Jewish state? This is not the problem of the Arabs. Not only do I not ask, I don’t even recognize [the right of] the Arabs to decide what Israel will be. Israel is what the Jewish people makes of it.”
Lévy pauses for a second before adding: “What I know is that I am more than anyone linked to this country, I am linked to this country with all my soul and flesh and I want the best for this country, and the best for this country is peace.”