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Bernard-Henri Levy. Photo: Itzike //wikimedia.org Bernard-Henri Levy. Photo: Itzike //wikimedia.org

Bernard-Henri Levy's rules of life

A French Jew's view of the life of Ukrainian Jews

The French political journalist, philosopher and writer Levy is an ardent and uncompromising fighter for justice — within his own understanding of its boundaries.


He supported Georgia during the war in the South Ossetia in 2008, made reports and interview President Mikhail Saakashvili. On 9 February 2014, he came on to the stage of Euromaidan, and the next day his speech was published in the central French newspaper Le Monde with the headline “We are all Ukrainians.”


At the same time, Levy is famous for signing a petition of the left-wing group “Jcall” to the European Parliament in 2010, which among other things called to put pressure on the Israeli government on issues of “disputed territories” - Judea and Samaria. The petition had varied responses in Israel and around the world. Levy is also friends with the current French president Francois Holland, whose Socialist Party successfully passed a resolution in parliament this Tuesday calling on the country's government to recognize Palestine as a nation.


In November, Levy once more visited Kiev when Viktor Pinchuk was awarded the medal of Metropolitan Andrei Sheptitsky, which is given for assisting Ukrainian-Jewish reconciliation and cooperation between the two peoples. The journalist made a speech about why anti-Semitism is not popular among Ukrainians today, and that the attempts to ascribe fascist roots to Euromaidan became a powerful argument for Ukrainian Jews to stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukrainians. JewishNews selected his most important statements.


  • Indeed, it cannot be denied that mass and long-standing anti-Semitism exists in the memory of the Ukrainian people. Mass shootings are a terrible liability that the Ukrainians and Ukrainian Jews have in their past.

  • But 70 years later, we have seen a completely different result. On the square of all freedoms, which Maidan became, there was not a drop of anti-Semitism. Jews understood full well who was really behind the civil uprising.

  • There is a “solidarity of the shaken”, as the great Czech philosopher Jan Patočka called it. It means a spontaneous brotherly solidarity of victims, whose memory does not lead to a battle and rivalry, but only gives each other strength. When you understand the victims of the Jewish people, you feel closer to the victims of the Ukrainian nation, and vice versa. Ukrainian Jews, like never before, have expressed “solidarity of the shaken”. Being a Jew in Ukraine means remembering the Holodomor and Babi Yar at the same time.

  • I in fact believe that some Jews are greater people that others. A “great Jew” has three main features. Above all, this is “Agavat Israel”, a love for the Jewish people. Yes, simply love, friendship and good will. Then there is the attitude to memory, and in particular to the memory of suffering, pain and oppressions. Finally, I believe that a great Jew is one who is not afraid of asserting him or herself. This is one of the qualities of a great Jew. The readiness to openly assert yourself and your faith.

  • It is here, in Kiev, that the issue of the life and death of Europe is being decided. And you (Ukrainians) need help, so that you can fight this battle to the end. I am certain that you are not as isolated as Vladimir Putin says you are, or perhaps even you yourselves say.

  • It [Kremlin propaganda – ed.] has been trying for almost a year now to portray Maidan as a gang of raving anti-Semites, who must be fought with the heavy artillery of old anti-fascist campaigns. This is no way to act. You cannot play with these words and this memory. The most revolting thing about it is that many Russian Jews have fallen into this trap and have let the wool be pulled over their eyes.

  • Does this mean that Russian Jews, who along with the chief rabbi Berel Lazar praise Putin, have become the new useful idiots of the Kremlin? Are they victims of disinformation? Hostages? Do they have a gun placed to their heads, or do they really believe what they say? Let's hold a general assembly of the Jews of Ukraine and Russia. Let's clear away all the misunderstandings created by propaganda. I say this to you out of a love for Ukrainian Judaism, which has endured so much suffering and is now proudly raising its head. I say this out of respect for Russian Judaism, over which dawn has finally broken, after what seemed eternal night.


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