Barbarians on the Left

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bernard-Henri Levy , writer, philosopher, and the author of Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism (Random House, 2008), takes the political left to task for its human rights record.

He will be appearing tonight at 7 p.m. at the Union Square Barnes and Noble (33 East 17th Street), and Thursday night at 8 p.m. at the 92nd St. Y.


Bernard-Henri Lévy

Comments [66]

Harry from NYC

The Europeans liberals are not credible on questions of bortion since they will readily admit abortion is infanticide but to them it is acceptable since the right of the "adult" woman and the control of "her body" outweighs any thought of another life. Funny how he is fast to also define what type of veiling is a "human rights violation" for another culture! These idiotic leftist Europeans are hilarious!

Sep. 18 2008 12:54 PM
edward from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

i love you brian, but i really wish wnyc and NPR in general would stop giving this guy a platform in the US because he really has very little to say and is not very bright. much like his counterparts on the right he seems unable to grapple with any grey areas, which after all make up most of reality.

Sep. 18 2008 01:55 AM

Nah, that crowd has found their home at the BBC

Sep. 17 2008 06:02 PM
Stuart from Bronx, NY

Wow - a critic of the antisemitic Left on the Brian Lehrer show!

Quite an achievement for National Palestinian Radio!!!

Sep. 17 2008 05:32 PM

edward -- last 2 paragraphs hit nail on head. thanks for articulating so concisely.

Sep. 17 2008 02:03 PM
Edward from Washington Heights - AKA pretentious "Hudson Heights"

Another view to consider is Alvin H. Rosenfelds 22 page essay ""Progressive" Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism".

The bottom line is that criticising Israel over its policies is NOT anti-semitic.

ONLY criticising Israel while ignoring the policies, charters, genocidal threats of hamas, hizbullah, the Islamic Republics of Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Mauritania., THAT is anti-semitic.

Sep. 17 2008 12:48 PM
Edward from Washington Heights - AKA pretentious "Hudson Heights"

Graham in Paris,

I generally have no problem with "Liberals".

It's the Leftists, so-called "Progressives" who turn a blind eye to Radical Islam, who strike me as hypocritical.

Bertrand Russel? How about someone who is still alive? When has Noam Chomsky written a book taking conservative Radical Islam to task?

The British press, the BBC have a definite bias against Israel and a circumspect attitude towards Radical Islam.

When British Journalist Alan Johnston was kidnapped in Gaza on 4/14, on 4/16 the British Journalists Union urged a boycott of Israeli goods! Where were journalistic ethics?

British universtiy lecturers (British Academics Union) use McCarthyistic tactics interviewing people applying for positions in British academia. "Are you now or have you ever been a supporter of Israel?" If so, the interviewee would be rejected - due to the interviewers displeasure of the policies of the Israeli government.

Sep. 17 2008 12:36 PM
office worker from Brooklyn

Those were all events undertaken by your precious Christianity-loving Christians, Harry.

I know what all of those things are, which is why I challenged you with them.

Sep. 17 2008 12:29 PM

i thought the head rabbi of rome was the pope?

Sep. 17 2008 12:08 PM
Hayy from NYC

[2] office worker from Brooklyn:
Do you know what the Spanish Inquisition was?
Do you know the meaning of Inquisition?
Do you know how many people were subjected to the Inquisition and over how many years?
You obviously know nothing of the Papal encyclical against slavery before the Atlantic slave trade started! And your information regarding colonization and the holocaust are disturbingly at variance with history. You need to do some serious reading. Why don't you find out why the head Rabbi of Rome converted to Catholicism after WWII because he was so moved and impressed with the character of the Church during the second wave of the secular 20th century blood-bath which would not end with the holocaust. So instead of pointing back 500 years the the 360 year period when "civil" authorities, NOT THE CHURCH, executed on average 5 people a year for heresy and other crimes, learn some real history before you spout you prejudices.
Sorry for throwing your ill-informed bomb back at you but as Carl Keating once said, it can take pages to properly inform a few malicious sentences by those who are uninformed or malicious!

Sep. 17 2008 12:03 PM
Graham from Paris

to Edward [54] from Washington Heights,

Liberals, lots of them, have written books denouncing _obscurantism_ in general, no matter its particular form.

Bertrand Russell to name one ---not to mention many liberal philosophers long and recently past---did this.

Don't you count those works? Demanding that the book be specifically and exclusively against radical Islam to meet your standards suggests to me that there is something erroneously partisan about your approach to the matter.

The books are there, and many have been since before you were born. You have lots of reading to do, it seems.

Sep. 17 2008 11:53 AM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

robert, it is safe to say he doesn't. he embraces the right of the french government to say that within a public school, head coverings of all sorts are forbidden, as they create a barrier/separation between those individuals wearing them and the rest of the population, because in that republic, it is about commonality (in this case, being french) first, religiosity comes second. These can be worn once outside of the school, or one can attend and wear them within a private parochial school, of which there are many.

Sep. 17 2008 11:35 AM
Edward from Washington Heights - AKA pretentious "Hudson Heights"

That wait for his book on humility would not be as long as the wait for a book by a prominent Leftist denouncing Radical Islam or current day slavery in Sudan.

Sep. 17 2008 11:33 AM
Jose from Queens

Note to "Inquiring Minds"

So you get your moral stands from politcal ads?!

I think you got a bit carried away with your "de-intellectualization."

BTW, I also have some land in Florida you'd be interested in...

Sep. 17 2008 11:32 AM
Graham from Paris

48] Amy from Manhattan
September 17, 2008 - 11:27AM
(not the same Amy from Manhattan who just called in)

1) Didn't the French law also prohibit wearing yarmulkes or crosses?

*** *** ***

Yes, all visible religious paraphenalia are prohibted--- crosses, crescents, stars of david, etc.

Sep. 17 2008 11:31 AM
Graham from Paris

[47] robert from park slope
September 17, 2008 - 11:26AM
I'll wait for his book on humility

LOL! Good luck with that.

Sep. 17 2008 11:28 AM
Dan from NJ

What a waste of air time!

Accusations with no support. Why didn't you try to pin him down on anything at all, Brian???


Sep. 17 2008 11:28 AM
Inquiring Minds

@26 Roz

every time i watch this i cry:

at some point one has to de-intellectualize all this...

Sep. 17 2008 11:28 AM
Jose from Queens

This guy is full of double-standards.
He thinks Jewish cover themselves for cultural reasons and Muslims do it for sexual embarrasment reasons?
This is simply not true,
1. They both cover themselves for the same exact reasons, which are both gender based and cultural.
2. Everybody knows that Islam borrowed most of its beliefs from a pan-middle eastern millieu. So it's very obvious that they both oppress women in the same way.

Sep. 17 2008 11:27 AM
Amy from Manhattan

(not the same Amy from Manhattan who just called in)

1) Didn't the French law also prohibit wearing yarmulkes or crosses? 2) I agree w/a lot of what M. Levy is saying, but I don't think he can know what wearing the veil means to any individual woman. It sounds as though in supporting individual rights, he's denying individual thought.

Sep. 17 2008 11:27 AM
robert from park slope

I'll wait for his book on humility

Sep. 17 2008 11:26 AM
jlk from Manhattan

How does this man know what muslim women are thinking when they wear the veil? How can he claim to speak for them? He just said that muslim women think of themselves as just "bodies" and as means of reproduction... Really? Did he ask every single muslim woman (of the 1.5 billion muslims on the planet) what she thinks of herself when she wears the veil? Perhaps the real denial of rights is this man's reckless silencing of muslim women through his half-baked theories.

Sep. 17 2008 11:26 AM

Yeah this guy is full of crap.

Sep. 17 2008 11:25 AM
Graham from Paris

But but, but !!!

Walt and Mershiemer's book _is_ published in France!!!

Sep. 17 2008 11:25 AM
Kathy from Ramsey, NJ

In parts of the world, children and adults with developmentally disabilities and/or serious mental illness are locked in cages and denied treatment, education, human contact. These people deserve the same human rights as everyone else.

Sep. 17 2008 11:25 AM
Alex from Brooklyn

Well, then, Mr. Levy. Offer a criticism of Israel. He has never done so in public.

As for Levy's criticism of Walt and Mearsheimer, I have to conclude that Mr. Levy hasn't even _read_ the book.

Sep. 17 2008 11:24 AM
Zach from UWS

Double standard!!!! Veil is bad. Wig/head cover is okay. This means Muslims bad, Jews okay. This is what he is saying and when asked to clarify, he says, "There is too much confusion. There must be clarity." Not is you can't back it up Mr. Henri-Levy.

Sep. 17 2008 11:24 AM
pauline schneider from katonah, NY

I love this guy. He's absolutely right. We on the left aren't upset enough by the conservatives and this administration. We have not marched enough, written enough letters, addressed our own racist and sexist tendencies to make any real differences. The fact that women are not completely outraged at Palin who's beliefs would have our raped daughters and older women jailed for having abortions is enough to prove that Monsieur Henry Levy is correct.

Sep. 17 2008 11:24 AM
Edward from Washington Heights - AKA pretentious "Hudson Heights"

To identify anti-Radical Islam with Islamophobia is a RACIST maneuver to bigots on the Left to silence dissent.

Sep. 17 2008 11:24 AM
Truth 911 etc

can't the current economic crisis in NYC be blamed on zionists?

Sep. 17 2008 11:23 AM
Marco from Manhattan

Many European states have opted for cultural relativism. No wonder that Europe (with its 450+ million population)can do nothing about egregious human rights disasters like Darfur for example. I guess it's easier to blame everything on the US.

Sep. 17 2008 11:23 AM
Dan from NJ

Barry, what is ANSWER?

You've got a case to make.

Sep. 17 2008 11:23 AM
Alex from Brooklyn

Bernard-Henri Levy is one of the feeble racists who condemns _all_ critics of Israel as anti-semitic.

To identify anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is a RACIST maneuver by bigots like Levy designed to silence dissent.

Sep. 17 2008 11:22 AM
simge from NY

As a muslim and secular Turkish woman who doesn't wear a headscarf I am terrified by European and US ( also the leftists of west) support of Islamic party who is in power in Turkey. Pretty soon only secular muslim country will be history and believe me it won't be good for israel

Sep. 17 2008 11:22 AM
RA from CT

I don't think BHL understands mainstream American progressives. We are critical of US and Israeli foreign policy; we aren't anti-American or anti-Semitic. There is a difference between being critical of government policy and hatred for a people. Rhetorical bomb throwers like BHL like to equate the two. Is BHL a Christian Zionist? What does he think of greater Israel and the building of West Bank settlements?

Progressives are supportive of universal human rights for all. We just aren't ready to commit US troops for the protection of every group. Where is his government when it comes to protecting human rights around the globe?

Sep. 17 2008 11:22 AM
MichaelB from UWS Manhattan

How will Monsieur Levi reconcile his belief in an aggressive left, with the blanket "anti-war" stance of most of the left?

Sep. 17 2008 11:21 AM
Robert from NYC

How about a definitive definition of anti-semitism? It is often just thrown out against a critic of some Israeli policies and often with regard to criticism of the policies concerning Palestinians and Palestine. So what is anti-semitism?

Sep. 17 2008 11:21 AM
Edward from Washington Heights - AKA pretentious "Hudson Heights"

Criticism of Radical Islam is not islamophobia.

Sep. 17 2008 11:21 AM
Alexa Kelly from NYC

I think what the French are doing --allowing no religious symbols in schools is EXCELLENT!

Allowing the children to know each other as individuals, and not insist on segregations via religion is the first step in anti racism.

I congratulate the French Government for having the courage to do this--no one has that sort of courage here--they would all be afraid of financial repercussions!
It has NOTHING to do with freedom of expression.

Sep. 17 2008 11:21 AM
Robert from New York

I read the "Daily Kos" every day and haven't noticed any anti-semitism. Could you please hold your callers to some standard -- like giving _one_ actual example -- before they are allowed to vilify? Isn't this sort of name-calling similar in style to the very anti-semitism that is decried?

Sep. 17 2008 11:21 AM
Roz from nyc

Regarding the comment that the left does not make room for anti- choice people (dba as pro life people), I say if you do not believe in abortion, don't have one! Your stance does not give you the right to dictate that choice to others.

Sep. 17 2008 11:20 AM
barry from Manhattan

Dan where did you go?

Sep. 17 2008 11:20 AM
Amanda from Gainesville, Florida

M. Levy is, like many of his French compatriots, incredibly condescending to Brian, to his listeners, and to Americans in general who dare to cling to this old-fashioned notion of the "Fisrt Amendment." I'd rather hear from de Tocqueville these days; too bad he's long, long dead.

Sep. 17 2008 11:20 AM
Dan from NJ

Criticism of Israel is not antisemitism.


Sep. 17 2008 11:20 AM
Edward from Washington Heights - AKA pretentious "Hudson Heights"

Any Leftist/ Progressive who lives in North America and is against Occupation and is not a native American, are themselves Occupiers.

Sep. 17 2008 11:19 AM
Graham from Paris

"13] robert from park slope
September 17, 2008 - 11:14AM
Does the guest support the right of school boys to wear a yarmulke?"

I doubt it, Robert. To wear a yarmulke to school in France you had better be going to a private parochial school, not a state school.

So, the short answer is almost certainly "No".

Sep. 17 2008 11:18 AM

I agree with Mike from Brooklyn. I will add we have to stop hiding behind the veil of religion as a free pass to exercise sexism which is what Islam really practices.

Sep. 17 2008 11:18 AM
barry from Manhattan

“It’s difficult to remember when a writer of any nationality so clearly and thoughtfully delineated both the good and bad in America. [Grade:] A.”
–Entertainment Weekly (Editor’s Choice)

He got some good reviews...

Sep. 17 2008 11:17 AM
Amanda from Gainesville, Florida

M. Levy, like many of his French compatriots, is incredibly condescending to you, Brian, to your listeners, and to Americans in general who cling to this old-fashioned notion of the "First Amendment." I'd rather hear from de Tocqueville these days. Too bad he's long dead.

Sep. 17 2008 11:16 AM
who on left is anti semetic

Sep. 17 2008 11:16 AM
harshad from new york

what about the banning of turbans worn by sikh students that was banned in france? isn't that an impingement of personal liberties by the state?

Sep. 17 2008 11:16 AM
harshad from new york

what about the banning of turbans worn by sikh students that were banned in france? isn't that an impingement of personal liberties by the state?

Sep. 17 2008 11:16 AM
barry from Manhattan

Well ANSWER is very antisemetic, or do they call it Anti-Zionism

Sep. 17 2008 11:14 AM
robert from park slope

Does the guest support the right of school boys to wear a yarmulke?

Sep. 17 2008 11:14 AM
Dan from NJ

What antisemitism? He's mentioned that a couple of times.

Who on the left is antisemitic???

Sep. 17 2008 11:13 AM
Mike from Brooklyn

I agree 100% with the guest that a Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be applied and enforced globally. Internationalism must succeed nationalism for the human race to thrive.

Sep. 17 2008 11:13 AM

re previous messages...

was there a "welcome haters" sign hanging out on this segment cuz i missed it. you know exercise does a world of wonder for that bilious urge...

Sep. 17 2008 11:12 AM
Dan from NJ

Is this guy kidding?

Make him back up his ridiculous stand. Who on the left has said burning Pakistani women is OK?


Sep. 17 2008 11:11 AM
barry from Manhattan

Well, who on the left thinks Women are ok to be burned in Pakstan,. I guess there are some but who is saying this?

Sep. 17 2008 11:10 AM
barry from Manhattan

oh crap I can barely understand the guy!

Sep. 17 2008 11:08 AM

what barbarism? let me guess- criticizing israel equals anti- semitism. of course, it's a catch all to deflect any real discussion about Israeli/US crimes and dehumanizing of the palestinian people.

Sep. 17 2008 11:06 AM
Inquiring Minds


Is it possible that the left's position on abortion is another case in point?

The democrats have left no place in the party for "pro life" people -- particularly those that are opposed to both ABORTION and the DEATH PENALTY. Double standard?

You can't dare even speak about this to Democrats.

Sep. 17 2008 11:05 AM
Graham from Paris

To suggest that there is somehow a "new barbarism" or that it's a particularly a fault of the "Left"---of which, in the U.S., at least, there is practically _none_ in the first place---is groundless preoccupation and one which, from the mouths of some, is even a good deal worse than groundless.

In my opinion, Mr. Bernard-Henri gets much more of the public's time and attention than his intellect, insights and arguments deserve.

That's a shame but hardly surprising in our very confused and lost time.

Here we have more of what's too much already.

Sep. 17 2008 11:01 AM
barry from Manhattan

Do you think the Key to Middle East peace is the destruction of Israel?
Do you see the US as the main source trouble in the World?
Do you think the Taliban were just misunderstood?
Do you want to give Palistine it's very own state?

Well if you said Yes to any of these questions, stay tuned because Mr Levy has some thoughts on these matters you should consider.

Sep. 17 2008 10:46 AM
office worker from Brooklyn

You mean like during the Spanish Inquisition, Harry?

And the trans-Atlantic slave trade?

The colonization of the Americas?

The holocaust?

Must I continue?

Sep. 17 2008 10:27 AM
Harry from NYC

Human rights is a Western/Christian concept that started with early Christians and grew as the power of Papal Rome grew over Europe. Legal protection for all men and women were established by Cannon law and by the gospels, which eventually became the New Testament. Although many would deny these facts, an honest person can look around the world today and still see human rights violations and disparity with regard to the treatment in practice and by law of women and others of various “classes” of people within many countries with non-Western “values”. See the Muslim countries, certain Asian counties, India, and many Socialist and Communist style dictatorships around the world. To deny this is disingenuous.

Sep. 17 2008 09:59 AM

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