Bernard-Henri Levy at a Tel Aviv conference
Bernard-Henri Levy at a conference in Tel Aviv on Sunday night Photo by Moti Kimchw
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"If the time comes when dialogue between Jews in the Diaspora and Jews in Israel becomes illegal or unacceptable, if it passes through the barriers of censorship, that will be a step back from the democratic ideal," said French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy last night at the start of a Tel Aviv conference "Democracy and New Challenges."

Levy was the conference's opening speaker. His speech addressed the storm he caused by joining J Call, the left-wing European Jewish organization calling on the European Union and the United States to pressure Israel to help reach a two-state solution.

At the end of his address, Levy was hackled by an audience member who accused him of "supporting Israel's enemies" by joining the lobby.

In response to the man's insistence that "you answer me," Levy said from the stage: "I am no less or more Jewish than you. I do not want the American government to wait for the final month of the president's tenure in order to enter the race. Two people need to 'divorce,' and sometimes someone needs to mediate between them."

The two-day conference is being organized by the French Embassy and Haaretz.

Commenting on criticism of his support for J Call, Levy said that as someone who was in Israel during the Second Lebanon War, "I would want them [his critics] to think twice if they imagine I could sign a text unfriendly to Israel. The Jewish people invented democracy. To forbid the democratic ideal of finding expression on timely topics is absurd, and pitiful."