Philosopher for hire
I call on Bernard-Henri Levy: Kindly be a human being always and everywhere. March with us in September to free Palestine from the occupation and Israel from Zionism.
There is a popular belief that a philosopher's aim is to seek universal truth in a world of competing narratives. As early as the time of Socrates, Western culture viewed the figure of the Sophist, a "philosopher for hire," as contrary to that of the genuine philosopher: While the latter searches for the truth, the former uses his talents to promote interest groups. When Nietzsche taught us that behind every philosophy is a philosopher with his own particularity, he undermined the concept of universal truth and assigned a different purpose to philosophy. After that, many philosophers could only try to reconstruct and deconstruct the shards of truth that remained.
A number of genuine philosophers tried to rehabilitate the term "universal truth" from the debris, but at the same time, mass culture invented the philosopher of mass communications. This new model cynically exploits the public's trust in the "philosopher" - and its belief that that figure seeks truth - in order to serve the centers of power.
In the same way that the Israel Defense Forces conducted itself when it had the philosopher Asa Kasher create his immoral "ethical code," thus Nicolas Sarkozy and the Ehud Olmert government allowed Bernard-Henri Levy to stamp as "kosher" some of the most unethical codes in Western liberalism.
Last May, Levy published an article in defense of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in Haaretz Hebrew Edition (it appeared in English in The Huffington Post ). The article contained a repetition of the words "I am angry," along the lines of "J'accuse." Here is my own "I am angry":
I accept the Bernard-Henri Levy who figuratively marched in solidarity with the armed rebels in order to free the Libyan people from the tyrannical rule of Muammar Gadhafi. But I am angry that he chose to march with the Israeli army of occupation when it invaded Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. I'm angry that, instead of joining the flotilla to Gaza, he accosted the unarmed activists who sailed as a solidarity coalition to free the Palestinians from the rule of the violent and prolonged occupation.
I applaud the Bernard-Henri Levy who, in his writings, condemned the dictatorship in Tehran, but I'm angry that he denies the fact that Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman who was shot to death there by the dictatorship in 2009, and Bassem Abu Rahmeh, who was shot to death by Israeli soldiers in Bil'in that same year, are both victims of a similar oppression.
I applaud the Bernard-Henri Levy who eloquently described the face of Gilad Shalit - his glance, his fragility and humanity - as it appears in the heartbreaking video from captivity, but I'm angry that, at the same time, he erased the faces of thousands of Palestinian prisoners who have been humiliated for decades in the prisons of the occupation.
I agree with the way in which Bernard-Henri Levy, in an attempt to help his friend Strauss-Kahn, attacked the legal system and media in the United States, claiming that they embody a kind of cannibalism that sacrifices the individual on behalf of slogans and stereotypes of justice. But I'm angry about his thunderous silence when, in an odd, rapid judicial procedure, his friend - a man whose trustworthiness is no less in doubt than that of the woman who accused him - was released without restrictions.
Furthermore, I'm angry that he invented a false theory about the priority given to the victim (the migrant, the black, the woman ) in the American system - merely to defend his aggressive compatriot. In that way, he collaborated in wiping out the daily injustices done by the American capitalist judicial system to millions of poor, blacks and migrants who are jailed or deported from the country.
I'm angry that, on behalf of a friend, Levy took it upon himself to undermine the credibility of another woman, Tristane Banon, who filed a criminal complaint against Strauss-Kahn for alleged attempted rape and who courageously dared to go to the media. In this way, he set the struggle for rape victims' rights back a full generation.
These are the reasons why, in the eyes of many people, Bernard-Henri Levy is perceived not as a philosopher who fights for universal truth, nor as a journalist who seeks justice, but rather as a Jewish soldier in the European foreign legion. He is the servant of two masters who are actually one and the same: the colonial liberal ideology and the Zionist ideology.
Therefore, I call on Bernard-Henri Levy: Kindly be a human being always and everywhere. March with us in September to free Palestine from the occupation and Israel from Zionism. I am not, heaven forbid, asking Sarkozy to send his forces to Israel as he did to fight Gadhafi in Libya; I'm merely proposing that the West stop selling arms to the Israeli army, and that Israel's soldiers refrain from using their weapons when we march to bring down the walls of apartheid.
The Middle East is looking for a new space where there is freedom for all. Bernard-Henri Levy, you said that dictatorships do not remain forever. Therefore, we too shall not stop until, between the Jordan River and the sea, there is justice and equality for every human being.
Udi Aloni is a filmmaker and writer. His book "What Does a Jew Want?" will be published later this month by Columbia University Press.
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