The acclaimed French philosopher, Bernard-Henri Lévy, has urged action but dismissed the possibility of anti-Semitism being “eradicated or erased” in the foreseeable future.  

In a passionate speech, delivered as the opening lecture to the ‘An End to anti-Semitism!’ conference in Vienna, Lévy argued “We can achieve the goal of weakening anti-Semitism and marginalising anti-Semitism, but we cannot make them disappear. Let us be content with resisting and containing anti-Semitism.   

“Actually whether they disappear or not seems to me to be indifferent as long as they are contained to the point where they do no harm,” he added.

Lévy advocated a tripartite programme of containing anti-Semitism: “to name, to reply and to counterattack.” 

“You cannot fight an enemy if you don’t know exactly who it is and how it works. Failure to define our enemy risks us shooting at shadows,” he said. 

Bernard-Henri Lévy speaking at the conference

Lévy insisted traditional Christian and racial anti-Semitism were no longer the biggest threat to Jews worldwide. He argued instead that if anti-Semitism was to become a mass movement again, akin to the 1930s, it would articulate itself under three new pretensions: antizionism, Holocaust denial and victim competition.  

Most urgently, fighting anti-Semitism required point by point replies to antizionism. “There are not enough academics, scholars and free speakers saying again and again that far from being despised, hated and depicted as the face of evil, Israel should be praised.  

“In 1948 Jews from across the world, most of whom didn’t have much of an idea of what democracy was, created a democracy overnight. We should say Israel, albeit with some failures and defects, did not do a bad job of achieving a multi-ethnic society- a liberal triumph.” 

The uniqueness of the Holocaust must be also be reiterated as “a crime whose programme was in the same gesture to kill and erase the killing.” 

Concluding his speech with a reference to Holocaust memory, he challenged Austrian dignitaries to create a new mass monument in the centre of Vienna to signify their desire to repent for the crimes of the Holocaust.