Update: Read Bernard-Henri Lévy’s response to the incident here.
Bernard-Henri Lévy, or BHL, came under physical attack on Wednesday in Belgrade, first by someone who threw a pie in his face, then by another man who set out to smack him with a fist, but was driven away by BHL’s own fist—while, on the podium behind him, a third man unfurled a banner with a hammer-and-sickle proclaiming, in English, “Bernard Levy advocates imperialist murders.” And a fourth man shouted at him from the audience. You should look at the video, which was posted by The Times of Israel. You will see the thugs of “anti-imperialism” in action. They are the same everywhere.
The “anti-imperialists” and Communists of Belgrade detest BHL because, in the 1990s, he defended with tremendous energy the persecuted Muslims of Bosnia, and he went on to defend the persecuted Muslims of Kosovo. He defended the persecuted and heroic liberal democrats, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. There were murders on every side in the Balkans in the ’90s, but the overwhelming number of victims were the Muslims. The slaughter of Muslims there was the largest and most atrocious crime in Europe since the Nazis. And BHL was one of the earliest and most articulate human-rights militants in the Western countries to call for military intervention, on humanitarian grounds.
After many years of campaigning there was, at last, an intervention. The intervention was tragically slow in taking place. The accusation of “imperialism” was one of the slanders that slowed it down. Slowness, not “imperialism,” was the actual crime of the Western powers. But the intervention succeeded, at last, in bringing to an end the Serbian nationalist aggression and the campaign of ethnic cleansing. More: the intervention led to the overthrow by democrats of the dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic.
The meeting at which these events took place was a presentation of one of BHL’s films about the Kurdish resistance in Iraq and Syria, Peshmerga. He has made a second film touching on this topic called The Battle of Mosul—about the assault on the Islamic State in Mosul, which is going on right now, and the role of the Kurds in that struggle.
Do you want to see a noble thinker in action? Look at the video.
Related: Q&A: BHL
Paul Berman is Tablet’s critic-at-large. He is the author of A Tale of Two Utopias, Terror and Liberalism, Power and the Idealists, and The Flight of the Intellectuals.