Bernard-Henri Lévy coming to DC via Tblisi and Gori

UPDATED: This event has sold-out, but you can submit a question for BHL and have it answered online.

This year’s Gerald L. Bernstein Memorial Lecture will be delivered Saturday, September 20 by Bernard-Henri Lévy at La Maison Française at the Embassy of France. His new book, Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism, “scrutinizes the totalitarianisms of the past as well as those on the horizon, and argues powerfully for a new political and moral vision for our times.”

Although BHL (as he is known in France) came to greater American attention only in 2003 for his investigative book, Who Killed Daniel Pearl?, he has for decades been a leading philosopher/journalist in France who cut his teeth covering the 1971 Bangladeshi War of Independence from Pakistan. So perhaps it is not surprising that he was recently in Georgia to observe the situation on the ground in Tblisi and Gori which he recounts in the Huffington Post:

As we approach Gori, the situation is different, the tension is suddenly palpable. Georgian jeeps are sprawled in the ditches on the sides of the road. Farther along is a burnt-out tank. Even farther along is a more important check point which completely blocks the group of journalists we have joined. And it is here that we are clearly told that we are no longer welcome, “You are in Russian territory now,” barks an officer puffed up with importance. “Only those with Russian accreditation may go farther.”

The post ranges from the war-torn streets of Gori and Kaspi to the inner-sanctum of besieged Georgian President Saakashvili to a suprising admission from a Russian General regarding Israel’s support for the Georgian army, “We summoned the Israeli Foreign Minister to Moscow. And he was told that if he continues to supply arms to the Georgians we would continue to supply Hezbollah and Hamas.” BHL concludes his essay with a moral charge sure to resonate with the themes of his talk on September 20, “Either we are capable of raising our voice and saying STOP to Putin in Georgia. Or the man who went, in his own words, “down into the toilets” to kill the civilians in Chechnya will feel he has the right to do the same thing to any one of his neighbors. Is this how we will build Europe, peace and the world of tomorrow?”

Shabbat Surfing–Remember when Jeffrey Goldblum and Will Smith saved the world?

A lot of the Jewish blogosphere has gone ga-ga for Jason Lezak, and to a lesser extent his MOT teammate Garrett Weber-Gale after their amazing swim in the 4×100 relay. Observe:

Jeffery Goldberg tipped me off to perhaps the greatest headline since Independence Day was in movie theaters: “Two Jews and a Black Man Help Phelps Fulfill His Olympic Dream.”

Rachel Shukert wonders on Jewcy why Jews seem to be all over Olympic swimming. Her answer is classic, “Jews are good at swimming for the same reason I used to be good at giving hand jobs. Camp.”

Meredith Kesner Lewis at Mixed Multitudes claims to be rooting for the Red, White and Blue regardless of religion during the Olympics, but wonders, “Were Judaism to come up with a way to harness this power of peoplehood and pride that comes out during the Olympics, could we solve our continuity issues?”

Finally, the JTA has been all over the Beijing Olympics like, well, white on rice. If an Israeli or a Jew so much as sneezes near a medal stand, they’ll let you know about it.

In non-Olympics related surfing: Chaim Watzman comes up with a solution to the high-cost of Jewish living–move to Israel. None of the news coming out of Georgia is good, and Moment magazine’s new blog laid-out how it gets even worse for Israel.

War in Georgia — Jewish Communities in the Crossfire

From YNet News:

At least 200 Jewish residents living near the ongoing Georgian-Russian hostilities have been evacuated by the Jewish Agency to the capital city of Tbilisi. Most from Gori.

The Dovershvili family was among those evacuated by the Agency from Gori to Tbilisi. “Our town is under constant bombardment,” Shalva Dovershvili told Ynet. “People are scared to go out into the streets, everything is closed. You can’t even get bread. People are panicking and there are many wounded. When we wanted to leave we couldn’t find a car to take us, because everyone is scared to drive.”

Mansharov said the majority of those who have not fled are adult men who chose to stay behind and protect their homes and property. “I sent my wife, my two children and my mother-in-law away, but I will stay here until the last Jew leaves,” Mansharov said. “Things here are bad, there are many wounded and killed, but even though I am a doctor I’m not in the hospital right now, because we’re trying to get all the Jews out. I gave all of them the number of the Jewish Agency, so they could reach them for help.”

According to the Agency, there are currently 12,000 Jews in Georgia, most of whom live in the capital. It also said there are still four Jewish families in South Ossetia that no one has been able to contact as of yet.

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