Visit of Bernard Henry Levy triggers storm of protests in Tunisia


TUNIS - French philosopher Bernard Henry Levy was not exactly given a hero’s welcome since his arrival in Tunis. Tunisian NGOs were coordinating their efforts Saturday to force Levy to leave the country.
Alerted by Tunisian activists in France, scores of Tunisians, including comedian Lotfi Ebdelli, had protested his arrival, Friday night, at Tunis Carthage International Airport.
Carrying Tunisian flags and chanting the national anthem, protestors expressed their strong displeasure at “BHL” (as Levy is known in France).
Bernard Henry Levy did not leave the airport from the regular arrival exit. He was presumed to have been filtered out surreptitiously for safety reasons.
But news of his arrival spread like wildfire in social media. In their postings, Tunisians took issue with Levy’s support to Libyan violent Jihadist formations and the Middle East and his role in the NATO-led war on Libya.
He was also taken to task for his unquestioning support to Israel. Some likened his visit to that of controversial Salafist extremists who toured Tunisia after 2011.
“As we have opposed the visit of extremist preacher Wajdi Ghaneem and his ilk, we now oppose even more the visit of this criminal who desecrates Tunisian soil,” said Tunisian TV producer Samir El Wafi on his account on Facebook.
“Nida Tounes” activist Aziza Hatira accused Levy of being behind “all destruction in the Muslim world,” and condemned his visit.
Tunisian reporter Sassi Jbeil posted on his Facebook account: “After the Eid Al Adha stay in the Carthage presidential palace by Azmi Bishara, here is Bernard Henry Levy in Tunis to prepare for next presidential elections”.
No official word yet on who invited BHL to Tunisia or the purpose of his visit. No political actor has announced its intent to meet him. After the tumultuous reception at the airport, it is very unlikely any political party will admit sponsoring the visit.
President Moncef Marzouki’s office has already issued a denial of the rumours according to which Levy has been invited by the Tunisian president and is scheduled to meet with him.
Main secularist party “Nida Tounes” also vehemently rejected the counter-rumours linking it to the unpopular visit.
News website “Kapitalis” said protestors opposing the visit recall a meeting between Levy and Islamist leader Rached Ghannouchi, last year in Paris, and suspect the French visitor of trying to “bridge positions between secularists and Islamists” before presidential elections scheduled later this month.
But informed sources have disclosed to the Middle East Online (MEO) that “BHL” is in Tunis to meet with Libyan factions in Tunis. He is known for maintaining close ties to Libyan Jihadist formations.
Al Chourouq newspaper which described Levy as “the godfather of civil wars” said he will be staying in Tunis till next Thursday. “His visit to Tunis aims at provoking sedition and causing the failure of next presidential elections,” it wrote.