Born 5 November 1948 in Beni-Saf, Algeria, near Oran, Bernard-Henri Lévy spends his childhood in Morocco and thereafter in France, where his family settled in 1954.
He attends the Lycée Pasteur in Neuilly, where his parents lived.
After a two-year preparatory course at the Lycée Louis le Grand in Paris, this seventh-degree blackbelt in judo enters the Ecole Normale Supérieure on the rue d’Ulm where he studies under Jacques Derrida and Louis Althusser, and where he came into contact with – though never adheres to – Maoist groups (the UJCML, and later the Gauche Prolétarienne) then in favour with his fellow Normaliens.
A long visit to Mexico during the first semester of 1969 was followed by a text entitled “Mexique, nationalisation de l’impérialisme” [Mexico: Nationalization of Imperialism], published by Les Temps Modernes. Thus, one of Bernard-Henri Lévy’s first published texts was done so under the aegis – and in the journal of – Jean-Paul Sartre.
He makes a summer 1969 trip to Israel – which he first visited two years earlier on the last day of the Six Day War, thereby breaking with the reflexive anti-Zionism common among his contemporaries.
This second trip in 1969 inspires him to write “Sionismes en Palestine” [“Zionisms in Palestine”], published in La Revue du Comité de la Gauche pour la paix négociée au Proche-Orient, headed by Clara Halter and featuring the work of such writers as Vladimir Jankélévitch, Jean-Pierre Faye, and Jean-François Revel. This text defines a position from which Lévy will never deviate: unconditional support for the existence and security of Israel, but the absolute necessity – for ethical as well as political reasons – of a sovereign Palestinian state, bordering and at peace with Israel.