Editorial note: The following is the text of a talk given at the National Summit to Reassess the US-Israel “Special Relationship” held in Washington, D.C., on March 7.
As is the case in so many other ways, the conservative movement’s position on the state of Israel isn’t what it used to be. Just as what we call the Old Right, the pre-[William F.] Buckley right was anti-interventionist and good on civil liberties, so the conservatives of the 1940s and 1950s were hostile to Israel. A good example of this is a letter from the neoconservative guru Leo Strauss to the editors of National Review: he was objecting to an article in the November 17, 1956 issue of the magazine that contained the following sentence:
“Even the Jews, themselves the victims of the most notorious racial discrimination of modern times, did not hesitate to create the first racist state in modern history.”
It is unimaginable that such a sentence would ever find its way into the National Review of Rich Lowry, because he represents a movement that has been thoroughly co-opted and corrupted by, first, the cold war, and secondly our endless “war on terrorism.”
The conservative movement of the 1940s and 50s openly challenged the entire conception of the Jewish state: this argument was made in several books published by the pioneering conservative book publisher, Henry Regnery, who issued a whole series of books reporting on the dispossession of the Palestinian people and calling into question the whole Zionist project. Nejla Izzeddin’s The Arab World (1953), is noted by the Kirkus Service as follows:
“The writer is also, if perhaps naturally, violently against the creation of the state of Israel which she feels was prompted more by international power politics than by humanitarian principles and represents an American and British threat to the Arab world.”
Regnery also put out Freda Utley’s Will the Middle East Go West?, which expressed a viewpoint just as fresh today as it was back in 1957: “Freedom and justice for Israel,” she wrote, “depend on freedom and justice for the Arabs.”