The state of Israel should not be above criticism. It is a nation governed by an increasingly right-wing coalition, one that has undermined the democratic norms of pluralism and free expression within its recognized borders, while maintaining a brutal occupation on the other side of that Green Line. Too often legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy are shouted down with accusations of anti-Semitism. But sometimes a publication will mask genuine Jew-hatred in a thin scrim of legitimate dissent. An editorial published Tuesday in the reliably anti-Zionist National Review is but the latest example.
Even as the text poses as an argument for protecting American women from a military draft, the headline makes the editiors’ true intention clear: “Only a Barbaric Nation Drafts Its Mothers and Daughters Into Combat.” Israel, as is widely known, conscripts the vast majority of its male and female citizens into multiple years of military service at the age of 18. The National Review is doubtlessly aware of this fact, as its editors have published dozens of articles on the Israeli Defense Forces in just the last few years.
Barbaric is a term with history — a word that has been used for centuries as a tool of dehumanization. The National Review would be perfectly within the bounds of respectable discourse if it derided the policy of forced military service with such a word. But to dehumanize an entire nation — to paint Israelis as “savagely cruel primitives” — transcends the bounds of principled anti-Zionism and enters the realm of anti-Jewish propaganda.
Some may argue that this headline’s implication was unintended, that the National Review merely forgot about Israel when composing it. But do you really believe that the leading journal of conservative opinion in the United States would ever make such a mistake? Do you honestly think that William F. Buckley’s esteemed magazine would publish a column — not an op-ed, mind you, but a piece drafted by the publication’s entire editorial board — without noticing that its central argument directly indicted one of America’s closest allies? To accept such a premise would be to accept that the legacies of Buckley and Breitbart have become indistinguishable.
Let us dispense with this fiction that the National Review doesn’t know what it’s doing. It knows exactly what it’s doing. And it should be ashamed.