Conservatives Should Follow Buckley's Example in the Fight Against Anti-Semitism

Conservatives Should Follow Buckley's Example in the Fight Against Anti-Semitism
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With progressive leaders fomenting anti-Semitism, conservatives must keep their ranks and publications free of this evil.

2019 already has been a very anti-Semitic year for progressive leaders. Representative Ilhan Omar accused American Jews of dual loyalty and using money to buy Congressional support for Israel. Rep. Rashida Tlaib followed the Instagram page of free.palestine.1948, which traffics in comparisons of Jews to rats and other virulently anti-Semitic material – until she was exposed by the Capital Research Center earlier this month. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez retweeted and responded to a tweet from the executive director of the US Center for Palestinian Rights, an organization that supports the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a State Department-designated terror organization since 1997.

Conservatives have rightly excoriated these progressives for their anti-Semitism. Their criticism advances the conservative movement’s core principles of individual liberty and religious tolerance. Conservatives are well-positioned to address anti-Semitism and advance these principles because they follow in the footsteps of William F. Buckley, Jr.

For decades, Buckley marginalized anti-Semites and excluded them from positions of influence in the modern conservative movement that he founded. In 1990, conservative author and pundit Patrick Buchanan made a series of anti-Semitic statements. Buckley responded with “In Search of Anti-Semitism,” a National Review issue devoted to his essay condemning Buchanan’s anti-Semitism (as well as that of another conservative author, Joseph Sobran, and leftist author Gore Vidal).

As conservatives since Buckley have recognized, their movement must maintain a zero-tolerance policy against anti-Semitism in their ranks. In June 2018, however, this policy missed a beat. Conservatives allowed one of their most prominent institutions, ironically National Review, the magazine that Buckley founded and where he waged his fight, to publish Ed Condon’s “The Spanish Inquisition Was a Moderate Court by the Standard of Its Time.”

As the title suggests, this article attempts to excuse and downplay the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition. In case anyone has forgotten, the Spanish Inquisition was Spain’s multi-century war against Jews. It resulted in the murder of thousands, torture of untold more, expulsion of over 160,000 who refused to become Catholics, and  oppression of Jews for hundreds of years.

Was the Spanish Inquisition less horrendous for Jews than other European anti-Semitic persecutions of the same era? Perhaps. But the conservatives at National Review must know that publishing a sympathetic assessment of the Spanish Inquisition is as counterproductive as publishing material that attempts to downplay and excuse Hitler’s extreme crimes as somehow less evil than those of Stalin or Mao (because the Holocaust killed fewer people than Stalin’s purges or Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution).

To be fair, National Review does not shy away from the fight against anti-Semitism. In October 2018, after the Pittsburgh synagogue murders, it published “How to Fight Anti-Semitism,” and in December of that year, it reported on the anti-Semitic leadership of the Women’s March.

Nonetheless, the publication of Condon’s article was a step in the wrong direction. It not only did nothing to advance the conservative movement, individual liberty, or religious tolerance, it helped opponents cast them as tainted by or even infused with anti-Semitism.

And the damage may continue for decades. For example, in 1990, a Washington Post article, Pat Buchanan The Jewish Question, focused on Buchanan’s anti-Semitic statements shortly after he made them. In 1993, a New York Magazine article, “The New Anti-Semitism,” showed that the statements had not been forgotten – and also suggested that Republican National Committee Chairman Rich Bond, former Secretary of State James A. Baker, and Vice-President Dan Quayle had expressed anti-Semitism. And in 2016, over a quarter century after Buchanan made the statements, a Vox article, “Paleoconservatism, the movement that explains Donald Trump, explained,” prominently cited Buchanan for the contention that paleoconservatism (a.k.a. the Old Right) at least in the past “certainly had an anti-Semitism problem.”

The message is simple and clear. Conservatives must follow Buckley’s path and keep their ranks and publications free of anti-Semitism to most effectively advance their movement, individual liberty, and religious tolerance.

David M. Simon is a Chicago lawyer. The views expressed in this article are his own and not those of the law firm with which he is affiliated. For more, please see

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