In 1956, when it was barely a year old, the conservative magazine National Review published an article critical of Israel and referring to it as a “racist state.” The political theorist Leo Strauss responded with a letter to his friend Wilmoore Kendall, a Yale professor and one of the magazine’s editors, arguing that conservatives ought to be among the Jewish state’s staunchest allies:
Israel is a country which is surrounded by mortal enemies of overwhelming numerical superiority, and in which a single book absolutely predominates in the instruction given in elementary schools and in high schools: the Hebrew Bible. Whatever the failings of individuals may be, the spirit of the country as a whole can justly be described in these terms: heroic austerity supported by the nearness of biblical antiquity. A conservative, I take it, is a man who believes that “everything good is heritage.” I know of no country today in which this belief is stronger and less lethargic than in Israel. . . .
[Furthermore], I wish to say that the founder of Zionism, [Theodor] Herzl, was fundamentally a conservative man, guided in his Zionism by conservative considerations. (Some years ago, Commentary published an attack from a “liberal” point of view on Herzl. If my recollection does not deceive me, that article is sufficient to prove the point which I am making.) The moral spine of the Jews was in danger of being broken by the so-called emancipation which in many cases had alienated them from their heritage, and yet not given them anything more than merely formal equality. . . . [Zionism] helped to stem the tide of “progressive” leveling of venerable, ancestral differences; it fulfilled a conservative function.