Among elected Republicans, there is little disagreement on Israel: The U.S. should support its longtime ally against a terrorist group and defer to its leaders on how best to do so.
On the online right, the story has become more divisive. Major figures whose politics were shaped by Donald Trump’s presidency warn against escalation by the U.S. and Israel; more traditional Republicans throw their support wholeheartedly behind Israel’s efforts; and other conservatives express concern that the antisemitic fringe is exploiting the situation to make headway with “America Firsters.”
Tucker Carlson, who has railed against more traditional Republicans for being too quick to military aid and interventions, argued the conflict would be an excuse for hawks to raise tensions with Iran or push Israel’s Gaza campaign in dangerous directions.
“Wars beget more war,” Carlson said on his X show. “The bigger the conflict, the uglier and longer-lasting the consequences.” Daily Wire co-founder Ben Shapiro accused Carlson of “downplay[ing] the atrocities” by comparing them to drug overdose deaths in the U.S.
Other conservative influencers made similar points to Carlson in some form or another: Human Events senior editor Jack Posobiec spent a portion of his show on Monday warning that the current rhetoric and U.S. decision-making surrounding the conflict in Israel is “building towards...mass U.S. involvement in the war.” Mike Cernovich echoed that concern, chastising “Neocons and Boomercons” while also voicing support for “whatever” Orthodox Jews in the U.S. “want Israel to do.”
“Younger people on the right tend to see Israel as they would any other country like Poland — one with its own interests and one that must add value to a U.S. relationship,” Cernovich told Semafor. “This differs from older conservative[s] who believe that Israel is more important than the USA.”
On the fringes, though, the conversation has also erupted into an ugly fight over antisemitic infiltration on the right.
Prominent conservatives accused Turning Point USA, the young conservative group, of tolerating hatred after some affiliated figures shared a clip featuring Nick Fuentes, the Nazi sympathizer who dined with Donald Trump last year, to bolster their arguments against aiding Israel.
“It is becoming more clear by the hour that Israel’s goal is to ethnically cleanse Palestinians and take possession of the small piece of land these people have left,” TPUSA ambassador Morgan Ariel posted on Saturday, adding the hashtag #GazaGenocide. She also referred to the “Zionist States of America,” echoing language associated with antisemitic groups. Lauren Chen, another TPUSA influencer, re-posted a Fuentes clip condemning the “repugnant and evil” Israeli government — and called it a “more balanced and rational take on Israel/Palestine than the entire political class.”
Turning Point USA works with hundreds of conservative social media influencers — 254 alone in its “ambassadors” program — as part of its strategy to win over young people. The back-and-forth over Israel revealed the tensions in that approach and reignited debates over whether the right, and especially its younger online subcultures, was opening a backdoor to openly racist and antisemitic figures like Fuentes.
“There clearly is a level of antisemitism that conservatives unknowingly welcomed into the movement — people who, they hated the left, Israel wasn’t an issue, they never said anything, and now they’re amongst us and oh! It turns out they’re antisemites,” conservative radio host Erick Erickson told Semafor. “And conservatives have to deal with those.”
TPUSA president Charlie Kirk also drew attention after he baselessly suggested in an interview that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have given a “stand down” order to allow Hamas to slaughter his citizens as a ploy to bolster his political standing, which he called a “legitimate conspiracy question.” (A recent poll found Netanyahu’s popularity has cratered in Israel since the attack).
“If Charlie Kirk remains the head of TPUSA, the right has an anti-Semite problem that will follow them into the coming elections,” conservative writer Ben Domenech said on X.
Erickson categorized Kirk’s situation differently than the other TPUSA affiliates he had criticized: Because Donald Trump had attacked Netanyahu at a rally, various pro-Trump conservatives were taking it upon themselves to inveigh against him as well, as is typical when Trump targets political figures. That’s added another wrinkle to the Israel conversation separate from the broader ideological divide.
“You see a good bit of that out there on the right: People who support Trump, who never want to be to Trump’s left on anything, and they’re engaged in performance to try to echo Trump,” Erickson said.
TPUSA, which declined to comment on the record, is wary of responding to any pressure campaign, and hasn’t responded to calls to part ways with the influencers who’ve condemned Israel’s war plans. While it was being criticized by Domenech, its activists were publishing videos of left-wing professors defending the Hamas attack, pressuring schools to get rid of them. And Kirk, a stalwart supporter of Israel, pushed back hard against the criticism of his “stand down” segment.
“My time in the Holy Land changed my life forever and made me a stronger Christian,” posted Kirk, a Christian who sometimes observes the Jewish sabbath by logging off social media. “But I’m also not going to bend over backwards to prove just HOW behind Israel I am to satisfy a few RINOs and pompous know-it-alls on Twitter.”
Ultimately, though, some in the party are worried that the GOP’s long-running outreach to Jewish voters, who traditionally lean Democrat, could be affected by the conversations playing out on the right this week.
“My concern is that the sudden ambivalence of some people on the right — which is not as bad as the outright opposition of some people on the left — but the ambivalence of some people on the right, is going to make Jewish voters and Jewish conservatives uncomfortable inside the Republican Party because they’re worried about how much influence people who are ambivalent about supporting Israel might have within the party,” Breitbart senior editor-at-large Joel Pollak told Semafor.
Shelby and Dave's View
So far, the most aggressive debates on Israel and the role the U.S. should play in its national security on the right have primarily been happening at the influencer level.
These spats are often overlooked because they take place in online spaces between factions that much of the media ignores. But it’s become increasingly important to pay attention to this discourse: As we noted back in March, what starts out as online debate between conservative thought leaders is more and more often spilling out into the national conversation as time goes on. The fight over Ukraine aid has often played out in these spaces, helping shift the conversation on the right after polls initially found a surge of support among rank-and-file Republicans for supplying help after Russia invaded.
This particular disagreement is still raw (Israel formally declared war on Hamas just over one week ago following the terrorist attack) and there seem to be several overlapping trends on the right colliding: “America First” non-interventionists, traditional Republicans, Trump megafans, and fringe hate groups. Unlike similar debates on the left over Israel that are often driven by local or national advocacy groups, the conversation is a messier back-and-forth between individuals who are often talking out their positions in real time. Because of this, we expect that it’s going to take a while to separate what’s what — and the lines of debate are likely going to grow clearer as time goes on.