March 23, 2024 - 2:00pm

Although Candace Owens’s departure from American Right-wing outlet the Daily Wire was abrupt, it was by no means a total shock. Anyone who had been paying attention would have noticed the tensions openly brewing between Owens and the Daily Wire’s editor and co-founder, Ben Shapiro, on the subject of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

In November, Owens tweeted, implicitly referring to Israel’s war on Gaza, that “no government anywhere has a right to commit a genocide, ever. There is no justification for a genocide.” She also wrote in a separate post that “no one can serve two masters” and “you cannot serve both God and money.” Shapiro responded by calling her comments “disgraceful” and “disreputable”, and her analogy between Israel and the Jim Crow South “ridiculous”.

Owens is a creature of American Right-wing new media, and is the type of character who might seem extremely valuable to this political grouping. She’s a young black woman, combative, proficient at working across multiple platforms, and has a massive following. She appeared to be the perfect Right-wing provocateur, who could spread conservative ideas to a younger, more online literate audience. She could endure intense heat, whether for downplaying Kanye West’s antisemitism and going as far as wearing a “White Lives Matter” t-shirt alongside him, or for comments on Hitler, whilst still maintaining a vaunted position in the ecosystem of the Right.

Many of Owens’s colleagues would agree with her views on “wokeness”, immigration, Christian identity and transgenderism, but drew the line at Israel. Her openly lambasting Israel in highly moralistic terms is noticeable because it is often just assumed that to be on the Right is to be axiomatically pro-Israel or an ardent Zionist, since many American conservatives, whether through religion or occidental tribalism, see the country as “one of us”.

Of course, it isn’t unprecedented for a section of the Right to be cold towards Israel. Pat Buchanan long represented a paleoconservative, isolationist strain of American conservatism: dead set against anything smacking of liberal internationalism, or the idea of the US having a global presence. This tendency also has a history of antisemitism, trafficking in the idea that American statecraft is held hostage by an omnipotent Israel lobby or a shifty neoconservative cabal in order to do the bidding of the Jewish state.

This split within the contemporary Right goes much further than Israel. Many on the US Right take an “America First” position because they view the war as one waged by the Democrats on behalf of progressive liberalism, in which their money is being wasted on foreign adventures or feasted upon by shady, manipulative foreigners. Hence why Tucker Carlson would give a rather obsequious interview to Vladimir Putin. Owens herself has claimed that Ukraine didn’t exist as a nation until 1989, and has talked about how much she wants to “punch” Volodymyr Zelensky.

Owens is a microcosm of the radical Right’s potential to overhaul the discourse of the broader conservative movement in America. Her positions on Israel and Ukraine are just an extension of a growing move towards America First populist isolationism, through which Right-wingers can market themselves as “dissidents” against the establishment parties — the Democrats and the Republicans who have formed a broadly solid bipartisan consensus on these issues.

It has become commonplace to worry about sections of the Left trafficking in antisemitism. But the radical Right’s use of antisemitic discourses and conspiracy theories ought to receive just as much attention and resistance. It will be just as significant in corrupting our political discourse, and it will go well beyond just Israel-Palestine.

Ralph Leonard is a British-Nigerian writer on international politics, religion, culture and humanism.