The Israeli news media has transformed significantly in recent years, due to an unprecedented wave of anti-media populism and online harassment. In this talk, I examine how and why Israeli journalists use their military service as a shield in response to online violence and digital hate, and what may be the implications for the future of media and democracy in Israel. What I call ‘the military-as-alibi strategy’ is highly consequential, I would argue. First, it excludes Israeli citizens who are exempt from military service (mostly Palestinian citizens of Israel and ultra-orthodox Jews). Second, it affirms the populist presumption that “good journalists” are not to be measured by the quality of their reporting, but rather by external loyalty tests that allegedly demonstrate their commitment to the national cause. Drawing on analyses of interviews with 20 Israeli journalists under attack, media coverage and social media content, this talk frames the military-as-alibi strategy within the local context of a militarised society, but also as part of journalists’ global struggle to win the hearts of their audiences in challenging times. Journalists’ references to their military backgrounds will be interpreted as a strategic ritual of loyalty. I will conclude by proposing an alternative strategy for Israeli journalists under attack: if journalism is indeed a public good (Pickard, 2019), then ‘good journalism’ should be considered ‘good citizenship’ in and of itself. This approach could free journalists from surrendering to nationalist loyalty tests, and lay more viable and inclusive foundations for journalists–audiences relationships in the future.