The 2016 American presidential election opened up a Pandora's box of ugliness that made Moment's editors deeply uncomfortable. The campaign season was marked by an unusual amount of angry rhetoric, with Muslims, Mexicans, African-Americans, immigrants and women among the groups singled out for insults or attacks. Jews, too, found themselves in the rhetorical crossfire.
This came as a surprise. For decades, politicians have diligently courted the Jewish vote, and anti-Jewish comments have generally been taboo. Initially, there seemed to be cause for celebration. Early coverage noted several milestones for America's Jews. Senator Bernie Sanders was the first serious Jewish contender for the top spot on a major-party ticket in a presidential race. Both the Republican and Democratic nominees had Jewish sons-in-law, and one had a daughter who had converted to Orthodox Judaism. Even Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was Jewish.
Yet anti-Semitism, already regaining a foothold across Europe, found an unlikely home in mainstream American political discourse. Jewish stereotypes were resurrected by the alt-right, an amorphous subset of the right steeped in white ethno-nationalistic anger. In past national elections, these anti-establishment voices were largely confined to isolated corners of the Internet. This time, through adroit use of Internet memes (text, images or video that are planted and spread virally) through social media, the alt-right punched above its weight. Its propaganda was overt and covert, making use of so-called "dog whistles"--insults that slip by most people but are recognized by those in the know. One result: A shocking amount of hate speech and innuendo was about, and directed at, Jews.
Fringe views did not move into the mainstream only from the right. The rising popularity of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) placed many American Jews on the defensive as Israel was described in harsh terms, and the debate over what separates anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism was brought to the fore. While we are accustomed to discussions about U.S. policy toward Israel, criticism of Israel was more palpable--it included the burning of an Israeli flag by a protester outside the Democratic National Convention--and made many Jews uneasy.
On the following pages, we chronicle some of the more fraught "Jewish moments" of the 2016 presidential election season. Why? Would it not be wiser to let the controversies and headlines fade away? We don't think so. There is no guarantee that hostility unleashed by the campaign will dissipate. These jarring moments demand our attention, and all Americans need to come together to address them.--The Editors
1 JEWS ARE "NEGOTIATORS"
Donald Trump was still having trouble being taken seriously as a candidate for president when he formally introduced himself to the Republican Jewish Coalition last December. "I'm a negotiator like you folks," Trump declared. "Is there anybody that doesn't renegotiate deals in this room?" he asked a laughing audience while blasting the Iran deal. "Perhaps more than any room I've ever spoken to." The presidential hopeful also noted that many in the room likely wouldn't support him because he didn't want their money. "You want...