2016 saw unexpected political transitions reverberate throughout most of the industrialized Western democracies. The attempts to provide a generalized explanation for the various local upsets are numerous. Yet, an openly expressed desire to move away from the international economic norms that have ruled policy in most Western capitals for decades does appear to run through the presidential election in the U.S., the Brexit vote, the subsequent upset of Teresa May’s Tories in the U.K. general election that followed, and many of the nationalist resurgences in France, Germany, and elsewhere. Often loosely referred to as “globalization,” the more recent rhetoric has been a reaction to an international order perceived as being based on highly mobile capital flows, low tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, and the expanding influence of multi-national business at the expense of home industries and their workers.
It is too early to tell how firmly the reaction to the policy shibboleths of the past will take hold and how much it may transform the realities of international economic relations, but the rhetoric and political forces being harnessed to the more nation-centric perspective are real enough to take seriously in themselves. How have the post-World War II trends toward a more open international order affected Jewish communities and Israel and how much does the vitality of these communities depend on the continuation of the norms that have been the hallmark of the past 50 years?