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Canaries in the Mine

Reader comment on item: When Israel Stood Up to Washington [in 1981]

Submitted by Charles S. Gilinsky (United States), Apr 6, 2010 at 12:57

It is now almost ten years since US Senator Hillary Clinton addressed the Greater Binghamton, NY Community at its JCC after the 9-11 catastrophe. I'll never forget how she likened Israelis, living under the constant threat of terrorism, to "Canaries in the Mine". She may be forgiven for parroting that allegory made by conservative Jewish radio host and would be Rabbi, Dennis Prager who in a different context used that phrase in a way that is understood by Jews when coming from a Jew. "Look how they treat us, like canaries in the mine'.

I rose then, to the dismay of some and appreciation by others, to complain to Ms. Clinton how offensive it was to hear her compare Israelis to gas sensitive canaries. These pretty little yellow birds are deliberately placed in mines so their early deaths from deadly gasses would be a sign of danger to miners. In turn, those miners then could immediately protect themselves to hopefully survive the danger of the same fate as the canaries.

Seemingly annoyed, she responded to me that I misunderstood her. In turn, I retorted that I understood her very well and that she should reconsider her remark (as a gentile and US Senator) for Israelis will not be manipulated to commit suicide so that she/we could be safe. Annoyed at one another we agreed to disagree.

Most recently, however, we see her as United States Secretary of State in a terse 45 minute phone call, chastising the Prime Minister of Israel and demanding new concessions, never before requested nor offered, that restricted Jews from planning expansion of their neighborhoods in Jerusalem, their nation's Capital. No nuances here, she now shows that I was spot on in detecting at least her insensitive "canary" remark, but at worst her bias against the rights of Jews in the State of Israel. That she didn't "get it" in 2002 is one thing. Now she thinks she has the power to actually treat the Prime minister of Israel as a "Canary".

Barak Obama, as our new US President, can be praised and criticized for extending some grace to our enemies in an attempt to show that we are available to new beginnings. I hope he will reconsider if we find that his effort only emboldens our enemies to ever more intransigence, which makes peace or at least accommodations harder to achieve. For example: Palestinians, grown used to co existing with Jews in East Jerusalem, are now unsurprisingly revolting at that today. How could they be expected to be more accommodating than Israel's greatest ally, the United States? But Secretary Clinton shows how tough that will be if undermining the Israeli political process is her agenda.

"Canaries in the mine", indeed.

Charles Gilinsky
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