David-Seth Kirshner
Author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness

Israel: The Canary in the Coalmine…..Again!

It is often said that Israel is the canary in the coalmine – an early indicator of a potential danger.

During the late ’60s and throughout the ’70s the theater for terrorism was the airport and the repeated target were El Al airplanes, the national carrier of Israel. Those fliers and flights along with any airline that had routes to Tel Aviv, made for a living nightmare for travel during that time.

Because of the porosity in airport security during that era and the scores of Israelis and later, other nationalities who fell victim to terror, air travel security began and later evolved into what we know today. Metal detectors morphed into bomb proof luggage containers. That quickly progressed to x-ray machines and eventually taking our shoes off before boarding a flight. Israel was the canary in the coalmine on airport security.

When Israel had to battle enemies in asymmetric combat in the streets of Beirut, Gaza City or Jenin towards the end of the last century, it became an ominous foreshadowing of the method of combat other armies would be trained to understand and fight. Legal eagles would have to recalibrate international laws of conflict and rules of engagement for scenarios framers of the United Nations and the ICC never could have dreamt of. Israel was again the canary in the coalmine on asymmetric warfare.

Today, Israel is again the canary in the coalmine but, this time it is about its elected officials and radical government.

After four terms and 15 years at the helm, and at the healthy age of 72, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving prime minister and its most recent to be under investigation for, among other things, corruption, sought a fifth term at the premiership. Notably, he did not have unfinished business in seeking another term. He did not make completing a peace agreement, finally answering the threat of Iran or deepening the Abraham Accords as his reason to seek leadership again. Sadly, those topics were distant on his list of goals when announcing his candidacy.

Pundits can speculate his motives and cynics can feast on the buffet of Bibi’s intentions. But he was not coy when he chose to partner with the most radical members of the Knesset in forming his coalition and making his first point of order creating reforms that would protect him from removal from office or future indictment and remove checks and balances from the government. In more crass terms, he was seeking to use his role as Prime Minister along with his radical cronies to usher in changes to protect himself, weaken his detractors and embolden the extremes. This all paves the way for Bibi to have tests of personal loyalty in place of allegiance to the country and to create personal protections over national ones.

The canary in the coalmine is gasping for air.

In the United States, former president Donald Trump is seeking reelection to the office he lost in 2020. If Trump is reelected, what is happening in Israel will just be a sample of what will come to be in America.

Make no mistake, Trump is not looking to hold power again to offer a serious alternative to the current Affordable Care Act. He is not looking to work across the aisle to build more infrastructure or create more jobs or to finish – or even actually build – a wall. It is about power, and using the tools and benefits of the position to create a forcefield around future allegations and charges and to vilify anyone with the temerity to challenge his legitimacy or litany of lies.

Trump has always made it clear that personal allegiance eclipses national loyalty. If Trump is the nominee and if he is reelected to the presidency, January 6th will serve as a mere dress rehearsal of the crazies that will take to the streets and ignite a civil war and moving the bar on what is acceptable discourse. Trump will sit back and gloat in the few that are willing to burn down the entire experiment for the enshrinement of his name and so-called legacy. The frenzy around this first of what will surely be more indictments is just a sneak peek of how the inmates will look to take over the asylum.

While chaos ensues in Israel, be reminded of the purpose of the canary that flies in the coalmine. It is to be a harbinger of the toxins that humans might inhale.

So too, let us learn from this moment in Israel and its leadership. if Trump even gets close to the Oval Office again, what we see in the halls of the Knesset and the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem will soon be happening in the halls of the Capitol and the streets of Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans, Charlotte, New York, Seattle, Dallas, Miami and Detroit.

Do not let this canary die in vain.

About the Author
David-Seth Kirshner is the senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, a Conservative synagogue in Closter, New Jersey. He is the past President of the NY Board of Rabbis and the NJ Board of Rabbis and is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Hartman Institute and serves on the Executive Committee of the JFNA. Rabbi Kirshner was appointed to the New Jersey/Israel Commission by Governors Christie and Murphy. Rabbi Kirshner is a National Council member of AIPAC and an adjunct faculty member at the Academy for Jewish Religion, (AJR). He is the author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness, featured in The NY Times Book Review (Feb '24) and has over 11,000 copies in circulation in its first three months since publication. He has spoken on his book and topics connected to Judaism and Zionism across the world.
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