Gefilte-Gate: Hillary Clinton’s ‘Fishy’ Emails
When the State Department released a fourth batch of emails from Hillary Clinton’s now-infamous personal account on Monday night, it likely did not anticipate that the “gems” buried in the reams would threaten to turn the once-chief diplomat into a laughing stock.
Among the more than 7,000 pages of correspondence between the former secretary of state and her staff (in addition to others privy to the private account she was not allowed to use in her position) were 125 messages marked “classified” retroactively by U.S. Intelligence.
Other messages have been eliciting giggles, as well as yawns and no small amount of ill ease. For instance, Clinton mailed one of her aides to ask for the schedule of two TV shows she wanted to watch – “Parks and Recreation” and “The Good Wife.”
But the email that is being pounced on by the press and spread on social media is so abbreviated that it easily could have gotten lost in the stacks of material being examined since the scandal over Clinton’s having used her private address to conduct affairs of state during her four-year tenure erupted.
Indeed, its entire content consists of a quick question: “Where are we on this?”
What caused a stir, and international guffaw, surrounding this particular message was its subject line – “Gefilte fish.”
Ashkenazi Jews (of Eastern European origin) traditionally eat this dish, which is basically a ball of chopped carp, usually covered in clear jelly, making it as loathed by some as it is loved by others, at the Passover seder. It is also a food frequently mentioned in Jewish jokes, along with chopped liver and matzah-ball soup.
Tablet magazine’s Yair Rosenberg was the first to tweet the back story behind “Gefilte-Gate,” when it emerged last night.
His first tweet included a screenshot of the email in question, above which he wrote, “Hillary Clinton, our next Jewish president.”
His second tweet read, “By the way, people, I actually know what Hillary Clinton’s gefilte fish email was about. Prepare to be amazed.”
Rosenberg’s third tweet said, “Hillary was trying to get Israel to allow in a blocked U.S. shipment of Asian carp.” Here he added a screenshot of a passage from former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. (and current Knesset member) Michael Oren’s memoir, Ally.
The passage is enlightening:
“My first year in office had posed successive and seemingly unsurpassable challenges. I had to maneuver through the embassy’s politics, minimize leaks, maintain bipartisan bridges, straddle divisions in the American Jewish community, create a diplomatic persona, and preserve open channels between two governments at odds on multiple issues. I had internalized crucial lessons–be cautious on conference calls, for example, and never go on TV without makeup. My appreciation of Congress as a counterweight to federal criticism of Israel deepened, and I doubled the time I spent weekly on the Hill. But none of the year’s instructive experiences prepared me for this. Fish.
“I tried to calm the congressman, assuring him that I would do my utmost to free the embargoes fillets, but my options were in fact few. America signed its first-ever free-trade agreement with Israel back in 1985, but the treaty exempted certain Israeli products liable to be eradicated by their cheaper American counterparts. Apples, avocados, and oranges fell into this category, and so, too, did the carp cultivated by Galilean farmers. Which was why four hundred thousand pounds of the frozen Illinois fish were denied entry to the Promised Land.
“Still, in view of the possible diplomatic damage, I thought Israel should make this one exception, and told that to the Ministers of Trade and Finance. Congressman Manzullo, meanwhile, ramped up the pressure. He phoned me incessantly, using increasingly acrimonious tones, and complained to the secretary of state. ‘You think finding Middle East peace is hard,’ Secretary of State Clinton blithely told reporters. ‘I’m dealing with carp!’ Netanyahu called to question me, ‘What’s all this carp stuff?’ I urged him to focus on Israel’s critical issues and leave the fish to me.
“Days of effort passed before a compromise was finally achieved. On a one-time, nonprecedent basis, the nine containers were unloaded in Israeli ports. A now-composed Congressman Manzullo called to thank me and to ask, ‘Why do you Israelis need so much carp?’ Realizing that his question was genuine, I explained that the Jewish people would soon celebrate Passover, when they traditionally eat gefilte fish. ‘Carp, Congressman, is the main ingredient.'”