War criminal promoted to chief of Israel lobby group

Michael Herzog has been sued over his involvement in a 2002 attack on Gaza City. 

Ismael Mohamad UPI Photo

War criminals are seldom out of work. The shrewdest can turn a bloodstained history to their advantage.

The career of Israeli military strategist Michael Herzog is a good case in point.

Herzog has been sued by human rights activists over his role in a 2002 attack on Gaza. Despite – or perhaps because of – his association with state violence, Herzog’s analysis has been much in demand.

Without fanfare, Herzog has been promoted lately. He is now heading the Forum of Strategic Dialogue, a group which arranges confabs between Israel and Europe’s movers and shakers.

News of Herzog’s appointment was contained in a briefing note intended for the group’s donors. The note – published below – describes Herzog as a “renowned expert on Middle East policy issues” who has been a “leading figure in the Arab-Israeli peace process.”

Herzog may be so “renowned” to the donors that they do not need reminding of his full record. It has included supervising Israel’s bombing raids on Palestinians in the hope that nobody would escape from them alive.


Herzog was a senior advisor in Israel’s defense ministry during the first decade of this century. The ministry was central to the planning of “targeted assassinations” carried out at that time.

The “targeted assassinations” were known to involve the destruction of civilian lives and infrastructure. Herzog was indicted for war crimes in a case brought under Spain’s law on universal jurisdiction.

The lawsuit initiated in Spain by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights related to a 2002 operation against al-Daraj, a district of Gaza City. The offensive was presented by Israel as focused on Salah Shehadeh, a commander with the Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing.

Fourteen people were killed in that attack, in addition to Shehadeh. Among them were eight children and two elderly men.

Since the lawsuit was filed, Spain has succumbed to pressure from Israel and watered down its law on universal jurisdiction.

The dilution occurred in 2009, a year that began with Operation Cast Lead, a massive Israeli bombardment of Gaza. Herzog was chief of staff to Ehud Barak, then Israel’s defense minister, during Cast Lead.

Both men ought to be put on trial for their part in that monstrous crime.

The cowardice of Madrid’s political elite has helped Herzog evade justice. Belonging to one of Israel’s most famous families has probably protected him too.

His father Chaim Herzog was Israel’s sixth president; Michael’s brother Isaac headed Israel’s Labor Party from 2013 until last year.

Michael Herzog had belonged to the team running the Forum of Strategic Dialogue before his recent promotion. He has also been hired by pro-Israel groups in London and Washington.

As an “expert” – often a euphemism for lobbyist – Herzog has addressed such topics as how to avoid violence in Gaza, omitting that he has personally inflicted suffering on Palestinians.


The Forum of Strategic Dialogue is a project run by another Israel advocacy group called the European Leadership Network.

In 2017, I wrote about how the “network” is willing to befriend almost anyone provided they support Israel. It has decided to cooperate with politicians in Poland and Germany who distort or deny incontrovertible facts about the Holocaust.

A flexibility can also discerned in its approach to staff recruitment.

Like many similar organizations, the European Leadership Network has taken a hostile stance towards Iran.

That has not stopped it from appointing Thomas Kessler to chair its branch in Berlin. As a real estate lawyer, Kessler has been working with a consultancy which encourages investment in Iran.

Kessler did not respond to a query asking if his professional activities were at odds with the objectives of the European Leadership Network. His silence indicates that the network is prepared to overlook such apparent contradictions for reasons of political expediency.

The current newsletter of the European Leadership Network – published below – betrays an obsession with kissing up to the powerful.

It states, for example, that the network is undertaking joint activities with Institut Montaigne, a Paris-based think tank. Institut Montaigne, according to the newsletter, was “instrumental” in drawing up Emmanuel Macron’s program when he was a candidate for the French presidency.

Macron has posed as a staunch ally of Israel. Is that about to change?

In his speech to the UN General Assembly this week, Macron claimed to fear the “law of the strongest and the temptation for each [nation] to follow its own law.”

If that is really a signal of Macron’s intolerance for rogue states, then he needs to go beyond mealy mouthed declarations and take action.

He could start by shunning Israel and its perverse lobby.