Israeli President Isaac Herzog is no less a criminal than Netanyahu

Miko Peled

Mondoweiss  /  July 17, 2023

Slated to appear before Congress on Wednesday, Isaac Herzog might look like Israel’s moderate face, but he is no different than Benjamin Netanyahu when it comes to supporting Israeli apartheid.

In what can only be seen as a political slap in the face to Benjamin Netanyahu, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has invited the Israeli President, Isaac Herzog — and not Prime Minister Netanyahu — to speak in front of a joint session of Congress. Although he threatened to invite Netanyahu to Washington if President Biden did not, McCarthy must have agreed to a compromise whereby President Herzog, the kinder, gentler, and more palatable face of Israel, is slated to appear instead of Netanyahu.

However, while Herzog may seem like a moderate face of Israel and Zionism, he is no less a racist war criminal than Netanyahu. He is the official head of the State of Israel, a country that Amnesty International accused of committing the crime of Apartheid, a crime so heinous it falls under the definition of a Crime Against Humanity. Before becoming President, Herzog served as minister in several Israeli cabinets and within the State of Israel and as head of the Jewish Agency, one of the major arms of the World Zionist Organization.

The Israeli presidency is a cushy position, one where politicians who have nothing more to do go out to pasture. My great uncle, Zalman Shazar, was Israel’s third President. Before that, he was a cabinet member and a labor leader — and only when he was too old to perform any more useful tasks was he sent to be President. 

Herzog comes from deep racist Zionist roots, albeit from the center-Labor political world. He is seen as a more moderate face than Netanyahu, and unlike Netanyahu, he was never indicted. His father was Chaim “Vivian” Herzog, who was no less a war criminal and had a career in the military, serving alongside my father in the Israeli army for decades. 

Herzog, the father, later served as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations. When on November 10, 1975, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 3379 declaring Zionism as a form of racism and racial discrimination, Ambassador Herzog tore the resolution in protest in front of the General Assembly. He was eventually sent to pasture and became Israel’s President. 

Officially the Israeli President is not permitted to make political statements but must rather act as a uniting figure, one that everyone can look up to. And indeed, in November of 2021, a few short months after he became President, Herzog the son decided to demonstrate unity — he visited one of the most contentious spots in Palestine to light a menorah and celebrate the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah: Hebron/Al-Khalil. 

According to a story published by the AP about the visit, Herzog said he was visiting the “Cave of the Patriarchs,” in Hebron to celebrate the ancient city’s Jewish past. Furthermore, even as life for Palestinians in the city is becoming less and less bearable, and access to Al-Ibrahimi Mosque for Muslims is becoming progressively more restricted, he met and lit the menorah alongside racist, violent Jewish settlers who inhabit the city and terrorize the local Palestinian residents. Then he went on to say that he was there to promote “interfaith relations.”

Herzog’s visit to Hebron, a city known to suffer from what is described as the purest representation of apartheid, was not without symbolism. He, as the representative of the elitist Zionist so-called Left, “came to Canossa,” so to speak, to pledge support and loyalty to the most vile and violent elements within the Zionist world — the Hebron settlers. It was the closing of a circle, a moment of unity, and from that moment on, there was no more difference between Zionist settlers in Tel Aviv and those in Hebron.

I could not but be reminded that, as a child, we would visit the President’s official residence during Hanukkah. President Shazar, my great uncle, would hold an open house, and my entire extended family, along with dignitaries, came to see the lighting of the candles. But Herzog did not hold this event in the official residence. He traveled to the settlers’ base to legitimize and show support for the ethnic cleansing and terrorizing of over two hundred thousand Palestinians who live in the city of Hebron.

In his speech, while standing in the stronghold of racist Zionist supremacy and unbridled violence, Herzog made what can only be seen as an absurd call for peace between all the children of Abraham, saying that we must “denounce all forms of hatred and violence.” 

This double-faced strategy of Zionism is not new, but Herzog has taken it to a whole new level — supporting uncontrolled settler violence against Palestinians while calling for a peace that can never happen so long as  Zionists rule over Palestine.

In his speech in front of the joint session of Congress, a speech that several members have announced they will boycott, one can surely bet that Herzog will put on his reasonable, moderate face. He will undoubtedly mention Israel’s sincere yearning for peace and its need to remain strong and secure in the face of constant threats. The only question that remains is how many standing ovations he will receive.

Miko Peled is an Israeli writer and activist living in Washington, DC and the author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine