Controlled Press Hides Chertoff's Israeli Roots  

by Christopher Bollyn 

March 4, 2005 

Michael Chertoff, the new head of the Department of Homeland Security, was approved in a 98-0 vote in the U.S. Senate without the question of his Israeli roots - and nationality - even being raised. 

On February 15, 2005, Michael Chertoff, a dual-national with Israeli roots, was sworn in as the second Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The new "homeland security czar," who oversees the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, seems to be hiding his own dual-national status - with the cooperation of the controlled press. 

Although the media scrutinized Bernard Kerik, President George W. Bush's first choice to head DHS, and uncovered embarrassing details about his mother, there was no discussion of Chertoff's mother, who played a noteworthy role in the creation of the Zionist state in Palestine.  The omission of Chertoff's mother's Zionist past suggests that there is an effort by the media to conceal his ties to Israel and his status as a "de jure" Israeli national, by birth. 

Under Israeli law, a child born to an Israeli citizen, including children born outside of Israel as first generation out of Israel, is considered an Israeli citizen. The child remains an Israeli national unless he or she formally renounces their Israeli nationality. 

Chertoff was born on November 28, 1953 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to the New York-born Rabbi Gershon Baruch Chertoff and Livia Eisen, the first hostess for El Al, Israel's state-owned airlines, founded in 1948. 


"The son of a rabbi," the Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey, reported on February 16, "Chertoff was born in Elizabeth, graduated from Harvard University in 1975, and received his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1978." The Star-Ledger, Chertoff's hometown newspaper, however, seems to have omitted mentioning his mother to avoid discussing that Livia [Eisen] Chertoff lived and worked in Israel and was an Israeli national. 

The Star-Ledger is well aware of Livia's Israeli roots. Six years ago, in her obituary of December 21, 1998, the paper reported her role in the founding of Israel. "She [Livia Chertoff] was the first airline hostess for El Al airlines and participated in Operation Magic Carpet, the famous airlift of Yemenite Jews to Israel," it reported. 

Even in 1998, however, the Star-Ledger was vague about Livia's nationality. "Born in Poland, Mrs. Chertoff lived in Palestine and Elizabeth before moving to Florida several years ago," it wrote. 

Israel's citizenship law of 1952 says: "Any Jew who immigrated to Israel before July 14, 1952, was granted citizenship after declaring a desire to reside permanently in Israel." As El Al's first hostess, Livia held Israeli citizenship, which is confirmed by U.S. immigration forms from 1951. Furthermore, a "child born on or after July 14, 1952," is an Israeli citizen if "at least one of whose parents is a citizen of Israel, regardless of the child's country of birth." 


Secretary Chertoff was evasive when I asked about his mother's nationality, which if Israeli, would make him an Israeli national.  A "national" is defined as a citizen of a particular nation, while formal citizenship status confers specific rights, duties, and privileges on the citizen.  Asked about the status of Chertoff's mother's nationality, DHS spokesman Brian Roehrkasse provided an evasive answer: "He does not hold, nor has he ever held, dual citizenship." 

"While his mother did reside in Israel, he [Chertoff] does not believe she ever held Israeli citizenship," Roehrkasse said. She resided there during the British mandate period (prior to the creation of the state of Israel), later lived in the UK, and he believes she may have held British citizenship at the time she worked for El Al."  There are, however, 6 U.S. immigration documents listing Livia Eisen with El Al crews arriving in America from 1950-51 and she is listed as an Israeli on every one.

Livia reportedly participated in Operation Magic Carpet, the top-secret airlift of some 45,000 Yemenite Jews to Israel from June 1949 to September 1950. Livia's connection with El Al and the secret airlift operations run by Israeli intelligence, indicate she was involved with Israel's intelligence agency, the Mossad.  Operation Magic Carpet was so secret it wasn't even revealed to the press until months after the last of the 380 flights from Yemen had arrived in Israel in late 1950. 

Chertoff's children have attended Jewish private schools, and his wife, Meryl Justin, was a co-chair of the regional Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) civil rights committee. 

Chertoff is secretive about his childhood, perhaps to avoid discussing the intense Talmudic and Zionist upbringing he received in a family in which all the men were rabbis and scholars of the Talmud.  "My childhood was...average...Nothing stands out. It all kind of blends into the murky past," he told the Star Ledger in March 2001. Pressed for more details, Chertoff "reclined in his chair" and said, "I'll take the Fifth." 

Michael's father, Gershon, was the first child of Paul Chertoff from Russia, and Esther Barish, from "Roumania," according to the 1930 U.S. Census. Gershon graduated as a teacher of the Talmud at age 20, in May 1935.  In 1930, the immigrant couple lived in a $90 rented apartment in Brooklyn and had three children, Gershon, Naomi, and Mordecai. Imbued in the Talmud, the Chertoff children became ardent Zionists. 

Chertoff's father, Gershon, was a rabbi and teacher of the Talmud, as was his uncle Mordecai. Their father, Paul, was a "teacher" of the Talmud at the Jewish Institute (yeshiva) in New York. When the elder Chertoff died in 1966, he was described as an "Ex-professor of Talmud" in the New York Times. 

Naomi also studied the Talmud and was serving her fourth term as national president of the Young Women's Zionist Organization of America when she married in 1946. Naomi had attended Hebrew University in Palestine before Israel became a state on May 16, 1948. 

While there are published reports of Chertoff family weddings in New York and London there are no reports in the New York press about the marriage of Chertoff's mother and father.  Because Livia came from Israel and worked for the state owned airlines, it seems likely they were married in Israel.  Given his mother's role in the founding of the Israeli state and the intense Zionist character of his family, it also seems likely that Chertoff spent time in Israel as a child. 

"My religious and spiritual beliefs are pretty much what I want them to be," he said. Given his background, this suggests he is a Talmudic Jew. The Talmud is the body of rabbinical law that most American and Israeli Jews follow. The Talmud, however, re-interprets and negates much of the Torah and contains some anti-Christian sentiments. [For a better understanding of the anti-Christian aspects of the Talmud, read Israel Shahak's book, Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of 3,000 Years.] 


Unlike other Bush nominees, there was no opposition in the Senate to Chertoff heading DHS. The Senate voted 98-0 to approve Chertoff on February 15. Chertoff, 51, took the oath of office that night in "a private ceremony at the White House." 

DHS has a $32 billion budget, 180,000 employees, and jurisdiction over immigration, customs and transportation security, the Coast Guard, the Secret Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  The question of Chertoff's dual-nationality doesn't seem to have concerned a single U.S. senator. 

"I applaud President Bush for this outstanding choice," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). "We are proud to have a man of his caliber and talent serving and protecting the American people." 

"Our country is very fortunate to have someone with the background, experience, the intellect, the qualifications and the integrity of Judge Chertoff," Senator Susan Collins (R - Maine), chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said.  After six hours of debate, Collins urged the Senate to act quickly on Chertoff's nomination. 

During the period before and after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, Chertoff headed the criminal division at the Department of Justice where he "helped trace the 9-11 terrorist attacks to the al-Qaida network."  Chertoff became Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, by a vote of 95-1 on May 24, 2001. The dissenting vote came from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D - N.Y.). 

In this position Chertoff was architect of some of the most controversial elements of the Bush administration's domestic war on terrorism and played a central role in formulating the Bush administration's "anti-terrorism policy." He defended the administration's decisions to hold military tribunals for non-U.S. suspect terrorists and to monitor phone conversations between attorneys and their clients. 

Chertoff oversaw the detention of 762 foreign nationals for minor immigration violations, although none was charged with a terrorism-related crime. The detention of hundreds of people was necessary to detect "sleeper cells" of terrorists, he said.  "Chertoff headed the Justice Department's criminal division when hundreds of foreigners were swept up on minor charges and held for an average of 80 days," the Washington Post reported. "Some detainees were denied their right to see a lawyer, were not told of the charges against them, or were physically abused." 

At the same time, Chertoff allowed scores of suspected Israeli terrorists and spies to quietly return to Israel. In several cases, Israeli suspects working for phony moving companies, such as Urban Moving Systems from Weehawken, N.J., were caught driving moving vans which tested positive for explosives. On September 14, Dominic Suter, the owner of the moving company, which was found to be a Mossad front company, fled to Israel after FBI agents requested a second interview. 

One group of 5 Israelis was seen on the roof of Urban Moving Systems videotaping and celebrating the destruction of the World Trade Center. These Israeli agents were returned to Israel on visa violations.  These Israeli suspects, and others, who had apparently transported explosives in the New York area, were allowed to return to Israel without being properly interrogated or their presence and activities in the United States having been vigorously investigated.  After returning to Israel, three of the five appeared on a television program in November 2001 and said their mission had been to document the event.