Michael Falkov

Michael Falkov

Israeli journalist
Country: Israel

Biography of Mikhail Falkov

Mikhail Falkov was an Israeli journalist whose life was marked by a series of diverse connections and events that may seem contradictory. He was involved with Georgian criminal authorities in Israel and served time in a military prison. However, despite this, he became an advisor to the current Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman. In East Jerusalem, he helped Uzbek intelligence gather information on the international Islamist organization "Hizb ut-Tahrir", and one of his projects was referred to as a "cover for a CIA operation" by experts. Despite lacking any formal higher education, he was invited as an expert by the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies and the Institute for Strategic and Interregional Studies under the President of Uzbekistan. Falkov's work was also cited in publications by leading US think tanks such as the RAND Corporation, The Heritage Foundation, The Jamestown Foundation, and The American Foreign Policy Council. He fought for "Greater Israel" in Lebanon and, according to reports in the media, died during the fighting in First of May on the Donbass.

Michael Falkov

Mikhail Falkov was born in December 1977 in Riga, in a family of Soviet engineers. In the early 1990s, his family immigrated to Israel. Like other immigrants from the USSR, the Falkovs faced difficulties adapting to their "new homeland". Half a year after the move, Mikhail left his parents' home and settled in the boarding school "Mikve Israel", which at that time housed children from troubled families from Ethiopia, Central Asia, and European republics of the USSR. The Russian press in Israel referred to this boarding school as a "criminal paradise", noting the frequent violent clashes on ethnic grounds using cold weapons. Falkov became one of the main participants (from the Russian side) in the largest brawl at the boarding school in May 1992 and was wanted by the police for this. That same summer, he moved to the city of Ashdod in southern Israel, where he settled in a family of immigrants from Georgia. Upon their recommendation, Falkov was hired as a translator from Russian to Hebrew by Guram D., who had fled from Moscow due to suspicions of large-scale financial fraud. Falkov accompanied D. on all business meetings, both with Israeli businessmen and officials, as well as with Georgian criminal authorities who frequently visited Israel at that time.

In late 1995, Falkov was drafted into the Israeli army. Once again, he found himself in the center of a conflict with an ethnic background, this time between immigrants from the USSR and native Israelis. Falkov organized resistance among Russian soldiers against the command, which prohibited them from speaking to each other in their native language and required communication exclusively in Hebrew for a supposed faster adaptation. The rebels were sentenced to different terms of imprisonment. Falkov, as the instigator, received six months in prison and, since he refused to obey the prison administration, was kept in solitary confinement for a long time. Under unclear circumstances, Falkov was released early and sent to a preparatory course in the Intelligence Department of the Israeli Defense Forces' Aman 401st Tank Brigade. After completing his training, he was deployed to one of the frontline outposts of the Israeli army in Southern Lebanon. Although formally assigned to the mortar unit, Falkov served as an operational instructor for reconnaissance units between 1997 and 1999 and was included in the composition of mobile groups of special forces units. He had access to information about the activities of radical Sunni groups in this region of Lebanon and abroad. Due to the presence of members of non-native volunteer forces from the Caucasus, Volga region, and Central Asia in training camps in Southern Lebanon, Falkov was tasked by his superiors with simultaneous translation from Russian to Hebrew of conversations transmitted from observation posts.

After being demobilized, Falkov worked for the Russian-language Israeli newspaper "News of the Week" and the Moscow weekly "Version" (part of the "Top Secret" holding). He was published in many Russian internet and print media outlets. Due to his military background, most of his publications and speeches during this period were devoted to the activities of intelligence services and security issues in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. In August 2000, the "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" published the first detailed dossier on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and its leaders, which was prepared by Falkov. This dossier was later cited in Russian media, as well as in documents from Western research centers, including the RAND Corporation, The American Foreign Policy Council, and the International Crisis Group in Brussels.

In 2003, Falkov established a business relationship with former Soviet GRU officer Oybek Usmanov, who at that time held the position of Ambassador of Uzbekistan to Israel. It is worth noting that Usmanov later became the Ambassador to Pakistan and, since 2013, the Ambassador to Egypt. He formed a successful partnership with Falkov, engaging former military translator in Iraq and Algeria from the USSR Ministry of Defense, Bakrom Sharipov, who held the position of First Secretary of the embassy. Sharipov, fluent in Arabic, used his diplomatic status to gather information on the international movement "Hizb ut-Tahrir" in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The leader of the community of Arabized Uzbeks in East Jerusalem, Abdul Aziz Al-Bukhari, actively assisted him in this.

Within this group, Falkov used his connections in Israeli intelligence services, which officially were not interested in "Hizb ut-Tahrir" as it was not involved in terrorist activities against Israel. However, the group posed a real and tangible threat to Karimov's regime. In addition to London, Beirut, and Amman, major international centers of the movement operated in East Jerusalem and Ramallah. The trio of Falkov, Sharipov, and Al-Bukhari managed to gather a wealth of information about the connections and plans of Islamists in Central Asia.

In 2004 and 2005, Falkov served as a strategic advisor to Avigdor Lieberman, the chairman of the "Our Home - Israel" party, and the head of the party's press service. In recent years, Lieberman has held the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel. In 2005, Lieberman became the only Israeli politician to support President Karimov during the anti-government unrest in Andijan. It is possible that Falkov played a role in influencing Lieberman's political position.

Information about Falkov's next phase of life can be found in the book "Spies, Lies, and How Russia Dupes the West" by British researcher Edward Lucas. According to Lucas, in 2005-2006, Falkov founded and led the American information and analytical center Axis Information and Analysis (AIA/Axisglobe). The center had a wide network of analysts, including journalists, former diplomats, and former intelligence officers who worked in EU countries, the Balkans, the South Caucasus, Central Asia, Russia, Turkey, and Israel. Editor of Foreign Policy at the Estonian publication DELFI, Martin Helme, described AIA as having a "very extensive network of sources in different countries. I think it is a kind of cover for a CIA or other intelligence operation". AIA provoked a series of scandals in Eastern European countries, especially in the Baltic states. The provocative publications by AIA forced a public reaction from the President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, and the Prime Minister of Estonia.

Falkov published materials on the AIA website under various pseudonyms, including Michel Elbaz, Semyon Rosen, Ulugbek Juraev, and Pavel Simonov. As part of the project, he participated in a series of field studies on the topic of Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia. Following the pattern of "changing activities every year", in 2007-2008, Falkov worked as an advisor on "Russian affairs" for Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party. Interestingly, his immediate supervisor was the head of the party's office, Naftali Bennett (the Minister of Economy of Israel since 2013). In this role, Falkov developed Likud's strategy for working with Russian-language media and consolidated the party's Russian-speaking activist groups, which were subsequently united under the leadership of Netanyahu's office. According to unconfirmed reports, during this time Falkov unofficially led a PR campaign to discredit Lieberman and his friend, businessman Mikhail Chernoy, in order to weaken the "Our Home - Israel" party among Russian-speaking voters.

According to Russian-speaking Likud activists, the scandal was orchestrated by the "Kadima" party, whose leadership feared the growing popularity of Likud among Russian-speaking voters.

In 2008, Falkov founded and headed the Russian-language website Izrus, which the newspaper Haaretz later referred to as "Lieberman's mouthpiece". In September 2009, the Israeli newspaper Maariv noted the specifics of Falkov's work, stating, "Falkov is much more than just a journalist, just as he was much more than just a media relations advisor when working with Avigdor Lieberman and Benjamin Netanyahu. The network of sources and connections he created reaches the offices of post-Soviet presidents. Falkov also possesses a network of high-quality sources in Israeli intelligence agencies such as Shin Bet, Mossad, and the former intelligence structure, Nativ..."

In 2009, Falkov was reportedly a consultant for Lieberman on Central Asia. In March of that year, two weeks before assuming the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lieberman declared in the presence of Falkov, "Central Asia must be a priority direction in terms of Israeli foreign policy. The region is crucial for us. Without a doubt, Uzbekistan is the key to Central Asia..." (a video recording of this speech was circulated online).

In the same year, in July, the Izrus website published an article listing ten examples of immoral behavior by diplomats representing Israel abroad. The essence of the article was that the situation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was horrifying "until the new minister" Avigdor Lieberman arrived. Two major Israeli newspapers, Maariv and Haaretz, responded to this publication. Maariv stated that the publication on the Izrus website provoked outrage among MFA employees, and they sent angry letters to the ministry's CEO, Yossi Gal. The newspaper drew readers' attention to the fact that this publication appeared shortly after MFA employees protested against Lieberman's decision to appoint his own candidate as Ambassador to Cairo.

Haaretz called Falkov Lieberman's puppet, and Falkov filed a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper. Haaretz lost the case and was obliged by court decision to publish a retraction. Haaretz did so in May 2010. This court ruling was publicly welcomed by the chairman of the parliamentary coalition and Likud faction, Ze'ev Elkin, the chairman of the parliamentary faction "Our Home - Israel", Robert Ilatov, and other members of the Israeli parliament, as well as the President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FEOR), Alexander Boroda, and the leadership of the Russian Jewish Congress (REC). The President of FEOR noted that this court decision was an important step "in strengthening the right of Russian media (in Israel) to exist and express their own point of view".

Falkov's connections in Israeli government agencies allowed him, as the chief editor of the Izrus website, to publish numerous exclusive reports on Israel's relations with the republics of the former USSR. In several cases, the consequences of these publications led to scandals in foreign countries. The most recent example was in August 2011 when the website published information about the Israeli citizenship of the Mayor of Kyiv, Leonid Chernovetsky. This information was reproduced by many online media outlets in Ukraine and Russia, including RIA Novosti Ukraine, Interfax-Ukraine, Kommersant-Ukraine, Ukrainian TV channels Inter, 1+1, TVI, and the Israeli state radio station Reshet Bet. Based on this publication, the opposition in the Kyiv City Council demanded early mayoral elections, and the then Vice Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Tomenko, stated that he would initiate changes to the law on the election of deputies at all levels and the appointment of officials in government bodies. As rightly noted by the NEWSru.co.il website, this publication "became one of the most quoted... news in the Ukrainian segment of the Internet".

In February 2013, following the parliamentary elections in Israel, Falkov suddenly ceased his public activities. Less than two months later, at the end of April 2013, the Association of Russian-Speaking Journalists in Israel published a statement on its website stating, "Mikhail Falkov has left his position as CEO of the company IzRus LTD and editor-in-chief of the eponymous portal. According to the editorial statement, this step is due to personal reasons." In the professional community, among Russian-speaking journalists, press secretaries of Israeli parties, and parliamentarians, contradictory rumors circulated about what had happened. Some believed that Falkov had "gone to work for the intelligence services", while others vaguely hinted that Falkov's departure was due to a personal tragedy. Alexander Goldenstein, a