Josh Hammer hits racist note at Newsweek

Five men stand in front of statue of Andrew Jackson on horseback

Josh Hammer (far left) stands with friends in front of a statue of President Andrew Jackson.

via Facebook

Josh Hammer is Newsweek’s new opinion editor. He has spent years stoking anti-Palestinian sentiment and is now fighting Black Lives Matter.

His Newsweek publishing choices – since his appointment last month – have excluded Palestinian voices and brought forward some of the most racist advocates for Israel in an attempt to normalize the extreme.

He is vigorously poking at the nation’s pained response to racist police. And he’s now fully on board with Donald Trump despite his calling presidential candidate Trump a “demagogic menace” in 2016.

Hammer’s philosophy apparently is “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” and cast aside your initial concern in a sea of self-delusion.

Or perhaps his guiding philosophy is “love it or leave it.”

This my way or the highway is no surprise from the man who hyped a Facebook photo of himself “paying homage” to a Trump favorite, US President Andrew Jackson who enslaved fellow humans and signed the Indian Removal Act.

Palestinians need not apply

Hammer now has the power to determine which Palestinian voices are heard at Newsweek – or if they’re heard at all. So far, he’s displayed a consistent anti-Palestinian bias.

When Hammer hosted a Newsweek debate on Israel’s planned annexation of a large chunk of the West Bank and then ran additional op-eds on the subject, not a single Palestinian writer was invited.

Caroline Glick, a far-right journalist and candidate in Israel’s April 2019 election, was at her apartheid-touting best. Michael J. Koplow from the Israel Policy Forum, an opponent of annexation, addressed the matter mostly by considering how it would affect Israel. Later, Aaron David Miller, who previously displayed a pro-Israel bias as a US negotiator, asserted his point of view about annexation.

Hammer has made plain that he supports annexation. He argues that “the Palestinians must admit defeat in their century-long civilizational jihad to destroy the Jewish state,” completely ignoring the fact that it is Israel that has dispossessed the Palestinians, confined them to isolated Bantustans and destroyed their territorial contiguity and connections to one another.

Samantha Mandeles and Paul Miller have weighed in for Newsweek on Hammer’s watch against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS). Bradley Martin and Marc Schulman also addressed Israel-related matters.

Additionally, Hammer has invited in such promoters of Israeli war crimes as Colonel Richard Kemp (assaults on Gaza) and Eugene Kontorovich (illegal settlements) to discuss other matters.

Anti-Palestinian contributors Newt Gingrich and Boris Epshteyn weighed in on different issues as well.

Hammer provided space for anti-Palestinian bigot Yishai Fleisher to tout his apartheid plan, where he absurdly complained that annexed illegal settlements will be “tiny Jewish islands within a big, hostile Palestine.”

Newsweek should insist Hammer immediately expand his Rolodex or be fired – unless the magazine’s leadership supports their new opinion editor’s clear track record of excluding Palestinian voices.

Perhaps that’s why they hired him. His anti-Palestinian views were certainly no secret.

“No such thing as a Palestinian person”

In December 2016 Hammer announced that he was volunteering in a research capacity for The Lawfare Project, a pro-Israel group headed by Brooke Goldstein. Earlier in the year Goldstein stated, “There’s no such thing as a Palestinian person.”

Does Hammer also believe this bigoted view?

Even notorious Islamophobe and anti-Palestinian racist Daniel Pipes has accepted that there is a Palestinian people. Hammer disagreed with his “friend” Pipes last month when the latter wrote in The New York Times in opposition to Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank – albeit not without racism.

Shortly thereafter, however, he provided Pipes with op-ed space to make the case for voting for Trump. Unsurprisingly, Pipes makes reference to Trump “singularly supporting Israel.”

Such policies have helped Pipes move beyond his previous view of Trump as holding “neo-fascist tendencies.”

Hammer once held similar fascism concerns, suggesting that Trump was a “would-be fascist,” but he has chosen to “fall in line” and embrace the white nationalism in the White House. He has moved away from old anti-Trump positions, which he held while writing for The Resurgent.

Many of his Resurgent articles are no longer accessible. How convenient.

Nakba denial

Hammer has a history of denying the reality of how Palestinians have been dispossessed. Last year he referred to the Nakba, the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine as “historically absurd.”

Writing for The Daily Wire, Hammer denies Palestinian history by declaring that “there was no ‘ethnic cleansing’ in 1948.”

He goes on to put the blame for the 1967 war solely on the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser rather than acknowledging that Israel attacked first.

Hammer’s suppression of the history of 1948 and 1967 suggests that fact-checking opinion pieces will be an issue at Newsweek under his direction.

Even basic geography could be an issue. Hammer was so upset about Congresswoman Ilhan Omar saying she was going to Israel and Palestine that he changed – humorously to his mind – a quotation from her to say she was “traveling to Israel, including Judea and Samaria.”

Hammer is clearly all for Israel’s continued colonization of the West Bank. This raises a vital question: Does he support entrenching Israeli apartheid in the West Bank or providing voting rights and equal rights for Palestinians within the expanded one-state reality Israel has constructed?

The best that can be said about Hammer during his stint at Newsweek is that he did run such a view by Itamar Mann and Yael Berda on Palestinian voting rights, though the magazine needs to provide consistent space for Palestinians to make such arguments for freedom and equal rights for themselves.

Desperate smears

Hammer regards the first two Muslim women in the US Congress – Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib – as anti-Semites. In reality, they are far more supportive of equal rights for Palestinians and Jews than just about any other member of the US Congress (and Hammer for that matter).

Hammer also thinks, wrongly, that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dabbles in such bigotry because of her position on the BDS movement for Palestinian freedom and equal rights.

Such views from Hammer are deeply disturbing and hint at an underlying resentment of young women of color gaining power in the US Congress in an unprecedented manner following the 2018 election.

Hammer makes a frequent habit of trying to tear down the Palestinian-led BDS movement. He wrongly says of equal rights proponent Omar Barghouti that he is “a vile anti-Semite whose constant apologia for genocidal jihad and calls for the destruction of a core United States ally make him no friend whatsoever to the republic.”

Barring pressure, transformative pieces by Palestinians like Barghouti are unlikely to occur at Newsweek under Hammer due to his history of badmouthing BDS efforts and slamming professors for expressing their support for the movement.

Hammer has cheered on the Israeli military, which routinely engages in war crimes against Palestinians in Gaza.

And he denies a Palestinian right to any part of Jerusalem, whether occupied East Jerusalem or West Jerusalem from which thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes, writing on Facebook that it’s “always great to be back in the eternal and undivided capital of Israel.”

Law and order

Hammer’s preference for violent outcomes is not limited to Israel’s use of force against Palestinians. As a graduate of Duke University, a private southern university, he presumably knows that “law and order” is code for white control and subjugation of Black Americans.

Yet he employs the term “law and order” repeatedly. This is the sort of rhetoric that paves the way to police killing Black people.

He also chose “savage anarchy” as his descriptor on BlazeTV of street protests in Minneapolis. And he moved on to voicing support for public executions – apparently because if it was acceptable at the founding of the country then it should be again today – and expressed agreement when fellow guest Grant Stinchfield gushed support for (future) public floggings in Dallas, Texas.

Executions and floggings, in keeping with US history, would surely disproportionately target Black people. Hammer is also a proponent of stop and frisk, the racist policing policy touted by Mayor Mike Bloomberg in New York– up until his run for president.

In the midst of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations this month, Hammer decided to re-up Alan Dershowitz’s 2016 attack on the movement. Dershowitz had argued, “Black Lives Matter should rescind the portions of the platform that falsely accuse Israel of genocide and apartheid. If it does not, it risks ending in the dustbin of history, along with other discredited bigoted groups.”

During the largest anti-racism movement in recent memory, Hammer has seen fit to highlight an opinion piece that strives to take down the Black Lives Matter movement. This is troubling and sends a signal about what Newsweek thinks about such matters and the kind of journalist it sees fit to hire, namely one that stirs anti-Black animus rather than attempt to address long-running discrimination.

Hammer takes a similar approach in tweeting about Morton Klein, the head of the Zionist Organization of America, who has recently come under heavy criticism for racism and for an anti-Semitic tweet against George Soros, a frequent target of bigots. Klein tweeted on 6 June that Black Lives Matter was a “hate group,” alleging it was funded by Soros.

Hammer’s response? He found it to be “a sad tale” that “the oldest Zionist organization in America” may now be “too Zionist for institutionalized American Jewry.”

In other words, Hammer wants American Jews to be more Zionist and to do so they must be more racist. Furthermore, the racism must not merely target Palestinians, but Black people as well.

In the process, Jews such as Soros must be vilified. It’s hard to fathom a responsible opinion editor holding such views, but the tweet clearly points in this direction.

Hammer has been down this road before. In a hateful attack last November on presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, he claimed, “Every American Jew knows a Bernie Sanders in his/her personal life: Someone nominally born Jewish but is a hardline atheist, secularist and socialist who forsakes God, country and tradition alike.”

He then added, “These self-haters do not speak for proud American Jews and American Zionists.”

Hammer’s history of racist language, his take on Jews he views as “self-haters” and his clear bias against Palestinian writers during his first six weeks at Newsweek strongly indicate Newsweek has a problem on its hands.

Newsweek, for its part, is signaling it’s in accord with an opinion editor who harbors anti-Palestinian views and is actively promoting efforts to make life more difficult for Black Lives Matter anti-racist protesters.

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It would be hard to find a clearer expression of Israel's will to self-destruction. The infantile historical inaccuracies aside, this is an expression of pure, unhinged bravado. Needless to say, it is obviously reminiscent of fascist rhetoric especially in its attribution of its own motivation to those it criticises. The messianic tenor of Zionism has always been a fighting upwards: Herzl saw the unadorned Jew as a despicable creature, redeemed only through Zionism. The strenuous effort here towards an impossible purity rehearses Robespierre, but at least he was on the side of the people. Hammer is on the side of genocidal violence. Sharon opined that Israel controls the USA and the USA knows it. It certainly looks as though Israel controls Newsweek. The implications for the US are appalling. You can't claim to stand for democracy and give voice to demented demagogues who refuse to acknowledge even the most elementary facts. US culture has long been corrupt but this level of decadence adumbrates collapse. At this juncture, when the US has the chance to break with its racist past, to change fundamentally and live its ideal of democratic equal rights, to fall into the abyss of delusion, prejudice and Panglossian self-excusing in which Hammer flails and wails would engender further division, violence and decline. That both Israel and the US are driving towards their demise by refusing to accept facts and to adhere to principles is what lies behind Trump's meringue speeches and Hammer's whipped cream ideology. What Hammer fails to grasp is that though the world's leaders apologise for Israel, among the common folk there is a world movement in defence of the Palestinians. It won't go away. It will grow stronger. South Africa yesterday, Israel today. To be on the wrong side condemns you to the judgement of posterity and for Hammer and Trump, that will be very harsh indeed.

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An elephant that carries so much internetspeak: The assignment of every voice to a group so we can determine without further thought or analysis if the comment will be considered "good" or "bad." What happened to things like the analysis and questioning of underlying assumptions?

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Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune, TheNation.com, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.