Newsweek’s Josh Hammer wants much of Gaza reduced to a parking lot

The neighborhood of al-Rimal in Gaza has been heavily bombed and damaged

Newsweek’s Josh Hammer called for turning “large swaths” of Gaza into a “parking lot” and these images show him getting his brutal wish. 

Atia Darwish SIPA

Newsweek senior editor-at-large Josh Hammer issued a call Saturday night for massive ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Gaza.

His plan is to force Palestinians in Gaza – many of whom are there because their families were expelled by Israel and Zionist militias in 1948 – into Egypt.

Clearly upset by Hamas crossing the Gaza boundary on Saturday and the emerging reports of Israelis, including children, killed and captured, Newsweek’s Hammer shared on Twitter that “the events of Saturday, October 7 are indescribable. Each detail we learn is more horrific (and inexplicable) than the one before it. A medieval genocidal Islamist death cult, supported every step away [sic] by the Iranian regime, has wantonly slaughtered more Jews than in any single day since the defeat of Nazi Germany.”

Hammer ignores that the attack certainly would have been made against any colonial force subjugating Palestinians for so many decades in apartheid conditions and forcing them into the open-air Gaza prison.

He also disregards, as do most American politicians, that most Palestinians and their families in Gaza were expelled by Israel in 1948 and never allowed to return. The return of land pushed for in Ukraine by many of the same politicians is forbidden for Palestinians.

They are to languish forever in refugee camps and any vision other than Israeli domination is anathema.

Hammer then notes, “The 2005 Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip has already been solidified as one of the very worst mistakes in Israeli history (along with ceding the Temple Mount to the Jordanian waqf after the Six-Day War, the disastrous lack of preemptive action before the Yom Kippur War, the Oslo accords, and the failure to write a physical constitution at the state’s founding).”

Rabbi Ben Packer, a racist who grew up in Virginia and took Duke University graduate Stephen Miller to the occupied West Bank years before Miller went to work for President Donald Trump, joined Hammer in raging at the 2005 Gaza withdrawal.

Packer, director of the Jerusalem Heritage House, wrote Sunday on Facebook to excoriate former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, an anti-Palestinian war criminal, for moving Israeli troops and settlers out of Gaza.

“As was predicted by many, including many rabbis, the ‘disengagement’ from Gaza has been a colossal failure to bring any semblance of peace and stability. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to dig up Ariel Sharon’s body and shoot what’s left of it at Gaza.”

Sharon was a war criminal, but that’s a horrifying idea, particularly coming from a religious leader who interacted with Duke and UNC students and works with many young people today.

Ethnic cleansing

Hammer eventually reached his ethnic cleansing point.

“Immediately evacuate as many identifiable civilians (no easy task) as possible from Gaza. Work with Egypt to take most in, ideally with diplomatic carrots and sticks – but if need be, a refugee swarm on the border fence and forcing Egypt’s hand might be inevitable. Second, flatten and raze to the ground anything remotely smacking of jihadist infrastructure in Gaza. Large swaths of Gaza should resemble a parking lot.”

Newsweek is complicit with the horrifying violence Israel is now raining down on Gaza and will be so long as it employs a senior editor-at-large calling for ethnic cleansing and employing “parking lot” rhetoric, typically understood as a call for genocide.

The publication has not responded to an inquiry from The Electronic Intifada about Hammer’s anti-Palestinian racism.

Nor has Hammer reined in his rhetoric since Saturday, hyping a post by Nachman Mostofsky, executive director and vice president of Amariah, suggesting bombing Gaza like the allies bombed Japan during World War II.

This suggests Hammer may well support dropping an atomic bomb on tiny Gaza and its refugee population, half of whom are children.

Wrote Mostofsky, “They bombed the ever living shit out of Germany and Japan. Now it’s Gaza’s turn.”

This is encouraging war crimes and, it appears, genocide.

The New York Times, a newspaper I have repeatedly criticized over the years and in recent days for handing all of Jerusalem to Israel and not reporting on Benjamin Netanyahu’s maps eliminating Palestine, did at least quote Palestinian Center for Human Rights director Raji Sourani on just how far Israel has already gone in Gaza.

“The Israelis have lost their minds,” said Sourani. He then added, “They are annihilating entire families.”

All of this is of little to no concern for Hammer.

Continuing with his colonial vision for Gaza, he wrote:

“After that, Israel must formally re-annex Gaza. The 2005 disengagement was a catastrophic mistake that needs to be reversed. After re-annexation, there will need to be a military occupation to ensure it does not go off the rails once again. Israeli security and intelligence apparatuses should then ensure the installation of a puppet regime (not Hamas, but crucially, also not the Palestinian Authority), likely led by some sort of Arab Zionist faction.”

An Arab Zionist faction? Someone more cooperative with the Israeli occupation than Mahmoud Abbas? How many Palestinians would even be left in Gaza? Notably, Hammer doesn’t say whether Palestinians he wants to exit to Egypt would be allowed to return.

To reach such a point speaks to a level of violent colonial intent on Hammer’s part that is terrifying. And it shows that he has learned nothing.

Every time something happens that he doesn’t like his tool kit is to reach for greater violence against dispossessed and subjugated Palestinians living in apartheid conditions. Many governments across Europe and North America appear to agree.

What does Hammer propose? He says there will never be a Palestinian state. Instead, he says that Jordan is “still on the table” for a Palestinian state. He acknowledges Jordan doesn’t want this, but it’s his only idea and it’s ethnic cleansing.

Scorched earth

“Mowing the lawn” is the racist Israeli euphemism for the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza. Such brutality simply feeds the anger felt by Palestinians at the injustice of their condition.

Now there will be scorched earth in Gaza. I suspect that the policy will simply lead to further violence and a widening of the area of conflict. Managing the conflict – kicking Palestinian freedom down the road – led here because that feeble option was more politically convenient than a political solution to fulfill Palestinian rights.

Gaza is likely to be left in total or near-total ruin, likely with no repercussions for the repeat Israeli war criminals executing the policy.

Ben Packer, who frequently voices anti-Palestinian and anti-Black racism, agrees with Hammer. If anything, he is even more open in promoting a genocidal response.

The public University of North Carolina graduate and self-proclaimed “rabbi on campus” at both UNC and Duke, shares common ground with Hammer, the graduate of the private southern Duke University.

“When I was a student at UNC, students were required to pass a swimming test in order to graduate. (Probably considered racist today). These Gazans should all have to wish they had graduated from UNC. Sink or swim. Either the sharks or Africa gets them. I don’t care which and I’m not sure which is worse. They voted for Hamas, they support Hamas, now it’s time for them to end with Hamas.”

This is a call for genocide.

With such pro-Israel advocates openly touting ethnic cleansing and genocide, it is long past time for Americans to learn the realities faced by Palestinians.

When Ilhan Omar, a member of the US Congress, raised concerns about the situation in Gaza, Hammer immediately engaged in Islamophobia.

Hammer also reposted a Muslim-baiting tweet asking if Hamas had written Omar’s tweet.
And he has attacked students at Northwestern University with Students for Justice in Palestine as “enemies of humanity.”
Consequently, it is little wonder that the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee sent an alert to community members expressing concern about “increasing threats to Arab Americans.” This was not reported by CNN Wednesday morning, though it did report, as it has earlier, serious concerns about threats to the American Jewish community this week.

Both threats are extremely troubling.

Meanwhile, Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the United States, on CNN Tuesday night referred to a “green light” from President Joe Biden for Israel’s attack on Gaza where children comprise half the population.

Already, hundreds of Palestinian children are reported to have been killed in Gaza. Israel employs American weapon systems with more on the way.

A friend has told me the destruction in al-Rimal, the Gaza neighborhood where I used to live and work, is “indescribable.”

This is what Hammer pushed when he talked about turning “large swaths” of Gaza into a “parking lot.”


Michael F. Brown

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