An interview with Jeremy R Hammond taken on March 23, 2013
Jeremy R. Hammond is an independent political analyst and a recipient of the Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism. He is the founding editor of Foreign Policy Journal . He has written extensively about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that include the overwhelmingly popular and widely discussed article The Myth of the U.N. Creation of Israel.
Despite his busy schedule, he promptly agreed to answer some questions through email for this blog. In this interview, he openly speaks about issues ranging from potential solution of Palestinian problem to his predicaments related to Foreign Policy Journal.
- The communist regimes in the USSR and China were disasters in terms of the cause of humanity.
- Two-state solution in the Middle East, for the US and Israel, means whatever it is that Israel wants
- For US, Israel violating international law by building more settlements was not a problem; only timing was unacceptable
- Finding a business model that works has been difficult for mainstream media, much less alternative outlets
- Our purpose should be to educate ourselves and others and to pursue the higher goals of justice and liberty.
Q: Do you think the current world order with apparent invincibility of the US- led alliance of western powers sustainable in the longer term, say for a half century to come? Is the talk of emergence of a counter-alliance in the global south (as with that of BRICS) a mere intellectual exercise or does it hold the possibility of uprooting the current world order?
No, it is not sustainable. The U.S. economy is on an unsustainable course and is heading for a currency crisis. One positive outcome of the financial crisis that will occur when the bond bubble bursts is that the U.S. empire will necessarily be rolled back simply because the U.S. will no longer be able to afford it. National alliances such as BRICS do have some influence. For example, a growing number of nations are taking steps towards moving away from the U.S. dollar as the world reserve currency, making agreements to trade in alternative currencies. Some countries, like Venezuela and Germany, have moved towards repatriating their gold holdings from foreign central banks, including the Federal Reserve.
Q: Are the economic realities in the west likely to impair the functioning of NATO in the foreseeable future? What will be the likely end result of the friction between NATO and a resurgent Russia under Putin? How bright are the prospects of a new US-Russia reset?
I think economic realities, when they hit home, will do so, yes, for NATO as well as for the use of the U.S. military to enforce its hegemony, as I just mentioned. The U.S.'s NATO allies in Europe have their own financial troubles, and the coming currency crisis will be a global phenomenon. The 40 year experiment with global fiat currencies and the dollar as the world reserve currency is coming to an end. My guess is that once the crisis hits, there will be a move back towards some kind of gold standard. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has insisted that gold is not money, and yet the Fed has gold holdings on its balance sheet, and I believe the central banks have been net buyers of gold in recent years. The central banks are trying to just keep the wheels turning with short term goals in mind by printing currency, but this in the end will only make the long term pain all that much worse, just as blowing up the housing bubble following the collapse of the dot com bubble precipitated the 2008 financial crisis. The next crisis will be even bigger.
As for U.S.-Russia relations, I don't focus so much on it in my work, but in my view I haven't seen much of a "reset". The U.S., albeit with some tweaking of the details, continues its plans for a missile defense shield in Europe with the laughable pretext of protecting Europe from Iranian ballistic missiles, for example.
Q: What could be the lasting implications of so called US 'pivot to Asia'? Will it lead to a different equilibrium with US and its East Asian allies counter-balancing the clout of China or will it invite overt conflicts of much larger scale?
Again, I focus more on the Middle East than Russia or east Asia in my own work, but it seems clear that U.S. policy in this regard is similarly directed against China in terms of competing for resources and containing China's sphere of influence. Whether that will lead to overt conflicts, I can't say. I would think it is certainly a possibility, but I can't make any predictions.
Q: Historically speaking, did the communist regimes in then USSR and China help the cause of the humanity, say in terms of 'liberating' ordinary people as claimed by them? How would the world be now if the communist revolutions in neither of the two had succeeded?
Absolutely not. The communist regimes in the USSR and China were disasters in terms of the cause of humanity. Ordinary people certainly weren't liberated under the communist regimes of Stalin and Mao. I can't speak to the hypothetical.
Q: Where is Israel heading now with peace process in tatters and Netanyahu's new government in place? Do you see any possibility of the two state solution working to establish two relatively pacific states of Israel and Palestine, side by side, in our life times? If the status quo continues indefinitely, how will that impact the future of Israel? Is the current US-Israel relationship viable in long term given other geopolitical imperatives of US in the region?
Israel is heading towards increased international isolation. The Netanyahu government has made it increasingly difficult for European countries and even the U.S. to maintain support for its illegal policies. U.N. permanent Security Council members Britain and France have spoken out strongly in condemnation of the continuing illegal settlement policy, such as the plans to build in the so-called E1 area of the West Bank. The U.S. continues to refuse to do so, but the Obama administration has clearly gotten frustrated on a number of occasions with the brazenness of Netanyahu's policies. A useful example was when V.P. Joe Biden went to Israel and while he was there plans for additional settlements were announced. The administration was upset by that, but it was clear that the problem wasn't that Israel was violating international law by building more settlements; rather, it was the timing of the announcement that was unacceptable, since it drew unnecessary attention to the U.S. role. The U.S. backs Israel's criminal policies financially, diplomatically, and militarily, and this is an aspect of the U.S.-Israeli "special relationship" that the U.S. doesn't want highlighted. It is obvious enough, but the U.S. tries to maintain an image of being an "honest broker" and strives to maintain "credibility" among its Arab allies, like Saudi Arabia, as well as the rest of the world.
As for the prospects of the two-state solution being implemented, I don't foresee this happening anytime soon. First of all, it is not even on the table for the U.S. and Israel. The U.S. speaks of a two-state solution, but when it does so, it is essentially referring to whatever it is that Israel wants, and Israel has also spoken of wanting a two-state solution. But the so-called two-state solution that Israeli policymakers speak of is a far cry from the two-state solution, by which I mean the international consensus that Israel should withdraw from the occupied territories and an independent state of Palestine should be recognized along the pre-June 1967 lines with minor and mutually agreed revisions to the final border. Both the U.S. and Israel reject the two-state solution in favor of another solution, which consists essentially of demanding that the Palestinians surrender their internationally recognized rights. They must renounce the right of return, for example. They must effectively declare that the ethnic cleansing of three-quarters of a million Arab Palestinians by which the “Jewish state” of Israel was founded as having been a legitimate policy of the Zionists. They must renounce their right to national sovereignty, such as by accepting Israeli control over their borders and airspace. They must renounce their right to self-defense and accept a demilitarized state. They must accept continued Israeli theft of their land while negotiations are ongoing (if they are ever to be renewed) and acquiesce to Israeli annexation of major swaths of the West Bank. And so on. This is what the U.S. and Israel refer to when they speak of a two-state solution. It is not to be confused with the two-state solution.
If things continue as they have been, the possibility of a viable Palestinian state will evaporate. The crisis for Israel is whether it wants to be a “Jewish state” or a democratic one. It will no longer be able to maintain the façade that it is the latter the further down this road it goes. It is an unsustainable course for Israel. One possible outcome might be that the Palestinian leadership finally bows to U.S.-Israeli demands. Another might be that the P.A. refuses any longer to play the role of “Israel’s enforcer” in the occupied West Bank and refuses to continue to accept the status quo of the U.S.-led so-called “peace process”. There is some hope that the latter is already occurring, albeit only in a few small steps at a time. For example, the refusal to enter into talks with Israel while colonization is ongoing is important. The recognition of statehood in the U.N. General Assembly is another important step, certainly not merely “symbolic”, because it means Palestine has access to the International Criminal Court and could file a complaint against Israel for its continued violations of international law. I’m skeptical the Abbas government would have the courage to do something like that, but perhaps he will surprise us, or perhaps a new Palestinian leadership will arise that will do what is necessary to protect and defend Palestinian rights.
Q: What has the so called 'Arab spring' achieved in the end? What if the street vendor in Tunisia had never self-immolated? How do you see the end of Mubarak's regime and rise of MB regime in Egypt? Is there any possibility of similar wave of protests gripping the gulf petro-monarchies? Has the end result of the revolts (excluding Syria where the outcome is still uncertain) weakened or strengthened the strategic position of US and Israel in Middle East?
I don’t think the “Arab Spring” can be discussed as a general phenomenon. One has to look at each case individually. What has happened in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain Libya, Syria, etc. is something different in each case. One thing to keep in mind, though, that is typically overlooked, is how the Fed’s policy of inflation has unintended consequences. It was the rising cost of bread that sparked the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, and with the dollar as the world reserve currency and nations in a race to debase their own currencies, this can be seen as a consequence of U.S. monetary policy. Again, I can’t speak to hypothetical but as for what has happened in Egypt, one also must keep in mind the limited nature of the supposed victory of overthrowing the 30-year rule of the dictator Mubarak. He was a member of the same U.S.-backed military establishment that took over once he stepped down. As for the election of former Muslim Brotherhood member Morsi as President, the U.S. has maintained its support for the military and has been working with the MB in Syria in its effort to back the armed rebels to overthrow the Assad regime. It’s hard for me to say what it all means for the people of Egypt, except that in my view, their revolution is far from over.
Q: What is your impression of the mainstream media in the world today? Are they better at informing people or misinforming them? What breeds 'bigotry' (as one commentator has put it) among these media outlets as widely popular as NYT and The Economist when it comes to the coverage of issues like Iraq war or Chavez's death? Is there any chance they will objectively introspect and be more reasonable in future?
The mainstream media does report the news. I for example primarily get my news from the New York Times. At the same time, I constantly blog about how the Times is misinforming people with atrocious propaganda. It’s not that they don’t report things, it’s in the nature of how it gets reported. Unfortunately, when one reads the mainstream media, one really must maintain vigilance and a healthy skepticism. If you really want to know what’s going on, you have to really make an effort to seek out multiple sources, both U.S. and international, mainstream and alternative media. You learn to discern truth from fiction and strain out the bare facts from the propaganda. Sadly, most people have neither the time nor the inclination to do research projects and just want to read one article that is going to give them the run down on this or that topic or current event. Or they want a 5 minute summary version from the evening news. And such being the case, they are probably being seriously uninformed and/or misinformed.
As for what the cause of this kind of bias is, it has to do with what I refer to as the state religion. Commentators who tow the official line can be rewarded and advance their careers. But if you question the official line, you are considered pretty much a heretic by the establishment. It’s not like the Soviet model of state-run propaganda. Instead, in the U.S., there is a kind of self-censorship. I’ll give you an example that come to my head immediately. On November 4, 2008, the Times reported on an Israeli violation of its ceasefire with Hamas when it launched an attack in the Gaza Strip. Subsequently, this Israeli violations was swept down the memory hole and never referred to again. It came to be reported that the ceasefire “broke down”, as though it were some inexplicable phenomenon, something that just happened, without explanation. Or Hamas was blamed for ending the ceasefire, even though until that Israeli violation, it had fired not a single rocket or mortar into Israel. That kind of self-censorship is standard fare for the mainstream media. Inconvenient facts just slip down the memory hole. The net result is that the media acts essentially as a propaganda machine to manufacture consent for U.S. foreign policy.
Q: What is the future of alternative media outlets that have dared seeking 'niche' in the world dominated by the traditional giants? How can a new media outlet grow and prosper in this world where millions of websites jostle to get attention of the audience? Is there any likelihood of these media significantly challenging the clout of mainstream media?
Good question. News media is going through major changes, and everyone is trying to catch up and adapt to new technologies and innovations. Finding a business model that works has been difficult for mainstream media, much less alternative outlets. Some of the latter get by due to backing from foundations or philanthropists. Many others survive only by reader donations to support their effort. But then the economy isn’t doing well and so it’s tough to get support for truly independent media. The future of the media is really up to its consumers. Where do they want to put their money?
Q: Finally, Foreign Policy Journal appears to be doing well from many angles. Do you have plans of aggressive expansion? Your personal website also appears to be doing equally well. Agreed there are no secrets or shortcuts to success. But what are your suggestions to the host of New media enthusiasts in Nepal and South Asia?
ForeignPolicyJournal.com is doing well in terms of expanding readership and increasing reputation. I am very pleased with how it has grown since I launched it in late 2008. However, I do struggle to maintain the effort. I run the site at a loss in terms of the cost to run it, the opportunity cost, and the uncompensated labor involved in bringing it to readers. I would love to expand it in many different ways, but doing that requires both time and capital, and I’m short on both. I need to move the site to a new server, for example, because it’s outgrown its current server and sometimes crashes as a result. But it’s not in my budget to do that, so I’m stuck with having the site go down for several minutes at a time periodically. I do the best I can with the time and resources I have. My personal site, www.jeremyrhammond.com, doesn’t have nearly the readership as FPJ, but I have been pleased with what I’ve been able to do with it. There are surely no secrets or shortcuts that I’m aware of. It takes absolute dedication and a willingness to sacrifice. I don’t know what to suggest other than to persevere and remember that the purpose is to educate ourselves and others and to pursue the higher goals of justice and liberty. If one has some other goals in mind, my suggestion is to find a different profession.