My name is Jeremy R. Hammond, and I’d like to share with you briefly the story about why I wrote the book Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
In the summer of 2008, the government of Israel came to a ceasefire agreement with the Palestinian organization ruling the Gaza Strip, Hamas. As an independent journalist and political analyst, I was observing the situation, and it soon became evident that the ceasefire would not hold. I wrote on my blog that it would end with Israel launching a military operation in Gaza.
On December 27, that prediction came true as Israel launched “Operation Cast Lead”. I continued to pay close attention to what was happening in Gaza during this 22-day assault, and wrote about it on my blog and at Foreign Policy Journal, an online publication I had founded shortly prior, in the fall of 2008.
I subsequently received a Project Censored Award for writing about how the US government was supporting Israel’s assault — and what amounted to war crimes against the civilian population of Palestine.
I was also struck by just how blatantly the US mainstream media was deceiving the public about what was happening. I observed, for example, how the New York Times told the public that Israel launched this operation in self-defense after suffering ceaseless rocket attacks from Hamas, even though it was Israel that had violated the ceasefire. Indeed, the Times had initially reported Israel’s violation of the ceasefire, but subsequently omitted this fact from its accounts of how the violence began!
Appalled by the sheer magnitude of the lies and deceptions the public was being told by the government and media, I became determined to write a book to document what really happened and set the record straight.
However, I didn’t just want to tell the story of what happened during Operation Cast Lead. I wanted to help people see the bigger picture by covering the whole spectrum of issues.
I wanted to tell the story of why the conflict has gone on for so long, to identify the primary obstacle to peace and assess how to overcome it.
My own journey toward understanding what the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is really all about began in earnest after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. At the time, I was probably better informed about international affairs than most, but I was still naive enough that I ask myself, “Why would anybody do something like this?”
Unsatisfied with the Bush administration’s answer that it was because “they hate our freedom”, I began spending a lot of time researching, and my inquiries naturally led me to focus on US policy in the Middle East and, particularly, toward Israel and Palestine.
It quickly became obvious that one of the main reasons the Palestinians continue to suffer under Israel’s occupation regime is because its policies are supported by the government of the United States of America.
One question I struggled with, though, is how this was able to go on. How could the international community be so impotent in the face of such injustice, at best; or, worse, complicit in the wholesale violation of Palestinians’ rights?
How could the American people stand by and consent to their government’s policy of supporting Israel’s violations of international law and human rights abuses?
I initially assumed that people just didn’t care or were uninformed about the plight of the Palestinians. But the more I studied, the more I realized that the problem is not that most people are uniformed; it’s that they are so greatly mis-informed.
It’s not that people don’t know enough about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but that so much of what they think they know just isn’t true.
This is certainly true for most Americans, who are continually inundated with propaganda narratives that, far from properly informing about thee true nature of the conflict, serves to manufacture their consent for US government policies aimed at sustaining the unacceptable status quo.
The official narratives propagated by the government and mainstream media during Operation Cast Lead were certainly no exception.
However, to tell the story of why the conflict persists today, I would also need to explain its root causes. So I splintered my book idea and in 2009 published a short book titled The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination: The Struggle for Palestine and the Roots of the Israeli-Arab Conflict.
It was two more years before I finally set out writing the book I originally had in mind after Operation Cast lead. It was May 2011, and President Barack Obama had given a speech outlining US policy. Once again, the media got it entirely wrong. The basic narrative was that Obama was more sympathetic toward the Palestinians than previous presidents and was pressuring Israel to freeze construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The scarcely concealed reality was that, meaningless rhetoric aside, Obama was fully supportive of Israel’s policies and arguably more so than any previous president. This included supporting Israel’s settlement policies by demanding that the Palestinians negotiate with Israel “without preconditions”, meaning without a cessation of Israel’s illegal expansion of Jewish settlements!
Compelled to set the record straight, I began writing in earnest. I originally intended to submit my manuscript to publishers and hope one of them was interested in it. But I had also already self-published a book and kept this option in mind. Then, in 2012, as candidates were campaigning for the presidential election, I took a break from my work on the manuscript.
There was another story that I was compelled to tell in order to combat the dominating propaganda narrative at the time that the cause of the US housing bubble and the financial crisis it precipitated was an overabundance of liberty in the marketplace. To bust apart this statist nonsense, I took two weeks to write and two to publish the book Ron Paul vs. Paul Krugman: Austrian vs. Keynesian Economics in the Financial Crisis, which shows how the fundamental cause of the bubble was the Federal Reserve’s inflationary monetary policy.
In addition to telling an important story that needed to be told, it was a bit of an experiment for me that would help me determine how I would publish my book on the US role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Without spending a dime on marketing or advertising, my book on the housing bubble ended up getting a rave review in the Wall Street Journal-owned financial weekly Barron’s. Economics and books editor Gene Epstein described me as a “writer of rare skill” who had, in fewer than 100 pages, conveyed “more insight into the causes and cures of business cycles than most textbooks” while also making you laugh, qualifying it as a “must-read”.
That experience convinced me that I could get my message out there by publishing my own work, and I decided I would start my own imprint to publish my magnum opus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So that’s what I did!
Another outcome from that experience was that I befriended Mr. Epstein, who also shared a deep interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ended up writing the Introduction to Obstacle to Peace.
It was a project that took several more years to complete — a struggle, I can tell you, since during that time my wife and I also had a son and moved halfway around the world, leaving jobs behind to start a new chapter in our life’s adventure (again, a whole other story)!
But I persevered, and the result was Obstacle to Peace, published in July 2016 by my imprint, Worldview Publications.
Obstacle to Peace focuses primarily on events since the beginning of the so-called “peace process” through to the UN’s recognition of Palestine as a non-member state in 2012, while also presenting earlier historical context as necessary to understand why the conflict persists today.
It tells the story of how Israel and its superpower benefactor have long blocked implementation of the two-state solution, and how they have partnered to violently suppress Palestinian resistance to the occupation regime.
It also tells the story of how the US mainstream media—with a special focus on The New York Times—has effectively served the role of manufacturing consent for the US government’s policy of supporting Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians by systematically misinforming the American public about the true nature of the conflict.
Obstacle to Peace shatters mainstream propaganda narratives about the conflict, revealing the true reasons for its persistence and illuminating the path to a just peace.