Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein trav­els across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Australia to witness the reality of disaster capitalism. He discovers how companies such as G4S, Serco, and Halliburton cash in on or­ganized misery in a hidden world of privatized detention centers, militarized private security, aid profiteering, and destructive mining.

Disaster has become big business. Talking to immigrants stuck in limbo in Britain or visiting immigration centers in America, Loewenstein maps the secret networks formed to help cor­porations bleed what profits they can from economic crisis. He debates with Western contractors in Afghanistan, meets the locals in post-earthquake Haiti, and in Greece finds a country at the mercy of vulture profiteers. In Papua New Guinea, he sees a local commu­nity forced to rebel against predatory resource companies and NGOs.

What emerges through Loewenstein’s re­porting is a dark history of multinational corpo­rations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valu­able commodity. Disaster Capitalism is published by Verso in 2015 and in paperback in January 2017.

Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

The cross-cultural blog-off

As previously noted, leading Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan is currently in Israel in an attempt to break the taboo between the two peoples. This Haaretz interview covers a vast range of subjets, from Bush to anti-capitalism, the power of blogging to the repressive Iranian regime. Key quote:

“I am trying to show Israelis that there are lots of people like myself living in Iran, with the same moderate ideas about Israel and the world. Most Iranians want normal relations with Israel, and do not view Israelis as bloodthirsty Jews who want to kill all Muslims, which is how the regime tries to portray them.”

UPDATE: Lisa Goldman is Hoder’s host while in Israel. Her blog offers reflections on the tour.

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Within the community

The International Herald Tribune explains a bold, new media experiment:

“When riots erupted in the outskirts of many French cities last autumn, media around the world struggled to find a way to tell the story of those suburban areas, known as the banlieues.

“A Swiss magazine took the opportunity to try a new approach to online journalism, in an effort to report the issue in a deeper and perhaps more helpful way.

“What is emerging from the experiment is an example of how ‘old’ media can revitalize themselves by incorporating the tools of the ‘new’ media while serving readers in a way that the printed press simply could not have managed before.”

The results are extremely interesting:

“At the height of the riots in early November, the Swiss weekly L’Hebdo decided that its initial articles had not gone far enough in helping readers understand what was happening in France. So the editors chose the town of Bondy, in the suburbs of Paris, and started sending reporters there on rotations of seven to 10 days.

“Working from a tiny room they called the ‘Bondy microbureau,’ which they borrowed from the local soccer club, the reporters have been doing a lot more than filing their typical weekly stories for the magazine, which is based in Lausanne and has a circulation of 44,000.

“They have been posting short and long reports several times a day, as well as photographs, on what has become known as the Bondy Blog,”

The reporting is often personal and rough and a world away from the polished, and sometimes detached, style of traditional journalistic narratives. Journalists say they’ve discovered a relationship with their readers that simply didn’t exist before. Perhaps most importantly, the publication wants to give something back to the community:

“‘L’Hebdo plans to announce in this week’s issue that it is going to gather a group of young people from Bondy, bring them to Lausanne for journalism training and a ‘blog school’ and then hand them the digital keys to the Bondy Blog, while continuing to support them technically and editorially.

“‘We came from outside, and tried to cover their reality as best as we could,’ Michel, the world-affairs editor, said.

“We want now to help them do it by themselves, using the tools of journalism and of blogging to become actors in their own social space.”

“Closing the loop, the project will be financed in very ‘old media’ way: A major French publisher will turn the Bondy Blog into a book, and the proceeds will go toward supporting blogging in the banlieue.”


Munich redux

My following article appears in today’s edition of Crikey:

“Steven Spielberg’s latest film, Munich, is a milestone in mainstream American culture. It tells the story of the 1972 Palestinian attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics but focuses more on the aftermath – and Israel’s response – than the massacre itself. Many prominent Jewish groups have condemned it while Spielberg, a self-confessed ‘pro-Israeli Jew,’ says he made the film ‘out of love for both my countries, USA and Israel.’

“The Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer reached dizzying heights of vitriol when he claimed that ‘Spielberg makes the Holocaust the engine of Zionism and its justification. Which, of course, is the Palestinian narrative.’ He argued that such arguments were shared by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and proved a new war against the Jews was upon us. Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz was similarly outraged and wrote that Spielberg confused cause and effect, damning him for claiming counterterrorism ‘only incites more terrorism, which in turn provokes reprisals.’ Mark Baker, lecturer in terrorism at the University of Melbourne, was incensed that Spielberg had ‘created a flattened universe where there is no moral compass of right and wrong.’

“The triumph of Munich – and the work is not without its flaws – is a Hollywood film that confidently challenges the myth of Israeli moral superiority and its use of state-sanctioned terror. As Robert Fisk recently argued, any nation that embraced an ‘eye for an eye’ ideology is bound to discover the immorality and uselessness of such actions. ‘The real enemy [in the conflict],’ wrote Fisk, ‘is taking other people’s land away from them.’ Spielberg has allowed Palestinians, albeit far-too-briefly, the chance to talk about their longing for a homeland. Similar dreams, in fact, to many Jews the world over. Spielberg doesn’t shy away from bestowing the “other” side with humanity, something that threatens accepted Zionist dogma.

“Screenwriter Tony Kushner recently wrote that critics of the film – and advocates of shock and awe ‘diplomacy’ – simply refuse to accept anything other than simple ‘morality tales’: noble and valiant Israelis versus evil and brutal Palestinians. As Hamas assumes control in the occupied territories – partly due to years of Israeli and US undermining secularism within the Palestinian movement – and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compares Hamas’s victory to the rise of Nazism in 1930s Germany, Spielberg’s plea for greater understanding could not be more timely.”

For more information on the subject, read here.

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History repeating?

Australia was directly complicit during Indonesia’s long and brutal occupation of East Timor. West Papua is little different:
“The Indonesian military is using the same tactics of terror in West Papua that were employed during its bloody reign in East Timor, and Australia should step in to mediate a peace settlement, warns separatist Herman Wainggai.

“Mr Wainggai, the leader of the 43 asylum-seekers who arrived in Australia two weeks ago, said ongoing abuses by the Indonesian military, often in cahoots with militias, were terrifying the indigenous community.

“‘It’s the same as with East Timor,’ he told the Herald yesterday from Christmas Island, where the asylum-seekers are being processed by immigration officials. ‘They have created militias and jihadis in West Papua. The people, and especially activists for independence, are very scared.'”

For more information on the “Free West Papua” movement, see here.


The choice is easy

Some, of course, simply believe Hamas should be ignored. It is precisely this kind of Western arrogance that (partly) led to the Hamas victory, will lead to more bloodshed and force Hamas to seek support in the Islamic world. While Mahmoud al-Zahar, leader of Hamas in the occupied territories, discusses his group’s future plans and ideals, others, such as Azzam Tamimi, director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought, argues that new opportunities for peace are emerging:

“Contrary to the claims of alarmists who see the Hamas election victory as a threat to peace, new opportunities for making peace could now emerge. The peacemaking episodes of the past were based on assumptions absolutely unacceptable to the majority of Palestinians and those who support the justice of their cause. From Oslo to the road map it was always assumed that Israel was the victim that needed to live in peace and security and that the key to this was the end of Palestinian terrorism. The new peace process that Hamas may indeed be willing to be part of should be based on the fact that the Palestinians are the victims and have been victims since Israel was created on their soil. It is not Palestinian terrorism that is the problem, but Israeli aggression.

“Well, let the Palestinians dream of the end of Israel and let the Israelis dream of Eretz Yisrael from the Nile to the Euphrates, but let’s negotiate an end to the violence. Hamas alone is capable of that because Hamas will not give up the right of Palestinians to go back to the villages and towns from which the terrorists who stole their land drove them.”

It is inconceivable that an Australian newspaper would publish such an article. Indeed, Arab and Palestinian voices have been virtually silent in the local press, as if their views, hopes and fears – including about women in Gaza – should always come secondary to Israelis and Americans.


The Secular Party

Australia has a new political party, The Secular Party of Australia. They believe in:

– Separation of Church and State
– Individual Freedoms and Choices
– Progressive Economic Policies
– A Fair and Equitable Society
– Global Solutions to Global Problems

Check out their platform.

I particularly like their ideas for the Middle East:

“The only possible long-term solution to the Middle East problem, consistent with principles of honesty, compassion, freedom and justice, is a unitary secular state in which all people have equal rights. This will perhaps require a degree of compromise that most Jews will find painful to accept. To allay Jewish fears that a specific homeland is required for their security, the Secular Party proposes that a coalition of countries be formed that will guarantee their asylum in the event of their persecution. In the proposed unitary secular state, no religion should be presumed authentic and no rights or privileges should be granted on the basis of claimed ethnicity or religious belief.

“The primary obstacles in achieving this solution are Judaic beliefs that presume exclusive territorial entitlement, and irreconcilable Islamic beliefs that also necessitate superior claims to territory. The key to dissipating this irreconcilability is simply to put forward the proposition, which is impeccably based in reason, that the beliefs on which the conflict is based are false, unnecessary, undesirable, harmful, and based on nothing more than ancient mythology. Astoundingly, it seems that perhaps no political leader anywhere has ever put forward this proposition.”


Barriers to peace

The following statement has been issued by “Jews Against Genocide“:

“On January 19th we, a group of concerned Jews, spray painted the infamous Nazi slogan ‘Arbeit Macht Frie’ (‘Work Makes You Free’) on a sign placed by the Israeli occupation authorities at the Kalandia checkpoint that read ‘The Hope of Us All’.

“The Sign ‘The hope of us all’ and the New Ramallah Terminal were inaugurated on the 20th of Dec 2005. The new terminal is set up so that there is no physical contact between the soldiers and the Palestinians. The soldiers scream commands to the Palestinians over loud speakers as they are made to go through a series of electronic gates and turnstiles. The new Terminal embodies the occupation in its alienated, bureaucratically cruel form. It is situated between one Palestinian area and another and flanked on both sides by the annexation barrier effectively turning Ramallah into a ghetto.

“‘Arbeit Meicht Frie’ was written at the entrance of Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. In spray painting on that sign we did not mean to say that Ramallah is Auschwitz. We did, however, wish to point out that there are many disturbing parallels between the tactics used by the occupation and those used by the Nazis. For example, the attempt to beautify dehumanising institutions through empty phrases like ‘The Hope of Us All’ and ‘Arbeit Macht Frie’. We believe that it is important to heed these disturbing parallels as warning signals in order for another Holocaust never to happen again, to any people. We wrote a paragraph explaining our action in Arabic and English and distributed it to people as we were painting the sign, and we posted that paragraph next to the slogan.

“Unfortunately the Israeli authorities have decided to use our action for their own purposes and are accusing the Israeli human rights group Machsom Watch of ‘defacing the checkpoint’. (See Kalandia terminal crossing compared to Auschwitz by Margot Dudkevitch.) These accusations are baseless. None of the people involved in writing the slogan have anything to do with Machsom Watch. The Israeli Military is attempting to find excuses to deny witnesses access to the checkpoints where human rights are systematically violated.”

Read this for a typical example of how checkpoints are destroying Palestinian lives and the “security fence” is harming both Israelis and Palestinians.


The real legacy of Ariel Sharon

In the wake of the Hamas victory in the Palestinian territories and the sickness of Ariel Sharon, the Middle East is again in flux. For those in Sydney, I’ll be speaking at the following event on Thursday, February 2 at 7pm at the Humanist Society Bldg, 10 Shepherd St (transport: off Broadway, near corner City Rd.)

The event is organised by the Socialist Worker.

– Antony Loewenstein (freelance journalist & author, currently writing book on the Israel/Palestine conflict)
– Jarvis Ryan (ISO)

“The demise of Ariel Sharon led to outpourings of praise from governments and media worldwide. They presented an image of a man who made the transition from soldier to ‘man of peace’. His withdrawal of settlers from Gaza and founding of the political party Kadima are said to show his commitment to putting the peace process back on track. But Sharon opposed every genuine attempt to deliver peace with the Palestinians. This forum will critically examine the motivations behind the Gaza pullout, and look at the prospects for peace and justice in the Middle East in the post-Sharon era.

“All welcome.”

This is the first of many public talks I will be conducting in the coming months.


Double bind

Tony Blair is easily impressed:

“Meles Zenawi was hailed last year by Tony Blair as a leading member of a new generation of African leaders, and was praised for his enlightened approach to the continent’s problems. Indeed, the Ethiopian Prime Minister impressed Mr Blair so much that he asked him to become a member of his much-vaunted Commission for Africa.”

Meles, however, is a dictator, murdering political opponents, rigging elections, launching wars against his neighbours and stealing Western aid. Read a full profile here.

Redeem Ethiopia” reveals the true face of a new colonialism – Western aid:

“In Ethiopia today, thanks to aid, we have a government that totally ignores its own people while it is completely beholden to the interests of those giving it aid. In a sense we have a colony, an aid colony that is administered by locals, but answerable to those who finance it. For Meles, what is at stake is his ability to rule for however long he wishes, sustained by the “development” money he receives from his friends.”

I heard similar arguments while travelling around the occupied territories in Palestine. A number of Palestinians said they desperately needed Western financial support, but much of it was simply directed at maintaining the status-quo and the occupation, rather than a struggle against the colonial masters, Israel and the US.

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Keeping us safe

John Howard is the “Man of Steel“.

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Ditching a black and white reading

“So many fundamentalists in my own community, the Jewish community, have grown very angry at me for allowing the Palestinians simply to have dialogue and for allowing Tony Kushner to be the author of that dialogue.”

Steven Spielberg, talking about the reception to his film, “Munich”


News bytes

– Steven Spielberg, defending his film “Munich” in Der Spiegel, says he “would be prepared to die for the USA and for Israel.”

– Cindy Sheehan is thinking of entering politics on an anti-war platform.

– Simon Jenkins writes in the London Times how Britain – and by extension, Australia – is “being set up by the Americans in Afghanistan.”

US officials in Iraq are dealing, thoroughly unsurprisingly, with insurgents (or in Bush-speak, “terrorists.”)

– Prime Minister John Howard has memory loss, defends his government’s reputation and spins furiously to avoid further embarrassment over the oil-for-food scandal. Just another day in paradise.

– According to the Mail on Sunday, Tony Blair and George Bush worked together to deceive the UN and the world over their intentions to invade Iraq. I like this line especially:

“And it alleges the British Government boasted that disgraced newspaper tycoon Conrad Black was being used by Mr Bush’s allies in America as a channel for pro-war propaganda in the UK via his Daily Telegraph newspaper.”