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 Israel lobby: a response

My essay in yesterday’s Australian detailing the impact of the Israel lobby has drawn a response from Colin Rubenstein, executive director of Australia’s leading Zionist lobby, AIJAC:

Colin Rubenstein: Israel seen as an asset
No lobby is shutting down a debate about the Middle East

In his opinion piece on this page yesterday, Antony Loewenstein complains that an “Israeli lobby” in the US and Australia relentlessly campaigns to stifle pro-Palestinian voices through “intimidation and slander” (“Don’t let any lobby shut down debate”).

Loewenstein, an unabashed anti-Zionist, who has repeatedly written of his desire for the disappearance of Israel as a Jewish state, seems to suffer from none of the censorship that he claims is the lot of his ideological fellow travellers. After all, he is writing a book on the Middle East for one of Australia’s prominent academic publishers and he’s been published in a variety of online and print publications.

The stark contrast between what Loewenstein says, and the platforms upon which he has the opportunity to say it, gives rise to a certain irony. Moreover, similar views by others appear in vast numbers of books, articles, online sources, in the media, and in Australian political debates.

Loewenstein has now seized on a flawed article by two American academics, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, which alleges an “Israel lobby” controls US foreign policy in opposition to America’s “true” interests. Loewenstein is quick to accuse critics of smears and censorship, but avoids engaging their substantive critiques of the paper such as dubious assertions, dodgy sources and logical non-sequiturs.

To give but one example, Mearsheimer and Walt allege that the “Zionist lobby” was largely responsible for the Iraq War, and then cite various American neo-conservatives who urged intervention in Iraq. But then they admit that the neo-cons gained no traction until September 11, and it was this attack that led to the change in US policy. But the fact that they have effectively refuted their own point is then ignored in their conclusions. Anyone wanting a detailed dissection of the paper’s problems should look at Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz’s point-by point critique of the paper.

In essence, Mearsheimer and Walt reject the obvious explanation for US (and Australian) support for Israel. As polls in both countries consistently show, most citizens do not agree with their view that Israel is a strategic liability, but see it as an asset. They see Israel as not only a sister democracy, with common values, but also a smart, powerful and resourceful Western ally that enhances common interests.

Instead, the two academics concoct a conspiracy theory about the vast supposed power of an Israeli lobby that has maintained a 50-year “stranglehold” not only on both major American political parties, but also all major media outlets, all think tanks, and academe. Moreover, according to the paper: “The core of the lobby is comprised of American Jews who make a significant effort in their daily lives to bend US foreign policy so that it advances Israel’s interests.” It is not just supporters of Israel who allege anti-semitic implications in this approach. For instance, Christopher Hitchens, a writer and author who has frequently been highly critical of Israeli policies, says the paper’s conspiratorial ideas are “creepy” and “unmistakably smelly”.

This conspiracy theory fits in very well with the world view of anti-Zionists such as Loewenstein. Many have long believed that the reason they have failed to convince many others is not because of any flaws in their arguments, but because the other side is too powerful and shuts down “real debate”. Loewenstein cites critiques of views such as his own and claims they amount to censorship but is actually attempting to claim special privileges for these views – one cannot criticise them or you are “suppressing” them.

Moreover, Loewenstein has been known to engage in a little ad hominem browbeating of his own; he accused all “Jewish leaders” of being guilty of “bigotry, racism and intolerance” for disagreeing with his stance on the Palestinians. Similarly, Loewenstein falsely claims that the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council opposed Israel’s disengagement from Gaza. Actually we supported it as “courageous” and said it had “the potential to substantially bolster the peace process”. Loewenstein says we view Palestinian self-determination as “taboo”. Actually we have long favoured it, provided it is in the context of a secure and lasting peace with Israel.

The Australian Jewish community universally wants Israeli-Palestinian peace, but the vast majority of us disagree with Loewenstein on how to get there. That does not make us powerful, though I like to believe we have persuaded many people of the merits of our views. It does not mean our efforts to do so threaten Australian democracy, as he claims, just as Loewenstein’s do not. And it does not mean we censor those with whom we disagree, but neither does it mean that anti-Zionists are immune from criticism and robust debate.

Colin Rubenstein, a former lecturer in Middle East politics at Monash University in Melbourne, is executive director of AIJAC.

COMMENT: Rubenstein’s response is predictable. He says I “falsely claim” AIJAC opposed last year’s Gaza disengagement, although I never mention this event in my article. He conveniently avoids mentioning Israel’s nearly 40-year-old occupation. This would be like discussing US policy in Iraq and omitting the over 130,000 troops based in the country. Rubenstein argues that his lobby represents the entire Australian Jewish community, when, in fact, it is a privately run think-tank with no communal accountability. He says he believes in free speech and open discussion of the Israel/Palestine conflict, yet his group spends an incredible amount of time intimidating and slandering politicians, journalists and citizens who dare challenge the Zionist-first ideology.

Rubenstein and his ilk believe that Israel is a Western “asset” because the Jewish state is fighting a “war on terror” against Islamic “terror.” It is a simplistic equation and ignores the fact that Israel receives the greatest amount of US aid annually and could probably not survive without US support. Furthermore, it insulates Israel from any international criticism, no matter how brutal or inappropriate its behaviour.

I support a safe and secure Israel, and a peaceful Palestinian state. This will only be achieved by mutual recognition. Unilateralism may be fashionable in the elitist halls of AIJAC and Washington, but it will never bring stability or peace to the Middle East.

3 comments ↪
  • Addamo

    Interesting comments Ant. Always valueable to knwo what these poeoep are like when operating behind the scenes.

    Interesting rebuttal from Rubenstein, and certainly polite. No doubt he put on his best behavior given the audience he was addressing.

    His critique of Mearsheimer and Walt’s paper is simplistic to say the least, but at least he makes some attempt at rebuttal, as opposed the hyperbole that we have witnessed until now.

    For example, yes the neocons were all for the Iraq invasion, but they actually gained traction when Bush came to office (before 911). More importantly, the neocons themselves, while very pro Israel were not the first injection of Israeli centric foreign policy in the US. Mearsheimer and Walt explicitly state that this has been the staus quo for decades (50 years in fact).

    Alan Dershowitz’s point-by point critique is a predictable ad hominem response, full of selective arguments and one that goes out of it;’s way to avoid discussing the occupation. In fact it reads much like his long discredited work, “A Case for Israel”

    Instead, the two academics concoct a conspiracy theory about the vast supposed power of an Israeli lobby that has maintained a 50-year “stranglehold” not only on both major American political parties, but also all major media outlets, all think tanks, and academe. Moreover, according to the paper: “The core of the lobby is comprised of American Jews who make a significant effort in their daily lives to bend US foreign policy so that it advances Israel’s interests.” It is not just supporters of Israel who allege anti-semitic implications in this approach.

    Christopher Hitchens himself is a washed up and perennially hung-over iconoclast and polemicist. Any reference to him is facile at best given that Hitchens also happens to be a die hard apologist for the Iraq war, and to this day (3 years on) continues to pen columns trying to justify why we went to war at all.

  • Progressive_Atheist

    It is the Christianity of the American policy makers that makes them vulnerable to Jewish lobbying.

  • Addamo

    I just skimmed over Alan Dershowitz’s point-by point critique, and it's very lame. For example, he doesn't refute quotes from statements included the reports that are attributed to Israeli leaders (such as Ben Guiron) but instead, points to the theory that:

    a) the statements were taken ot fo context

    b) these quotes appear on neo nazi sites, and therefore that makes the authors meo nazi sympathisers.

    If this is an indicatino fo what Rubenstein regards a water tight rebuttal, it says a great deal about his lack of clarity on this subject.