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.

Switching sides

The Republican Jewish Coalition has placed the following advertisement in the US Jewish press:

lieberman-somethingwrong031507-300w.jpg

If “defenders of freedom” are using Lieberman as their new hero, they’re getting rather desperate.

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Killing them softly

While Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has admitted that the “American liberation of Iraq … has turned into an occupation, with tragic consequences on the country”, the reality in Fallujah is horrifying:

Iraqis in the volatile al-Anbar province west of Baghdad are reporting regular killings carried out by U.S. forces that many believe are part of a ‘genocidal’ strategy.

Since the mysterious explosion at the Shia al-Askari shrine in Samara in February last year, more than 100 Iraqis have been killed daily on average, without any forceful action by the Iraqi government and the U.S. military to stop the killings.

U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces working with them are also executing people seized during home raids and other operations, residents say.

“Seventeen young men were found executed after they were arrested by U.S. troops and Fallujah police,” 40-year-old Yassen of Fallujah told IPS. “My two sons have been detained by police, and I am terrified that they will have the same fate. They are only 17 and 18 years old.”

Residents of Fallujah say the local police detention centre holds hundreds of men, who have had no legal representation.

Others are killed by random fire that has long become routine for U.S. and Iraqi soldiers. Sa’ad, a 25-year-old from the al-Thubbat area of western Fallujah was killed in such firing.

“The poor guy kept running home every time he saw U.S. soldiers,” a man from his neighbourhood, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. “He used to say: Go inside or the Americans will kill you.” Sa’ad is said by neighbours to have developed a mental disability.

He was recently shot and killed by U.S. soldiers when they opened fire after their patrol was struck by a roadside bomb. 

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The Nazis are coming, run to the hills

It’s amazing what nonsense journalists will sprout after taking a free trip to Israel. Case study number one, Sydney Morning Herald columnist Paul Sheehan:

“…No question we will see another Kristallnacht because the Nazis are rising around the world”. 

Nazis are rising? Real Nazis? Or Iranian ones? Or perhaps he’s referring to al-Qaeda. Or Hamas. Or Hizbollah.

Or perhaps he’s just been brain-washed by those highly efficient IDF Powerpoint presentations.

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Were the British Sailors set up?

Since the capture of the British sailors by Iran, some interesting revelations have come to light.

Tony Blair is adamant that the soldiers were captured on the Iraqi side of the border. Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray tells us something different:

The British Government has published a map showing the coordinates of the incident, well within an Iran/Iraq maritime border. The mainstream media and even the blogosphere has bought this hook, line and sinker.

But there are two colossal problems.

A) The Iran/Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British Government. Only Iraq and Iran can agree their bilateral boundary, and they never have done this in the Gulf, only inside the Shatt because there it is the land border too. This published boundary is a fake with no legal force.

B) Accepting the British coordinates for the position of both HMS Cornwall and the incident, both were closer to Iranian land than Iraqi land. Go on, print out the map and measure it. Which underlines the point that the British produced border is not a reliable one.

None of which changes the fact that the Iranians, having made their point, should have handed back the captives immediately. I pray they do so before this thing spirals out of control. But by producing a fake map of the Iran/Iraq boundary, notably unfavourable to Iran, we can only harden the Iranian position.

Of course, the British media has been ablaze with vitriol aimed at the Iranians, with rumours that British troops surrounded the Iranian embassy in Basra and fired into the air. The word is that this was the 6th incursion into Iranian waters by the British, not a single incident.

Conspiracy theories have been sparked by the fact that the female member of the team, Seaman Specialist Faye Turney, was interviewed only hours before the British were captured. The timing seems strangely convenient.

During a revealing interview on The BBC’s Newsnight programme last night, Diplomatic Editor, Mark Urban, explained how unlikely it is that such an event could actually happen. The area where this event supposedly took place was well within the Radar Scope of HMS Cornwall, not to mention a whole host of other vessels: which were all mysteriously absent at the moment when the Iranian interception party appeared on the scene.

Urban and host Jeremy Paxman conclude that The Royal Navy were, at the very least, grossly negligent in their duty of policing The Shat Al Arab/International Waterways.

So was a trap set for the Iranians?

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The homeland

What kind of society has Israel become? A bitterly divided and racist one, according to a new study:

Over half of the Jewish population in Israel believes the marriage of a Jewish woman to an Arab man is equal to national treason, according to a recent survey by the Geocartography Institute.

The survey, which was conducted for the Center Against Racism, also found that over 75 percent of participants did not approve of apartment buildings being shared between Arabs and Jews. Sixty percent of participants said they would not allow an Arab to visit their home.

Five hundred Jewish men and women participated in the poll, which was published Tuesday.

According to the survey, racism against Arabs in Israel has seen a sharp rise since a similar survey was conducted two years ago.

In 2006, 247 racist acts against Arabs were reported, as opposed to 225 one year prior.

About 40 percent of participants agreed that “Arabs should have their right to vote for Knesset revoked”. The number was 55 percent lower in the previous survey. Also, over half of the participants agreed that Israel should encourage its Arab citizens to immigrate from the country.

Over half of the participants said they would not want to work under the direct management of an Arab, and 55 percent said “Arabs and Jews should be separated at entertainment sites”.

Participants were asked what they felt when they overheard someone speaking Arabic. Thirty-one percent said they felt hatred, while 50 percent said they felt fear.

Over 56 percent of participants said they believed that Israel’s Arab citizens posed both a security and a demographic threat to the country.

When asked what they thought of Arab culture, over 37 percent replied, “The Arab culture is inferior.” 

Zionists may claim that Israel is the Middle East’s only democracy, but it seems that many Israelis would rather all Arabs left the country entirely.

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YouTube of the day

“Guilty” David Hicks has dreams of a TV career:

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The clueless Senator

When it comes to discussing Israel/Palestine, politicians the world over are notoriously reticent to speak the truth about facts on the ground. In Australia, the only Jewish Federal MP, Michael Danby, seems incapable of mounting an argument that is more sophisticated than repeating press releases from the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Both major sides in politics are desperate to maintain the rehearsed lines to keep the Americans happy and what better way to do that than to uncritically praise the superpower’s leading client state, Israel?

Enter Michael Forshaw, a NSW Labor MP. After an undistinguished career and only occasional uninformed comments about Israel, he rose in the Senate yesterday and launched a tirade on anti-Semitism (page 38 onwards). His speech read like comments prepared for him by the Zionist lobby, such was its wilful ignorance. For example:

…What is very disturbing is the growing trend today towards anti-Semitism and demonising Israel and Jews under the guise of academic research and/or political analysis and debate.

He cited statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Mearsheimer/Walt Israel lobby paper and yours truly. My public statements on the pernicious effects of the lobby, its tendency to bully opponents and attempts to silence criticism of Israeli crimes was all condemned:

Mr Loewenstein’s allegations are absolutely ridiculous. They are also hypocritical. Firstly, the very fact that Mr Loewenstein’s article appeared in the Australian newspaper, and that his book, published subsequently, has gained such prominence in the public debate and in the media, including the Jewish media in this country, demonstrates the fallacy of his argument. Following publication of his book by Melbourne University Publishing, Mr Loewenstein received nationwide coverage in both the printed and electronic media. The coverage of this debate went on for weeks, so it is ludicrous to argue that he has somehow been prevented from debating these issues and from having his views heard.

The debate about Israel’s policies, the US’s policies and the Middle Eastern conflicts is very much alive in this country, just as it is in the United States and throughout the Western world. It is very much alive, particularly in the state of Israel itself, which is a strong democracy, albeit one that has been under constant threat for all of its existence. The evidence of that debate stands in stark contrast to most Islamic and Arab nations. I note that my colleague Senator Stephens earlier this year raised in the Senate the plight of Mr Salah Choudhury. Mr Choudhury is a journalist in Bangladesh who had the temerity to write an article criticising Islamic extremism and supporting interfaith dialogue, particularly between Christians, Muslims and Jews. He is now on trial for sedition in Bangladesh.

The second point I want to make is that whilst I have read many articles in the Australian media by commentators such as Mr Loewenstein, Professor Amin Saikal and others criticising Israel, I am still waiting to read an article by them criticising Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitic attacks and calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. I very much doubt that those articles, if they have been written, have been censored or prevented from being published.

Thirdly, when it comes to pressure being applied to prevent public debate, the worst instance that I can recall was the call a couple of years ago by academics in the United Kingdom, supported by academics in this country and in other Western countries, for a boycott of Israel, Israeli academics and institutions. Indeed, in the United Kingdom, Jewish academics were sacked for the very fact that they were Jewish. When academics in a democratic country call for a boycott of academics in another democratic country simply because they are Jewish then we have a serious problem. I do not recall Mr Loewenstein ever condemning that action.

A tactic that is also used in criticising Israel is to use the language that is particularly pertinent to the Jewish experience. Israel has been accused of ethnic cleansing, of genocide, of war crimes, of apartheid and even of perpetrating a holocaust on the Palestinian people. That is absolute nonsense and it is anti-Semitic. When your country has been threatened with annihilation, when your people have experienced the Holocaust—the murder of six million Jews—is it any wonder that persons from that community will stand up and defend their country’s right to exist and their people’s right to peace and democracy in the face of anti-Semitism?

Senator Forshaw is clearly still high from his last all-expenses paid trip to Israel and its military machine. During last year’s Iranian Holocaust Denial conference, I regularly condemned the proceedings, as did many Iranians. I have not said I’m being silenced, but the ability of citizens to freely criticise Israel and its policies results in slander and abuse, usually from fellow Jews.

The Senator may think that it is “anti-Semitic” to say the Israeli occupation of Palestine is reminiscent of apartheid, but many distinguished figures would disagree (and I wonder how often Forshaw has actually seen inside the occupied territories further than his Israeli minders would allow him to travel.)

Israel is under constant international pressure because its behaviour is consistently illegal, immoral and counter-productive. The Senator, like so many talking-heads before him, may regard themselves as friends of Israel but they are in fact contributing to the country’s destruction.

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Tough love

Supporting the troops is the unrelenting catch phrase of the war party, yet the war party continues to behave like an abusive parent towards the troops:

TWO Australian soldiers who served in the first Iraq war have tested positive to depleted uranium (DU) contamination despite assurances from the Federal Government they had not been exposed, an anti-nuclear group said today.

Of course, warnings about the side effects of exposure to depleted uranium are nothing new, but the damage is exacerbated by the fact that governments either insist that the particulates are harmless, or they deny that symptoms experienced by affected veterans are related to exposure.

The abuse doesn’t end there.

A new scandal is emerging related to an anthrax vaccine administered to troops despite suspicions of adverse side effects.

Documents obtained by RAW STORY, including a participant’s agreement, case history and government documents, show that military medical personnel have known since at least 1998 that there are genetic triggers between illnesses and some required immunizations, including the anthrax vaccine. They also reveal the military knew and did not implement routine pre-screening which could help reduce vaccine-related illnesses.

With support like this, who needs enemies?

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We can stop pretending now

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for the torture of prisoners in US custody overseas. The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First had brought the case on behalf of nine former prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. The suit said Rumsfeld had tacitly or directly authorized a series of abuses including beatings, stabbings, shocks, burnings and sexual humiliation. In his dismissal ruling, U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan acknowledged the men had been tortured. But he said they do not have constitutional rights to seek redress and that government officials are immune.

The court accepted that the nine men who sued had been tortured – and detailed the torture in its ruling.

But Judge Thomas Hogan ruled the five Iraqis and four Afghans did not have US constitutional rights, and also that Mr Rumsfeld was immune from such suits.

In other words, the court recognized that torture had occurred to all nine men and that Rumsfeld was responsible.

U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan threw out a lawsuit brought on behalf of nine former prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said Rumsfeld cannot be held personally responsible for actions taken in connection with his government job.

At least we can put to bed the carnard that Abu Graib was some kind of anomaly perpetrated by poorly trained grunts on night duty. After he left office, Rumsfeld posted a list of his achievements on the Pentagon website, under the heading, “Rumsfeld, six years of accomplishment,” which included developing new methods of interrogation – new methods of getting information from prisoners at Guantanamo.

You couldn’t make this stuff up. Rumsfeld actually regarded implementing torture as an accomplishment.

And they wonder, why do they hate us?

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Not just our voices

After “victory” has been declared in Iraq – shame about the ways in which the US and Iraqi authorities treat journalists – what do Islamist websites say about the conflict?

The invaluable Conflicts Forum regularly translates these sites and provides Western audience with an insight rarely given by our media:

The “Council Assembly of Mujahidin ” — the anti-American alliance in Iraq led by Al-Qaeda — declared on October 15, 2006, the establishment of an Islamic State of Iraq in the central and western regions of the country. There was little official reaction from international and regional governments — the only reaction came from President Bush when he said that the US will never allow such a project to be realized. But the facts on the ground are that the US can do little to stand in the way of the pursuit of such a project, and Al-Qaeda is not asking for permission.

The silence from regional governments towards such a declaration is not a sign of indifference. Commentators suggest that, on the contrary, this silence reflects a deep concern and worry about the Al-Qaeda project. [Source]

These commentators see an Islamic State of Iraq led by Al-Qaeda as more than a serious threat to the stability of countries like Jordan and Saudi Arabia, but as a threat to their existence. Al-Qaeda is viewed as waiting for the day when they will have access to any border with Israel, and it is well known that the Jordanian border is the longest and most strategic.

For Saudi Arabia, this new Islamic state is a threat because it will increase the influence of the pro-Al-Qaeda groups inside a country where the culture is already receptive to the influence of Al-Qaeda’s ideology.

For Israel, this might be a serious threat, not less than the Iranian atomic program but maybe more, since Israel understands that compromise and political negotiation may be possible with the Iranian government, but not with Al-Qaeda.

At least one Western independent website cares what Arabs are saying about their world.

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Israel not ready to make nice

For a country that tries so hard to prove that it is joined at the hip with the US, Israel has a strange way of demonstrating its affection sometimes.

Condoleezza Rice received a humiliating snub from Israel yesterday when it refused her offer to act as negotiator between its government and the Palestinian authorities.

Poor Condi has been working so hard to try and kick start peace talks between the new Palestinian Unity Government and Israel, but Olmert is playing his cards close to his chest. He can’t reject talks completely, so he appears to be trying to buy time.

A US official said last night that Mr Olmert agreed to resume face-to-face talks with Mr Abbas in a possible move towards restarting substantive peace talks. The official said Mr Olmert and Mr Abbas would initially hold low-key “confidence-building” sessions in the wake of the moderate Palestinian leader’s new power-sharing deal with Hamas militants.

Whatever could Olmert have in mind?

Another shadow was cast over Ms Rice’s efforts by the arrival yesterday of 2,000 Jewish settlers at the northern West Bank settlement of Homesh ­ evacuated in August 2005 under Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan.

UDATE 1: Jonathan Freedland has written a fascinating article where he proposes that Israel is turning down a wonderful opporunity:

Now there is a chance to break the deadlock. The 22 member nations of the Arab League are meeting for two days in Riyadh, with the Arab-Israeli conflict high on their agenda. They are preparing to make a remarkable offer: if Israel withdraws to its 1967 borders, pulling out of the West Bank and Gaza, they will agree to a full and comprehensive peace, including normal relations, between the entire Arab world and Israel.

With this in mind, the only question is, what is stopping Israel from accepting the offer:

This, in case anyone has forgotten, is what Israel says it has yearned for since its creation 59 years ago, the acceptance of a Jewish state in the Middle East by its neighbours. What’s more, Israel has always feared that a separate accord with the Palestinians would not hold because the Palestinians would be too weak to make historic compromises – on, say, the holy sites of Jerusalem – alone. An accord with 22 Arab nations would remove all such worries. Any final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians would be underpinned, with the leading Muslim states giving their blessing to the concessions that would be required. And they would promise what Yasser Arafat never could: that the conflict was truly, finally, over.

Does it come down to the simple fact that the price is one that Israel’s leadership is not prepared to pay?

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Rather strange priorities

Rory O’Connor, Guardian Comment is Free, March 27:

Leave it to the New York Times to pronounce something “corrupt” and then wholeheartedly embrace it as “crucial”.

This week’s Sunday magazine piece by Max Frankel is the most recent and stunning example of the Times’ weird worldview. In a cover story, the paper’s former executive editor concludes that “the real lesson” of the recent Scooter Libby trial is that Washington’s “black market in information” – which the Times defines as “the messy and at times illicit traffic in secrets carried out among Washington officials and those who report on their doings” – is an evil necessary for democracy. “Leaks, backgrounders, favors, masked attribution: For decades, journalists and government officials have…manipulated one another and, to some extent, readers too,” the magazine noted. “It’s not pretty – as the Libby trial revealed. But it’s crucial.”

True, the trial provided a rare public glimpse at the corrupt nexus of Big Politics and Big Media – of which the Times is of course a charter member. While Frankel’s assessment that “it’s not pretty” is certainly sound, the rest of his analysis is unsurprisingly skewed. “Favors and masked attribution” do sound journalistically ugly and corrupt – as does “manipulating readers” – but the Washington back channel is certainly not crucial for anyone except perhaps the privileged players who participate in it. Moreover, it’s demonstrably bad for our democracy. (Witness the ongoing carnage in Iraq, which the Times manipulated many of its readers into supporting!) Only charter members of the Big Media club, which performed so shamefully during the run-up to both the war and the Libby trial, could conclude otherwise. 

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