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.

Ignoring our own people

Jan Egeland, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, on the world’s greatest problems in 2008:

One is still eastern Congo, catastrophically neglected. It was the biggest loss of lives on our watch these last fifteen years: five million people died. Darfur has spread as a conflict and as a catastrophe to Chad and the Central African Republic. But certainly Iraq and Afghanistan is still unfolding as a hemorrhage of human life.

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The more Jewish opinions the better

Last year I co-founded Independent Australian Jewish Voices (IAJV) as a forum for alternative Jewish perspectives. The last year has seen a host of campaigns and media coverage. Try here, here and here.

Now, two original signatories, Peter Slezak and Eran Asoulin, have started blogging on the site, with more to come.

The aim is to “widen the debate to include a range of opinions not reflected in mainstream Jewish media or official community organizations. As part of this effort, our blogs provide a forum for independent Jewish opinions that are, of course, those of their authors and not those of IAJV organizers or signatories of any IAJV petitions or statements.”

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Keeping the lights on

Google’s addiction to cheap electricity.

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Self-defence or brutal occupation?

The following article, co-written with a colleague, appears in today’s Age newspaper:

On the world stage, Israel has been traditionally cast as David in a battle against Goliath. But this is too simplistic, for Israel is not without its sins, write Peter Slezak and Antony Loewenstein.

Speaking honestly about Israel and Palestine has always been fraught. Contrary to popular perception, the official public voice of the Australian Jewish community is not without dissent among Jews around the country. Indeed, there is a belief among some that the mainstream view is becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile with the facts, and that Israel and its supporters can no longer justifiably portray the Jewish state as victim, acting only in self-defence.

In their controversial book The Israel Lobby, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt point out that the popular image of David confronted by Goliath, cultivated to maintain Jewish support, is the reverse of the truth. Even from the 1948 War of Independence, well before large-scale US aid, Israeli military power was always superior to that of its neighbours.

Notwithstanding Israel’s military strength, the recent Lebanon war was not just the military disaster to which the Winograd report confined its attention, but a disproportionate response to supposed provocation and involved large-scale war crimes.

While rockets from Hezbollah or Hamas fired on civilians are undeniably crimes, the excesses of Israeli military action, collective punishment and targeted assassinations may be condemned in the same terms and are harder to see as self-defence.

Even more difficult to justify as self-defence is a brutal 40-year military occupation and nearly half a million Israeli settlers on Palestinian land in violation of international law. Despite pious rhetoric from Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that echoes that of US leaders, the very possibility of a just two-state solution appears remote.

The discrepancy between popular image and tragic reality is not new. For example, conveniently forgotten amid the rhetoric of “existential threat” and Israeli virtue is the 1982 invasion of Lebanon that caused around 20,000 civilian deaths that cannot conceivably be characterised as unintended “collateral damage”. These do not include thousands of victims at Sabra and Shatila for which then defence minister Ariel Sharon was found personally culpable. Such ugly truths have become difficult for Jews to condone in silence.

Despite the efforts of the local Israel lobby, such uncomfortable facts have been highlighted by the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, Israel’s press and academia. For all its faults, Israel has a vigorous and more open intellectual culture and media where the myths sustaining Diaspora communities have been overturned.

For example, a poll conducted by the daily newspaper Haaretz and Tel-Aviv University revealed that nearly two-thirds of the Israeli population wants to negotiate directly with Hamas, contrary to typical media representations of the so-called “peace process”. In reality, the “peace process” is a US-driven policy — in this case subverting the elected Palestinian Government through funding and arming Fatah proxies and their attempted coup in Gaza.

Despite outrage in the Jewish community at the common description of Israel as a racist state responsible for “ethnic cleansing”, the evidence to warrant such confronting language is undeniable. Israel is not the state of its citizens but only of the Jewish people, thereby officially discriminating against a fifth of its population, quite apart from the many administrative, financial and other systematic ways in which Israeli Arabs are disadvantaged.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel recently found that half of Israelis would not live in the same building as Arabs, would not let them into their homes and would not allow their children to befriend them.

The systematic, planned dispossession of Palestinians since 1948, and accompanying atrocities such as the massacre at Deir Yassin in 1948 are rarely discussed in the West, even though they have been extensively documented by Israeli historians such as Ilan Pappe in his recent book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.

The Zionist myth of “a land without a people for a people without a land” continues to be propagated despite being exposed by several Jewish historians as a fraud that has hidden the real tragedy of Palestinian dispossession. The founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, privately wrote that “We must expropriate gently” and Arab expulsion must be discreet.

Leading Israeli historian Benny Morris wrote that the country’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, and defence minister, Moshe Dayan, “repeatedly voiced the hope that Israel could complete its historic mission and round out its borders (as well as expel its own, inconvenient Arab minority)”. Ben-Gurion had said as early as 1938: “I support compulsory transfer (of Palestinian Arabs). I do not see in it anything immoral.”

Facing these facts in the Jewish community is discouraged by those who, in American broadcaster Ed Murrow’s familiar words, confuse dissent with disloyalty. Those who voice them are denounced as anti-Semitic or ostracised as “self-hating” Jews. It is revealing that the intense debate about the role of the Israel lobby in the US has not featured in the Australian Jewish community — a symptom of the local lobby’s success in discouraging dissent from the official line.

However, the true friends of Israel are not those who serve as propagandists for official myths but those who stand with the many Israelis to condemn not only the crimes of Palestinians, but also those of the state of Israel. Independent Australian Jewish voices who speak out against crimes committed in their name recognise a responsibility to the wider community, especially Australian Palestinians, to participate in a more balanced dialogue.

Dr Peter Slezak lectures in philosophy at the University of NSW. Antony Loewenstein is a journalist and author of My Israel Question (MUP 2007).


CNN in their sights

After the recent Chinese crackdown in Tibet, CNN has become a target of Chinese rage over its perceived anti-Beijing coverage.

Bloggers are equally vitriolic.

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Don’t mess with the Zionist lobby

In a freak accident today on the strip of Harvard, Professor Stephen Walt was crushed to death under a Caterpillar tractor. The incident happened in front of the Kennedy Government Center. A school spokesperson said the land was being cleared for new law student settlements. The Dozer operater, A. Dershowitz, was on loan to The Harvard Defense Forces from another department when the incident occurred. Dershowitz said he did not see Walt jumping up and down in a red vest in front of the tractor nor did he hear his screams of agony.

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Saluting a humanitarian Jew

The humanity of Jewish musician Daniel Barenboim continues to reverberate around the world:

Controversial conductor to lead orchestra of Israeli, Palestinian youths in concert ‘against ignorance’ in Jerusalem, says he will not partake in upcoming festivities marking Israel’s independence out of respect for Palestinian suffering

Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim will lead an orchestra of 33 young Israeli and Palestinians in Jerusalem Friday in what he called a concert ”against ignorance and lack of curiosity” on both sides of the conflict.

At a news conference Thursday in the concert hall of the YMCA on the Jewish side of the city, Barenboim said Friday’s two performances, entitled ”A concert for two peoples,” will be the first time the young musicians have played together in public.

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Falling through the cracks

The 3532nd reason the Americans have lost Iraq.

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How occupation has corrupted Israel’s soul

My following book review appears in today’s edition of Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper:

Israel and the Clash of Civilisations
Jonathan Cook
(Pluto Press, $42.95)

The September 11 attacks on New York and Washington caused the Western media and political elite to seriously examine their behaviour in the Middle East. Most concluded that maintaining client states was the only viable way forward; the desperate need for oil supplies supplanted most other considerations.

The US-led invasion of Iraq was a radical form of shock treatment designed to unseat a once friendly Washington-friendly dictator. The nationalist insurgency crushed those plans, leaving the world’s sole super-power battling a relatively small number of fighters whose sole goal was the removal of an unforgiving occupation.

One country that has received relatively little scrutiny in the years since September 11 has been Israel.

The Jewish state has the most powerful military in the region, with an estimated 200 nuclear warheads, and an arsenal of cluster bombs that it used against civilians in Lebanon in the final days of its botched 2006 campaign against Hizbollah.

During the recent Australian parliamentary motion to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd described the country as a “custodian of freedom” amongst dictatorships. In his compelling new book, Jonathan Cook, former Guardian journalist and current resident of Nazareth, challenges this perception and concludes that, like the Bush administration, Israel actively pursue policies that lead to civil war and partition. Cook bravely skewers the mainstream narrative of a Jewish state constantly striving for peace with the Palestinians.

Israel’s security establishment developed ideas in the 1980s that advocated dissolving many of the Middle East nations, leaving Israel, like the Ottomans in centuries past, to be the local imperial power. “In this way, hoped Israel and the [predominantly Zionist] neo-cons”, Cook writes, “large and potentially powerful states such as Iraq and Iran could be partitioned between their ethnic rivalries and sectarian communities.”

Aid agencies reported in 2007 that eight million Iraqis, nearly a third of the population, required emergency aid and millions were both internally and externally displaced. Was this the intended goal?

The similarities between the Israeli occupation of Gaza and West Bank and America’s plans in Iraq are meticulously examined. Cook argues that Washington found an invaluable template for its own occupation after carefully studying the Jewish state’s record in dividing and conquering the indigenous population.

Cook approvingly quotes Palestinian academic Karma Nabulsi who has written of a “Hobbesian vision of an anarchic society: truncated, violent, powerless, destroyed, cowed, ruled by disparate militias, gangs, religious ideologues and extremists, broken up into ethnic and religious tribalism and co-opted collaborationists.”

David Rose, in a recent issue of Vanity Fair, reported on Bush administration plans to trigger a civil war between Hamas and Fatah after the former won a free and fair election in the Palestinian territories in 2006. The “wrong” party had won. Nabulsi’s nightmare had come true.

“As far as the neocons were concerned, whatever Israel wanted, it should get”, writes Cook, whose summary of the last eight years is reflected in the public utterances of Washington’s leading power-brokers. After Israel’s futile war against Lebanon in 2006 – with over 1000 Lebanese civilians killed – leading neocon Meyrav Wurmser, whose husband was a former senior advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney, lamented Israel’s performance. “The anger [in the White House] is over the fact that Israel did not fight against the Syrians”, she said. “The neocons are responsible for the fact that Israel got a lot of time and space [before the UN resolution ended the conflict.]”

These noble ideas were clearly what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had in mind when she talked during the war about “birth pangs” of a new Middle East. Cook explains that there are times when Washington tries to push Israel into actions it would not rather not do itself and other times when the Jewish state acts recklessly, such as the ever-growing expansion of settlements in the West Bank, and America remains mute. It’s a relationship that is widely accepted by the foreign policy elite and the vast majority of the establishment media.

Challenging its integrity guarantees charges of anti-Semitism or disloyalty by the Zionist lobby.

This book, while not containing a great deal of original research, is an important contribution to understanding why “Israel’s role [is] to dictate and terrify other states in the region with threats of punishment so that they dare not step out of line.”

The result, while temporarily successful on military grounds, has left the Jewish state isolated internationally and reviled across the Arab world. If Israel is to survive for another 60 years, it will need to understand that the ongoing occupation has corrupted its soul. The current signs are that its leadership doesn’t grasp this basic fact.


Canadian Jews raise their voices

While Israel’s Supreme Court endorses the country’s implementation of apartheid roads the Palestinians are unable to use, Jews around the world are starting to stand up and publicly challenge the state’s illegality. Such as Canada:

More than 100 Jewish activists from across Canada will gather March 28-30th in Toronto at a conference to form a network of anti-occupation groups dedicated to building real peace and justice in the MiddleEast. Convened by the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians (ACJC), the conference will gather Canadian Jews belonging to 18 groups who are coming together to challenge the views of the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canada-Israel Committee and B’nai Brith, along with the Stephen Harper government-all of whom uncritically support the Israeli government’s violations of international and humanitarian law.

Author Naomi Klein will kick off the conference this Friday evening with a talk entitled “The challenges facing us: Why we need a Canadian Jewish progressive movement”. 

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What good friends do

One of the Arab world’s most widely respected non-governmental organizations is charging that at least 14 Middle East and North African governments are systematically violating the civil liberties of their citizens — and most of them are close U.S. allies in the war on terror.

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Raul opens the market

Cuba is seemingly changing after decades of state repression (small steps, perhaps, but an encouraging start):

The Cuban president, Raúl Castro, today lifted restrictions on ownership of mobile phones.

Castro’s move was another indication that he is prepared to grant more freedom to the island’s residents.

The right to own mobile phones had been restricted to the employees of foreign firms or those holding key posts in the communist-run state.

Some Cubans had evaded the ban by asking foreigners to sign contracts in their names, but mobile phones remain relatively uncommon in Cuba compared with the rest of the world.

Other positive developments here.

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