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.

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).

2 comments ↪