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.

When will reality hit?

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tells the Washington Post, in a sign that even once friendly allies of the Jewish state are losing patience with its criminality, that its time to enter the league of civilised nations:

Hamas is not an arm of Iran. Hamas entered the elections as a political party. If the whole world had given them the chance of becoming a political player, maybe they would not be in a situation like this after the elections that they won. The world has not respected the political will of the Palestinian people. On the one hand, we defend democracy and we try our best to keep democracy in the Middle East, but on the other hand we do not respect the outcome of . . . the ballot box. Palestine today is an open-air prison. Hamas, as much as they tried, could not change the situation. Just imagine, you imprison the speaker of a country as well as some ministers of its government and members of its parliament. And then you expect them to sit obediently?

Engaging Hamas is now also supported by Tony Blair.

How isolated do Israel and its blind supporters feel now?

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Israeli “democracy” in all its glory

On Tuesday, a party representing Israeli Holocaust survivors joined forces with the pro-marijuana Green Leaf party for a run at Israel’s parliament. The new party launched its campaign in a near-empty, underground, graffiti-filled nightclub in south Tel Aviv, pledging to pursue two primary goals: to financially assist elderly Holocaust survivors and to legalize the consumption of cannabis.

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Saying no to outright bigotry

Independent Australian Jewish Voices blogger Michael Brull on why any form of anti-Semitism cannot be allowed to seep into the pro-Palestinian campaign.

It should be loudly condemned if it ever does.

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Imam Husain Islamic Centre talk on Israel/Palestine

I spoke last night to a packed room of around 170 people at Sydney’s Imam Husain Islamic Centre (all photos here):

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I was honoured to engage with a large Muslim audience (as I was told that the idea of a Jew speaking to such a group happened rarely, if ever, due to the fear of Jewish leaders discussing Israel/Palestine with a non-Zionist crowd.) Before I started, a couple of kids looked at me directly and asked, “Are you really Jewish?”

A number of prayers from the Quran were sung and then Father Dave introduced me. I spoke about my own personal journey to anti-Zionism, the differences between Judaism and Zionism, the reasons behind Israeli settlement building (a just-released report in Haaretz reveals the criminality of the entire enterprise), how Muslims could have their voices better heard in the Australian media and the role of Independent Australian Jewish Voices. I thought it was important to gently chastise the Muslim community for their often-disorganised attitude towards public debate and journalists. The media had to be directly pressured, I said, rather than criticised amongst friends. The Zionist lobby knows all about this.

The centre was gender-separated, with men sitting on the left hand side of the room and women on the right, all wearing hijabs. It was a respectful event, as evidenced by the long question and answer session (I spoke for over two hours). The questions varied from “whether anti-Semitism really existed?” (yes, I said, and Israeli aggression undoubtedly increases hate crimes against Jews), the real significance of the Gaza war, the possible shift in focus by President Obama and reducing the tensions between Muslims and Jews over the Middle East question. A volunteer told me after the event that he would love to invite a Rabbi who thought like me to address the centre.

My general sense of the evening was that people were angry, frustrated and feeling impotent. How much longer can Israel get away with its crimes? And what can we do about it? I explained that I believed the Gaza war had cost the Jewish state many friends and a campaign of boycott, sanctions and divestment was worth investigating.

I heard no anti-Semitic comments or anything disrespectful towards Jews. At the end of the night, the Sheik said he was pleased that I had constantly revealed the differences between Judaism and Zionism. After all, if many Jews deliberately conflate the two, who can blame others for doing likewise?

I was literally mobbed after the event, by both men and women, keen to continue the discussion, asking how to better approach the media, journalists and politicians. A question I heard over and over was why most of the Western media seemed to unconditionally support Israel. Holocaust guilt, the arms industry, a perceived connection to the Jews and other reasons are all key issues, but global pressure could shift this unhealthy relationship. Israel is a country like any other, and should be treated as such.

Speaking at such events is highly instructive. Profound ignorance certainly exists in the Muslim community towards Jews and Israel, and I believe it’s important that such confusions are discussed and resolved. Hearing a Jew speak to these kinds of gatherings puts a human face to a conflict that fires the Islamic world like no other.

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The Jewish state faces a necessary shift

MJ Rosenberg, from the liberal Israel Policy Forum, sees a major shift in American policy towards the Middle East and warns hardline Zionists that their time is up:

Some pro-Israel activists are preparing for intensified war against this phenomenon [challenging Israeli policy]. They have long been in the business of shooting the messenger, believing that it is not the occupation that is the problem but the reporters who write about it.  But the messenger has suddenly discovered that he can take a bullet.

Supporters of the status quo had better get used to it. The American approach to the Middle East is changing and the shift in the media is just one sign of it. Most important of all, America has changed.

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Bypass the autocrats

A letter to the new US President:

Dear President Obama: in talking to China, remember its people.

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Time to take some responsibility

Israel is a sick society:

A new study of Jewish Israelis shows that most accept the ‘official version’ of the history of the conflict with the Palestinians. Is it any wonder, then, that the same public also buys the establishment explanation of the operation in Gaza?

A pioneering research study dealing with Israeli Jews’ memory of the conflict with the Arabs, from its inception to the present, came into the world together with the war in Gaza. The sweeping support for Operation Cast Lead confirmed the main diagnosis that arises from the study, conducted by Daniel Bar-Tal, one of the world’s leading political psychologists, and Rafi Nets-Zehngut, a doctoral student: Israeli Jews’ consciousness is characterized by a sense of victimization, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanization of the Palestinians and insensitivity to their suffering. The fighting in Gaza dashed the little hope Bar-Tal had left – that this public would exchange the drums of war for the cooing of doves.

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Just another barrier to peace

A secret Israeli database reveals the full extent of an illegal settlement.

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Struggle for the future

Zaki Chehab, Arab journalist and author of a seminal book on Hamas, surveys the recent war in Gaza:

Walk anywhere in Gaza and the impression one gets is that the Hamas government is still a force to be reckoned with. It shows no signs of losing its grip on this tiny 25-mile by 6-mile strip of land. The Hamas infrastructure that the Israeli army claims to have destroyed was, for the large part, government buildings belonging to the Palestinian Authority – the majority of which were rebuilt in 2002 with European taxpayers’ money as infrastructure for the future Palestinian state, for which even an airport was built in the optimistic days of the late 1990s.

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Legal rights, for all

And the justified legal avalanche against Israel continues:

Israel reacted furiously to a decision by a Spanish judge on Thursday to open a probe of seven former top security officials for alleged war crimes in the 2002 bombing in Gaza that killed top Hamas terrorist Salah Shehadeh as well as 14 other people and is considering appealing the move.

The investigation has been ordered against National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who was defense minister at the time; Likud Knesset candidate Moshe Ya’alon, who was chief of General Staff; Dan Halutz, then commander of the air force; Doron Almog, who was OC Southern Command; then-National Security Council head Giora Eiland; the defense minister’s military secretary, Mike Herzog; and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, who was head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).

The Justice Ministry rejected allegations that it had failed to take seriously a request from Spanish authorities to turn over key documents connected to the targeted killing of Shehadeh…

Defense Minister Ehud Barak blasted the Spanish judge’s decision, saying that “Someone who calls the assassination of a terrorist a crime against humanity lives in an upside-down world.”

“Shehadeh was responsible for the murder of dozens of Israelis,” Dichter told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday night. “We pursued him for a long time. The man was a terrorist responsible for dozens of attacks against Israeli civilians. He knew we were pursuing him and went from multi-story building to multi-story building. On the day of the assassination, he was in the building with his wife, who aided him, and was killed in the strike.

“To my sorrow, innocent people were harmed in the strike, and I do regret that,” Dichter said.

Regret isn’t really good enough. Leaders from all countries, including the so-called “civilised” world, need to be held to account for the death of non-combatants.

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No really, I love you

Tom Switzer, former opinion editor of the Australian newspaper and research fellow at the conservative think-tank Institute of Public Affairs, redefines the term, ‘”getting too close to power“:

Tom Switzer in The Spectator has a close encounter of the ex-prime-ministerial kind

My wife Sarah and I recently had the wonderful experience of having John Howard and his wife Janette over for a barbecue. (Sorry for the self-promotion, but I figure if you can’t shamelessly boast in The Spectator diary, where can you?) The idea of hosting a small dinner for the former first couple and some close mutual friends was initially daunting. After all, we live in an apartment probably the size of just one of the 119 rooms in Washington’s presidential guesthouse. In the end, though, we were helped in this task by knowing that our guests have personalities precisely the opposite of those the media suggests: they’re warm, witty, charming and very good-natured, qualities not habitually found in our former political leaders. And they remain true-blue patriots. I thought I’d impress the ex-PM with my collection of imported European beers, but he insisted on an Australian beer instead.

Switzer clearly wants to be loved by “true-blue patriots” (a supposedly clearly marked group in society that enjoys gourmet sausages and fine, imported beer in inner Sydney, though not for “patriot” John Howard).

Beyond embarassing.

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Israel must pay for crimes

My following article appears in the Australian Financial Review today:

Israel’s war against Gaza has left the blockaded strip in ruins. The president of the French section of Medecins Sans Frontieres, Marie-Pierre Allie, wrote recently that her organisation had “been present during armed conflicts for nearly four decades” but “it is difficult to recall a comparable slaughter of civilians in so little time”.

The United Nations has been scathing in its denunciations; Richard Falk, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, described the sealing of Gaza to ensure nobody could leave, including civilians, as a “distinct, new and sinister war crime”. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, after visiting shelled UN-run buildings and schools in Gaza, demanded action. “It is an outrageous and totally unacceptable attack on the United Nations,” he said.

More than 1300 Palestinians were killed (compared with 13 Israelis), thousands were injured and entire residential blocks were demolished. The Jewish state defended its actions by claiming that the illegal rockets fired by Hamas into Israel justified its use of overwhelming force against the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza. Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the weekend that “the terrorist organisations and Hamas were mistaken in thinking that Israel would reconcile itself to [rocket] fire and not respond”. Defence Minister and candidate for forthcoming elections, Ehud Barak, said that the Israeli Defence Forces were the “most moral army in the world”.

The vast majority of global human rights groups disagree and claim that war crimes were committed during the conflict, including the use of white phosphorus in residential areas. The extensive use of white phosphorus in Gaza’s densely populated neighbourhoods, despite evidence of its indiscriminate effects and its toll on civilians, was a war crime, according to Amnesty International.

The furious debate will soon move from the rhetorical to the practical. European courts are likely to be the key battleground for forthcoming investigations of crimes against Palestinian civilians. This is how it should be. The Jewish state, like any other nation, should be held to account for its actions.

A successful war crimes prosecution would prove to citizens around the world that Western leaders are held to the same standard as developing countries.

The International Criminal Court Prosecutor in The Hague has said that it lacks jurisdiction to investigate possible war crimes because neither Israel (nor the United States) is among the 108 countries that have signed the Rome Statute creating the court. However, a former judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Fouad Riad, said one alternative may be “popular tribunal”. Such a body could expose war crimes to the world, tarnishing a person’s reputation in history.

In the absence of international justice for Western state atrocities – is the global legal system designed to prosecute only certain kinds of crimes, such as those committed by African despots? – popular tribunals are a valuable way of bringing the powerful to account. History will judge them accordingly.

Antony Loewenstein is a board member of Macquarie University’s Centre for Middle East and North African Studies.

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