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.

For this Jew, boycotting Israel is a bridge too far

Following my article in Crikey yesterday, David Imber responds today (under the headline: “This time Loewenstein, you went too far”):

As a Jew who is used to reading controversial pieces about Israel (and as someone who was friends with him at uni) I have been content to let the views of Antony Loewenstein go through to the keeper. He is a passionate man who is entitled to his opinions even though some of his facts have been proved wrong and some of his conclusions questionable.

I also haven’t minded him having a go at some of the more conservative voices in the Jewish community as it has brought some greater diversity to our internal debates and highlighted to the broader community the fact that not all Jews in Australia subscribe to the mindset that the Israeli Government (whoever they may be and whatever policies they may pursue) can do no wrong.

However, his Crikey piece yesterday goes way too far for me and should be rejected more broadly.

In essentially calling for (and lending his support to others who are undertaking) a boycott of Israel, Antony is calling for action which would punish the whole of a country for the extreme political views of a few. The Israel that I know and have visited over many years is a country of contrasts with a growing secularism and a yearning for peace and reconciliation among Jews and Palestinians/ Arabs. It is a country that encourages amazing ingenuity in fields as diverse as computing and the arts. It is a democracy, albeit at times a flawed one, that in the one Parliament covers the spectrum of opinion in Israel — from doves to hawks. It is a country more complex than the headlines and well worth the world engaging with and not shunning.

People are entitled to not agree with Israeli Government policy — but Israel is not a Burma, a North Korea or an Iran.

The nature of a democracy is that sometimes a minority extreme view can negatively influence the political mainstream and Israel certainly suffers regularly from unwieldy coalitions that have slowed moves to peace. Australia has had this too, with Senators Harradine and now Fielding having the balance at power and forcing minority positions on niche policy areas despite having virtually no mainstream support. And remember how to the rest of the world Pauline Hanson for a time defined Australians view on race despite having limited support nationally.

To call for a boycott that would hurt the many Israelis who voted for engagement and peace as much (if not more) than the few who voted against it is a self defeating and needlessly cruel attack on a people that have already suffered as a result of years of conflict. While Antony says it is not an attack on democratic Israel there is really no other way to see it than a stunt that seeks to do just that. Worse still it is yet another attempt at delegitimizing an entire country and its people including the poor and vulnerable (Arab as well as Jewish Israelis) who rely on the sort of social and economic support Governments can only deliver with a strong economy.

Antony has at times courageously highlighted the real pain felt by many Palestinians and may find it a pain he values more highly than that of Jewish victims of the many wars and attacks but a vengeful boycott of Israel is the worst way of bringing about the political change needed to address this situation.

Contributions such as yesterday’s and the sense that Antony will jump on any bandwagon, with anyone — regardless of their own respect for human rights — who criticises Israel, will only lose him more support from Australian Jews yearning for the sort of peace that I know my relatives in Israel are desperately hoping (and voting) for.

14 comments ↪
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  • ej

    Who gives a rat's arse about Israel's 'amazing ingenuity' in computing and the arts. etc.

    Israelis and their cheer squad have also surpassed all precedents in amazing ingenuity in the abuse of language in the transformation of black into white. 

    So why is the peace process that some Israelis are yearning for not on the horizon? who is to blame?  Why has not a single Israeli government repudiated the continued ethnic cleansing of the Occupied Territories, leave alone Israel's intrinsically apartheid character?  Who is voting in this succession of gangsters? One can hardly found this bipartisan criminality on a purported ' extreme political views of a few'.

    And if Australian Jews are yearning for peace, why haven't they deposed the contemptible ''Israel to the last drop of Palestinian blood' junta that hold office in all of Australian Jewry's supposedly representative organisations? 

    If boycotts are anathema, why haven't the Australian Jews yearning for peace banded together and independently lobbied our Members of Parliament to overturn the current bipartisan craven subjugation to Israel's ongoing criminality.

    Some Australian Jews have so banded together, only to be excoriated, not least AL himself.  Thus, what is this slur regarding AL's leading him to fall in with disreputable types whose respect for human rights is questionable?

    Clearly, tribalism still trumps integrity and morality.

    Shit or get off the pot. 

  • ej

    I neglected to mention Israeli's amazing ingenuity in effecting the laboratory experiment that is the slow-burning genocide in Gaza.

    This is pure genius.

    It deserves world-wide acclaim, which is what it is achieving, de facto, in that hotbed of righteousness which we glibly label 'the West'.

    Just as those bouyant Israelis got their rocks off from a vantage point over Gaza while the IDF engaged in their post-Chanukah massacre in late 2008, thus we have the edifying spectacle of a significant percentage of the US Congress (thanks to AL http://antonyloewenstein.com/2009/09/09/the-israe…)

    participating in their all-expenses paid 'fact-finding' tour of the current status of the ongoing Mengelian laboratory experiment.  

    This characterisation  of the genius that is the Israeli nation calls for an annual award, preferably deliberated by Australian Jewry's sagacious elder statespersons, for the latest manifestation of amazing ingenuity.

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  • "In essentially calling for (and lending his support to others who are undertaking) a boycott of Israel, Antony is calling for action which would punish the whole of a country for the extreme political views of a few."
    The more or less democratic Israeli electorate voted overwhelmingly in favour of parties who openly advocate continuing and/or expanding the occupation of Palestine in defiance of international law and resolutions on the United Nations General Assembly.
    I've heard that polls of Israelis claim that the majority want peace, and even that they're willing to give up some of the Westbank.
    If we're to take those polls seriously, or other claims that Israelis mostly want peace why do their election results consistently demonstrate that they favour representatives who refuse to take the necessary steps  to bring about peace?
    Those would be either granting a contiguous to the Palestinians to govern themselves with full control over their natural resources and borders and including East Jerusalem as the site of their capital; or granting citizenship and the rights which go along with that (including Palestinian suffrage). Neither would be a magic bullet that would immediately and perfectly end the conflict, but without either sacrifice (land and natural resources or the Jewish majority State) peace is impossible.
    Because Israelis demonstrate their unwillingness to make those sacrifices by withholding their votes from candidates who would and giving them to politicians who repudiate them they clearly do, and because it's the Palestinians who suffer the most for the Israeli refusal to take responsibility for their own actions, it has become apparent to and increasing number of people that the situation requires outside pressure to come to a humane resolution.
    This boycott manifestly does not punish and innocent population for the actions of a tiny minority, it puts pressure on a complicit electorate which consistently votes for politicians who demonise Palestinians and who pass laws and enact policies which cause great suffering among a subject nation.
     

  • mallee

    Mr Imber has brought guilt upon me for boycotting South Africa because of it's old apharteid regime. Sorry South Africa.

    Would it be acceptable to just be symbolic and ban the Israeli rugby and cricket teams from international matches?

  • philip mendes

    If anyone read these responses without first reading David Imber's article, they would assume that he was some sort of right-wing Greater Israel fanatic. But if you read his language, it is clear that he actually presents a moderate centre-left position. Those who attempt to demonize all Jews and all Israelis as evil whatever their political positions are simply racists. There is nothing more to be said about it.

  • ep

    @mendes:
    The counter-argument would probably go something like this: if person X opposes a measure which may actually cause the Israeli government to end its racist policies, then it follows that X implicitly supports the government's racist policies, and therefore X, whatever their political position, is in fact a racist.
    It does no good to interpret criticism of X as an "attempt to demonise all Jews" because such an interpretation will taken to be either (a) a symptom of a fantasist victimology, (b) a cynical, veiled attempt to smear critics of Israel, or (c) both (a) and (b).
    A more intelligent response – or just an intelligent response – is required. Despite my constant disappointment, I hold out hope (irrationally perhaps) of eventually reading one.

  • philip mendes

    Well EP (who doesn't have the courage to give his name), your argument is about as sensible as that of some of the Left in the 1930s who said, let's not bother defending the Jews being massacred by Hitler because some rich Jewish capitalists  exploit workers. When you use ethnic stereotyping, people will reasonably assume you are a racist even if you find this contradicts your preferred political identification.

  • ep

    hi "phil".
     
    * i don't know if  "philip mendes" is your real name. maybe it is, maybe it isn't. in any case, i don't care. and i don't care because who speaks is irrelevant. what is relevant is the strength of the argument. on that score, you brought a scrawny and sickly chicken of an argument (believing, in a seemingly delusional state, you were holding a 2 ton gorilla).
     
    * the argument i put forward – not mine, but that does not matter – seems eminently more sensible than the bizarre analogy you pulled out of your, err, imagination because it does not seek to justify the extermination of anyone. it merely says that if you oppose any effective form of punishment for wrong-going, you effectively support that wrong-going. if one's opposition to wrong-doing goes no further than mealy-mouthed platitudes, but your opposition to opposition of wrong-doing goes further than this, then it is reasonable to conclude that one supports wrong-going de facto. now, i know this argument is a little complicated for some because it involves more than one logical step, but if you read through it carefully – or maybe get someone  to explain it to you (using a mind-blowingly inappropriate analogy) – then you should be able to grasp my point.
     
    lots of love, epi

  • philip mendes

    Epi (again lacking the courage to give your real name) and using personal abuse rather than political argument. What you are doing here is confusing a complex national conflict with right and wrong on both sides to racism and then saying that anyone who acknowledges the complexity of that conflict and doesn't believe that one side (the Israelis) should be demonized and boycotted is a racist. With this logic you must be a Collingwood supporter.

  • ep

    dear philly,

    * a (the?) common theme in your comments is the ad hominem about my 'lack of courage', and yet you apparently think 'personal abuse' is unacceptable. dear, phil, you seem to be a walking contradiction.

    * i am not making a directly political argument. i am making a moral argument that has political implications. i know israelophiles don't like to move into the territory of morality, preferring the easier ground of real politik, but that is neither here nor there as far as i'm concerned.

    * again, what i was saying was this [spelled out in little steps for you]:

    (1) racism is morally unacceptable;

    (2) effective opposition to racism is morally acceptable;

    (3) those who are against effective opposition to racism de facto protect it;

    (4) those who protect racism must, at some level, find it morally acceptable (otherwise they wouldn't seek to protect it);

    (5) those who find racism morally acceptable are de facto racists.

    * you have not shown that anything i have said is false or invalid.

    regards,

    epi

    p.s. i'm not a collingwood supporter.

  • philip mendes

    Epi: if you are going to preach morality go and do it in a church or mosque like any other religious fanatic. But if you are going to get into politics, have the courage of your convictions, and proudly state who you are and your political philosophy. On my reading, you are probably one of those dogmatic trotskyists who sees the world in black and white terms, has no specific knowledge of middle east history or politics, and likes to apply your cute little theories to any debate anywhere. This is my last entry, but no doubt you will be one of those fundamentalists hanging out at Sydney Uni on Tuesday night to advocate a boycott based on ethnic stereotyping of all Israelis.

  • ep

    dear phil,

    * it is hardly 'preaching' to assert that racism is morally unacceptable. since that so many people now take it as given that racism is a moral evil, if you wish to claim that it is mere cant, then the burden of proof is on you to establish that this is the case.

    * while i am aware of your less than sophisticated views on 'keeping morality out' of policy debates, your position is in fact quite untenable when it comes to inherently normative issues. i find it interesting that you unthinkingly assume that if one refers to a moral concept one should only be allowed to speak in a religious venue. (atheists should be completely silenced then, i take it?) it is interesting because in saying this, you make a normative statement about when and where someone should be allowed to expressed moral views. by your own 'logic' (i'm being kind), you should only be expressing your moral views on censorship in a place of worship, not here. (oh, and that would go for your references to 'courage' too.) lord, you ARE easy to skewer. i amend what i said before: you are a PACK of contradictions.

    * interesting that you would classify me as a 'dogmatic Trotskyite' based solely on my claim that racism is morally unacceptable. do you think that ONLY dogmatic Trotskyites are so inclined to oppose racism? As an alternative 'worldview', i suppose i should see this ever-so-complex and changing world in a more 'nuanced' and 'subtle' way – for example, maybe i could come to see that racism is sometimes good and wondrous, that sometimes genocide is the right thing to do, that sometimes rape has its place in this topsy-turvy world. but then again, no. i think i'll stick with the good ol' black-&-white of racism, genocide, and rape being evil in a pretty straightforward sense. if you wish to embrace and defend these things, then go right ahead.

    * since i have expressed opposition to racism, i must therefore(!) know nothing about the middle east? does the converse work for that as well – i.e. if i express support for racism, i must therefore know a lot about the middle east? come on phil – can't you do better than this?

    * since my 'anti-racism theory' – actually, it was only a few propositions – is so 'little', i would have thought you could have knocked it down quickly and easily, but it would seem that you can't. is my theory then in fact 'big' or are you even smaller?

    * i have no interest in 'ethnic stereotypes' – i don't think jewish people are obsessed with money, nor do i think they are disproportionately involved in white-collar crime, nor do i think they are especially intelligent, nor do i think they have big noses, nor do i think they yell when talking on the phone, nor do i think jewish mothers are more 'mothering' than other mothers, nor do i think that jewish people are self-obsessed egomaniacs, nor do i think jewish people have a paranoid victim mentality, nor do i think jewish people are obsessed with the holocaust, nor do i think they are a religiously backward people, nor do i think jewish people control the media, governments, the world, or anything at all. but i DO believe that if you seek to protect or excuse a racist activity, person, policy, or state, then you are a de facto supporter of racism and thus, on some level, a racist. that's why i'm not a fan, e.g., of the israeli government or the sudanese government.

    * thanks for your replies phil, despite the fact that you didn’t lay a glove on my argument. i really enjoyed showing you up.

    epi