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.

Truth proves elusive in a confusing trouble spot

My following book review appears in this week’s Sydney Morning Herald Spectrum section:

Fit to Print: Misrepresenting the Middle East
By Joris Luyendijk
Scribe, 241pp, $29.95

“A journalist who limits himself to the role of middleman,” writes Dutch reporter Joris Luyendijk, “is actually siding with the team that is best able to influence the news cycle.”

It’s an attitude that haunts this entire work, a kind of mea culpa from a senior foreign correspondent for the newspaper De Volkskrant who arrived in the Middle East in 1998 for five years and soon saw the profound limitations of corporate journalism. The truth, he discovers, is far less interesting to editors than conforming to Western stereotypes about Arabs, Islam, Palestine and terrorism. Who really are the good guys in the region, Luyendijk wonders: US-backed dictatorships and a brutal Israeli occupying force?

He travels across the region but the book focuses on Egypt, Iraq and Israel/Palestine. In his second week in Cairo a veteran colleague says that if he wants to write a book about the Middle East, he’d “better do it in the first week. The longer you hang around here, the less you understand.”

Confusion sets in quickly. He realises, largely in a world before ubiquitous internet news, that he exists in a bubble with the wire services always far ahead of him. His role is therefore adding colour and depth behind the headlines, a task he argues is counterproductive to injecting nuance. His editors often want little more than reworked press releases. “I’d imagined correspondents to be historians-of-the-moment,” Luyendijk writes, but he is sorely disappointed.

Instead, he finds himself writing about Egyptian “President Mubarak” – who never won a free vote – and “elections … but can you call them elections if you’re not allowed to set up a party?”

Such literary dishonesty appears in our media on a regular basis. I remember Egyptians telling me in 2007 that they resented Western journalists calling their head “a moderate Arab leader” when he tortured and murdered his citizens with US and Israeli support.

After six months in the job, Luyendijk realises that he hasn’t addressed the key issue of poverty in Egypt. Instead, he obsesses over summits, peace treaties and violence. “I was contributing to the image of Arabs as exotic, bad and dangerous,” he laments. “I didn’t have the space to tell readers what was happening out of shot.” A fellow journalist reminds him of the unspoken rule: “Jews are news” but dead Arabs are less important.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, hit like a bullet but Luyendijk convincingly argues that Western journalists were looking in the wrong direction. “We didn’t address properly the … big question after the attacks: why do they hate us? This is the role that fundamentalism is often assigned in the big Western media; they hate us, and we have to get rid of them. And how exactly are we going to do that? Watch Inside the Middle East tonight, here on CNN.”

Non-violent, political Islam was lumped together with violent Islamism, a key mistake of the media and political elite since 2001. Hamas is not al-Qaeda and Hezbollah is not similar to Jemaah Islamiah. The Muslim Brotherhood, one example given by Luyendijk, is the largest Islamist group in the world, made up of lawyers, scientists and engineers, yet the silence of many Western human rights activists during sham trials of Brotherhood members in Egypt indicated selective outrage after September 11.

When Luyendijk lands in Israel, he is immediately impressed with the “openness with which media manipulation was discussed”. “The Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem allowed camera crews to visit victims of terrorism,” he writes, “so they could ‘show as much blood, pain and tears as possible’, to use the words of an Israeli spokesperson.” The Palestinians could never compete.

“Asymmetrical word use” was rampant in the Holy Land and the author seemed helpless to avoid it. “Palestinians who use violence against Israeli citizens are ‘terrorists’; Israelis who use violence against Palestinian citizens are ‘hawks’ or ‘hardliners’.”

During my recent reporting trip to the West Bank and Gaza, I shared Luyendijk’s observations. Western media rules dictate condemning any resistance to Israeli occupation as terrorism, whereas the picture is complex. I found life, hope and desperation for Gazans living under Hamas, not simply dictatorship.

In his final year in the region, Luyendijk moves to “occupied East Jerusalem” despite most of his colleagues, nearly all living in Israel, saying he would never cope. Although there is relative freedom there compared with the West Bank and Gaza – both areas where virtually no Western journalists are permanently based – “I hadn’t really understood what living under occupation was like.” After spending more time understanding the realities of Israeli repression, he concludes: “Occupation is tantamount to terrorism – only it’s permanent and enforced by soldiers and secret services rather than terrorists.”

Luyendijk’s reflections make for uncomfortable and contradictory reading; the best journalism should be nothing less.

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