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.

Can Fayyad make a difference?

My latest New Matilda column is about the favoured Palestinians in the West:

‘Moderate’ Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad may be popular with western leaders, but under his watch the gulf between rhetoric and reality is growing, writes Antony Loewenstein
The Western-backed Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, was interviewed earlier this month on ABC Radio National’s Saturday Extra. Host Geraldine Doogue opened her conversation with him with the following words:
“I’d like to introduce you now to a man you may not have heard too much about in Australia, but he is really coming into his political prime, and earning himself considerable international respect, because his basic day job is super-tough…[He’s] neither from the Fattah or Hamas parties, and he comes to this post via an unusual route, with an unusual suite of skills. He has a doctorate in economics from the University of Texas; he’s worked for the World Bank and as a private banker; and some argue that even the Israelis are enchanted by him, and he certainly seems to be presiding over some much-wanted economic successes.”
Such effusive praise is typical of the Western media’s response to Fayyad. Newsweek recently profiled Fayyad but included a telling caveat: “Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s unorthodox approach is winning plaudits from the West. That could be his undoing”.
The fact that some people see Fayyad as a source of hope for the Middle East is itself a reflection of how jammed the situation really is. This week’s brief meeting in New York between Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas will only confirm to sceptical Palestinians that “engagement” with Israel leads to never-ending meetings and photo opportunities. Hamas makes this exact point and they’re right. Israel refuses to cease settlement building and Washington is apparently unwilling to enforce Obama’s desire for a “settlement freeze”. No movement on Middle East peace talks actually means an ever-expanding occupation. The Palestinians lose every time.
Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy has even issued a challenge to Israel to conduct a referendum on the occupation on the grounds that while “most of [the Israeli public] says it supports the two-state solution … at the same time it votes for right-wing, centrist or pseudo-leftist parties that have no intention whatsoever of ending the occupation.”
Indeed, the vast gulf between rhetoric and reality has never been greater. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to announce the expansion of illegal colonies in the West Bank, the international community appears impotent to stop it. A European diplomat, quoted in JTA in early September, said: “It’s difficult to understand what the Israelis want when they announce that kind of thing. But it shouldn’t derail the process”.
Into the midst of this deadlock, Fayyad has recently announced that he will declare a Palestinian state in 2011 regardless of political progress with Israel. Reflecting this, Palestinian and European Union sources told Haaretz last week that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will resume shortly, “on the basis of an understanding that the establishment of a Palestinian state will be officially announced in two years … talks will initially focus on determining the permanent border between Israel and the West Bank”.
Fayyad has widely discussed building Palestinian institutions to convince the world that his population is ready for statehood. But there is absolutely no evidence that Israel will accept such a unilateral move. Furthermore, ongoing settlement building makes any viable state close to impossible.
But perhaps these practical obstacles are not so important, as Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab argues. “By offering a plan for a de facto Palestinian state, irrespective of the success or failure of any possible peace process, Fayyad has laid the groundwork. Some see his plan as little more than naive optimism and predict it will go the way of so many others. Others see in it a practical blueprint that will lay the administrative foundation for statehood.
“Regardless, for Palestinian political unilateralism to stand any chance of success, the ideological and physical division between Islamists and nationalists and the Gaza Strip and the West Bank must first be bridged. Without unity, there will be little incentive for Israel or the international community to view Palestinian political unilateralism as a serious measure.”
But according to Hasan Abu Nimah and Ali Abunimah, writing recently in the Jordan Times, Fayyad’s “vision” is an illusion which appeals only to those desperate to please the occupying power:
“What is really taking shape in the West Bank today is a police state, where all sources of opposition or resistance — real or suspected — to either the PA regime, or the Israeli occupation are being systematically repressed by US-funded and trained Palestinian ‘security forces’ in full coordination with Israel. Gaza remains under tight siege because of its refusal to submit to this regime…
“Many in the region and beyond hoped the Obama Administration would be a real honest broker, at last bringing American pressure to bear on Israel, so that Palestinians might be liberated. But instead, the new administration is acting as an efficient laundry service for Israeli ideas; first they become American ones, and then a Palestinian puppet is brought in to wear them.”
During my July visit to the West Bank and Gaza, I heard countless allegations of US-trained Fatah soldiers abusing and torturing opponents, including Hamas members. Washington — and Canberra — ignore these stories.
Although there is evidence to suggest that some Palestinians are supportive of the PA’s strategy — anything to make life under occupation more bearable — facts on the ground are moving in the opposite direction. These facts present some questions that Fayyad won’t be able to ignore. For example, even if his plan gets much further, how can an effective democracy be built under occupation? Why would the Israelis trust the Palestinians to exercise control over their lives? How keen are the Western-funded Palestinian elites to please their masters and whitewash the occupation? How meaningful is Fayyad’s talk of ending the occupation when he cannot even ensure the free the day-to-day movement of his own people?
Another interesting factor in the mix is the growing rumour that Fayyad is positioning himself to challenge Abbas in forthcoming elections — although he lacks a political base. He would probably garner Western support for such a move, but whether the Palestinians would reward a man who has made no progress in dismantling the occupation is questionable.
In support of the PA’s strategy under Abbas and Fayyad, some observers point to the fact that the Palestinian West Bank economy is growing, and there have been definite improvements to the lives of Palestinians on the West Bank. During my recent visit I noted fewer Israeli checkpoints and increased freedom of movement for Palestinians.
All of that might suggest to observers that the current PA strategy is correct. But while nobody should begrudge the improvement of Palestinian lives, without justice and viability, the leadership’s acceptance of the scraps of Israeli “generosity” will only lead to further strife. The plan is doomed to fail, as long as Palestinians remain one of the most aid-dependent people on the planet.
Gideon Levy told In These Times this month that the, “[Israeli] public has grown indifferent to the suffering of Palestinians under occupation” and the vast majority has no interest in knowing about IDF abuses in the occupied territories.
Wishing these difficulties away will not suffice — and nor will hoping the Palestinians simply accept whatever Bantustan they are given by the international community.

Wishing these difficulties away will not suffice — and nor will hoping the Palestinians simply accept whatever Bantustan they are given by the international community.

one comment ↪
  • To me, what was immediately most interesting about Fayyad's proposal was the idea of how Israel might react to a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. Particularly if they declared its capital to be East Jerusalem. I remember several years ago there were suggestions that Arafat might do something similar and the very thinly veiled response from the Israelis was that they'd treat such a thing as a virtual declaration of war.
    What appeals to me about it is not the economic ramifications – I don't see that the economic realities can be in any way particularly modified by such a declaration without Israeli support (eg removal of checkpoints, the ability to start actually moving goods around, etc). What appeals to me about this is the prospect of the Israelis going completely mental at the notion.
    Given the obvious need for a colossal circuit breaker in the conflict (Netanyahu being prisoner to his rightist coalition, Obama being so hamstrung in domestic issues he doesn't dare pick a real fight with AIPAC on top of it all, and Abbas … well, being Abbas and effectively in charge of only half his "country" anyway), it's really hard to see where any progress is going to be made in the short-term. The only positive development as I read it is the growing strength of the boycott movement, albeit off a painfully small base. It seems to me that the body of world opinion beyond any of the key players is the only thing that can effectively shift in the short term. And the only optimism stemming from that is, returning to the South Africa analogy, that ultimately it was to a large extent such a shift that ultimately drove change there.
    It strikes me that Israeli denial of a perfectly reasonable assertion of statehood (given Israel must by its own argument retain its "Jewish identity", and so many millions cannot surely be allowed stateless till the 50 year anniversary of occupation) would be just the thing to move world opinion and make the lumpen masses realise just how unjust, unreasonable and unworkable really is. I am perhaps being slightly naive, but I can't see hope from any other sector right now.