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.

Introducing…Miss Aceh

My following article in New Matilda is about the Indonesian province of Aceh:

Despite recently implementing sharia law — including the stoning of adulterers and homosexuals — Aceh does not fit the stereotype of an Islamic state, finds Antony Loewenstein

Muslim extremists in Aceh were outraged when a young woman from the province, Qori Sandioriva, won the Miss Indonesia crown this month. The area has implemented sharia law and Teung-ku Faisal Ali, the secretary general of Aceh’s Ulama Association, told the BBC that Sandioriva, 18, must wear a veil to comply with local values. She has refused, expressing pride in her uncovered head. Sandioriva will be required to wear a swimsuit at the next, global level of the competition.

The Jakarta Post interviewed Banda Aceh housewife “Heny” who said that protests against the woman were inappropriate and “only diminish from the fighting spirit of Acehnese women to perform at the national as well as international level”.

Aceh occupies a unique position in the Indonesian archipelago. Until the 2004 tsunami — which killed over 200,000 Indonesians, many of them in Aceh — the province endured an insurgency for independence against Indonesian occupation. The tsunami changed everything. A peace treaty was signed in 2005 between Jakarta and the rebel Free Aceh Movement. Integration was the new message and true independence almost disappeared as a dream.

Throughout my recent speaking tour of Aceh — as guest of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival — I encountered a range of views about its position within Indonesia. During a meeting with journalists and editors at leading newspaper Harian Aceh, I heard that nobody wanted to return to the bad old days of night-time disappearances, extra-judicial torture and random brutality under occupation.

Despite this, however, most backed the independence claims of West Papua and East Timor and longed for a time when they would also be free. Consider the current situation as a holding pattern, I was informed, until an unpredictable event occurs. (Nobody expected the 2004 tsunami; the consequent political earthquake was entirely unforeseen.)

Launched in 2006, Harian Aceh represents the post-2004 media environment in Aceh. As one journalist said to me, “democracy is not healthy with only one paper”. “Alternative” news was sorely needed in the nascent democracy period. “We believe in balance, want to avoid racism and don’t want to inflame ethnic tensions in the archipelago,” I was told. The newspaper’s offices were bare, with cracks near the ceiling, and only a clock set to the wrong time on the wall. The surroundings were simple but the editors eloquently articulated their vision for a better Aceh.

The province is poor — walking the main markets I saw fruit and fish sellers in almost torn clothing and the smell of decomposing rubbish was ubiquitous — but there are many visible signs of the massive development that has taken place over the last few years.

Every new object or building can be easily dated pre- or post-2004. The modern, sparse airport with the mosque-like dome in the middle, the flash hotels to house the international NGO set (who are, increasingly, departing), the German built hospital and the tsunami memorial museum are all striking for their cleanliness. Many Acehnese worry that as memories of the horrors of the tsunami and its effects begin to fade, aid dollars and workers will depart. Eighteen-year-old student Nindy Silvie said her brother will soon lose his job because the five-year international development program which employs him is about to cease.

The Harian Aceh journalists told me that the Israel/Palestine conflict was a central element of their global coverage. A small number of Acehnese men pledged to travel to Gaza in January to fight against Israel during its conflict with Hamas. I met one of them, a mild-mannered 20-year-old man, who showed no hatred towards Israel and accepted, with some prodding, the historical calamity of the Jewish Holocaust. He seemed genuinely intrigued that Jews existed who opposed Israel’s behaviour. “Are there many of you?”, he asked. “We don’t hate Jews”, another said, “but we oppose Israel’s occupation.”

Muslim identity in Aceh is central to this ideology. Militant views exist and those who profess them also undoubtedly see themselves as leading the purity charge. The proposed upcoming visit of Japanese adult video star Maria “Miyabi” Ozawa to Indonesia to shoot a comedy caused some Muslim students in Java to protest and burn women’s underwear. Many women’s groups, on the other hand, backed the trip.

These tactics are loud and intimidating, but many in Aceh, the most devout Muslim province in the country, laughed at the Miyabi outrage. Writer and teacher Fozan Santa told me that it was absurd for a modern democracy to ban any person who hadn’t committed a crime. I was reminded of Gaza under Hamas and its growing Islamisation program, backed only by a minority and rejected by a tired majority.

The implementation of sharia law in Aceh was ad-hoc, at best. Fundamentalists have called for the toughest penalties for “deviants”, homosexuals, adulterers and criminals but there is fierce resistance.

I spent considerable time with three girls in their final year of high school — Nindy Silvie, Raisa Kamila and Mifta Sugesty — who were the main translators during my public events and media engagements. Two wore headscarves and the other chose not to. Raisa and Mifta said their families were fairly conservative and didn’t oppose the fact that there were no cinemas in Aceh — or many other entertainment options, for that matter. With me, they spoke frankly about a range of issues, from female circumcision — they opposed it, understanding the deleterious sexual effects of the act — to boyfriends, American popular culture and Edward Said. Their openness and knowledge forced me to reassess my views of young Muslim girls in a devout society.

Unlike Gaza, which remains occupied by Israel, Aceh has slowly opened up to the world with all its vices and benefits. I wasn’t expecting backward and parochial people, but it’s often easy to forget the revolutionary effect of the internet and satellite television. The girls said they often watched BBC News and CNN and loved al-Jazeera English. They were far more knowledgeable about the world than most school leavers I’ve met, including myself at their age.

I was the key speaker at a cultural event in the centre of Banda Aceh and these kinds of issues were thrashed out in front of 60 men and women, who voluntarily separated themselves along gender lines. After a passionate performance piece by a violinist who explained why young people should write — “most just watch TV, use perfume and drive” — we heard from an Acehnese blogger. He encouraged the attendees to blog because “there is no intervention from anybody and you own the media”. His main concerns were managing the copyright of his content and other bloggers stealing his work without attribution.

It was encouraging to hear that bloggers across Indonesia meet up regularly and conduct conversations the mainstream media will not touch. Aceh now has its own blogging service that assists people in launching their own websites. Nobody seemed to know the exact number of Acehnese bloggers but even conservative counts reach to the hundreds.

Aceh remains a traumatised society. Less than five years after the cataclysmic tsunami touched everybody in some profound way — I met countless people whose entire families were wiped out and others who told of running for their lives into the nearby mountains — the province remains unsure of its identity. Largely ignored by Indonesia’s burgeoning tourist industry and the world media, a sense of isolation envelops the mindset of many.

History is littered with examples of countries which experience the deepest periods of pain followed by an awakening. Aceh is both blessed and cursed — but most Acehnese I met seemed to believe that overall, the former is the more fitting description.

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