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.

Life in Aceh, Indonesia

My following article is published in the Huffington Post:

In a collection of just released work by Acehnese writer Azhari, Nutmeg Woman, we are brought into a world before the devastating 2004 tsunami that killed over 220,000 Indonesians. Civil war wracked the province. Indonesian occupation was brutal and fought against the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). Like the Papuans and East Timorese, the Acehnese wanted to be an independent nation.

Azhari — who wore a t-shirt with the word “iBoobs’ under the Apple logo when I saw him — often writes in riddles, demanding the reader understand the struggles of a people that no colonial power has ever controlled. Outsiders and eccentrics are treated with suspicion. Strong women counter the absence of men, many of whom have disappeared after generations of fighting. Jakarta still refuses to fully investigate this legacy.

During my recent visit to the area — as a guest of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival — I found unconventional attributes of an Islamic state and fierce resistance to orthodox interpretations of the Koran. Aceh is not Saudi Arabia, Iran or Gaza, all places I have witnessed creeping Islamization and brave men and women challenging its implementation.

Aceh remains a traumatized province despite a 2005 peace deal that ended the decades-old, violent conflict. Sharia law is now implemented with homosexuality and adultery punishable by stoning. Poverty is rife — the smell of rubbish is everywhere and dirty water runs across some streets — while women mostly wear headscarves and sit separately from men at public events.

There are no cinemas. Entertainment options are limited. Religion often fills the breach, but I met many young people who thrived on satellite television and the Internet. Facebook was a common thread, an obsession and window to the world. Everybody under the age of 30 asked if I had a Facebook account and if I’d accept their friend request.

Nindy Silvie, Raisa Kamila and Mifta Sugesty, three schoolgirls who were my translators, regularly watch The Simpsons, Family Guy, BBC and CNN. Nindy spoke with an American accent, had a South Park tune as her ring-tone, didn’t wear a veil and read Noam Chomsky, Edward Said and Christopher Hitchens. I couldn’t believe my ears. Here I was in Aceh, talking about the “fundamentalist atheism” of Hitchens and his hatred of religion. She thought he went too far, though she was hardly a devout Muslim.

Although Aceh is no longer under occupation, tourism is virtually non-existent. International NGOs invaded after the 2004 tsunami and huge re-development dots the landscape. A new airport, large German-backed hospital and tsunami museum are tangible signs of modernity.

It was surreal seeing Jewish gravestones, in Hebrew, in the Dutch-era cemetery in the shadow of the tsunami museum. Writer Fozan Santa, with black, greasy shoulder-length hair, told me that there was no hatred towards these monuments and generations of Acehnese had protected them. “People here don’t hate Jews”, he said, “they hate the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”

I met many young men under 20 who said they had wanted to fight against Israel during its bombardment of Gaza in December and January. “For our fellow Muslims”, one said. Many had never met a Jew before and were amazed that I expressed deep disquiet towards Israeli behaviour in Palestine.

Fozan showed me the bookshop he ran near the heart of Banda Aceh, the capital. Most books were in the local language, including titles about Marx, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Hitler’s Mein Kampf and the power of the Israel lobby in America.

Politics flowed through the veins of many activists, a leftist perspective on the world. During a public forum, I was asked what I thought about the “real terrorism…the issue of globalization and free trade. How do we overcome that?” I replied, slightly unsure what angle to take, that the post-1945 world order was in desperate need of reform and the Muslim world’s time would surely come. Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim country, is talking about assuming a more powerful position on the global stage, not least towards the Israel/Palestine conflict.

The election of US President Barack Obama was welcomed warmly across the province. People like his rhetoric and his apparent change in attitude towards the Muslim world, but their patience is limited. Wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Palestine continue with no signs of closure. The relationship to American power is contradictory. Washington’s influence on their lives is minimal but its ability to bring peace doubtful. The idea of a benevolent America was appealing but images on satellite television from the Arab world dispelled those myths very quickly.

Acehnese identity is intimately related to Indonesia’s wish for integration and historical desires for independence. Many craved true freedom but realized it was impossible at the present time. The cataclysmic tsunami wiped out entire families and communities but brought a desperately needed resolution to civil strife.

History can have a cruel sense of humor.

one comment ↪
  • Hallo Antony,
    Thank you for an interesting article. I live in Central Java and although I have been connnected, through my wife's family, to Indonesia for 30 years I have never been to Aceh. I know Lampung in South Sumatra quite well and have a small house there, but have never been far north in the island.
    Where I live by comparison with Aceh Islam is very relaxed and we have dicos and bars and mixed religion marriages and all sorts of stuff I know would be anathema to the more conservative elements in Aceh. I wonder how the laws on stoning and caning will work out now the new legislature is installed in the province and the Governor is known to be against?
    Heartening to see you found the young questioning established thinking. Not that all conservative thinking is poor, or even bad, but if the young are not intimidated that is always a good thing.
    Again, thanks for a good article.