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.

Iran is not an existential threat (repeat again and again)

Avner Cohen wonders in Haaretz why Israel has allowed itself to be supposedly petrified of Iran’s alleged nuclear program (discounting the possibility that it pays to keep a populace petrified of an enemy):

What if Israel had treated Iran’s nuclear project as an exhibitionist, even childish, attempt by a nation mired in a deep identity crisis to exploit the prestige and mystique of nuclear power to create a national ethos of technological progress at home, as well as a diplomatic miracle cure that would enable it to challenge the West and move to the center of the international stage?

What would have happened if we had refused to become hysterical and apocalyptic, and had instead remained calm at the existential level, just as the Iranians are calm with regard to us? After all, the Iranians are convinced that we have nuclear weapons – and a lot of them. Yet despite this, while they see us as a military threat to their nuclear program, they do not see us as an existential threat to the Iranian nation. Adopting such a strategic view would not oblige Israel to attack Iran, because Tehran could not pose an existential threat to Israel.

Ultimately, we need to internalize the insight that even Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad voiced this week, when he said that all the talk about an Iranian bomb is irrational and meaningless. This is not simply because any Iranian attempt to destroy Israel via a nuclear bomb would kill countless Palestinians, but because it would surely lead to the destruction of Iran itself by Israel and the United States. Therefore, the idiotic claim that Iran could bring about Israel’s destruction does not hold water. While it is true that Ahmadinejad would love Israel to implode of its own accord, a self-confident and strong nation should not take such statements too seriously. And it certainly should not view them as an existential threat.

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Training the next generation to kill

The ever-increasing closeness between the video game industry and the US military is disturbing. Foreign Policy provides the necessary context:

The stakes are high. Modern Warfare 2 came out on Nov. 10, 2009. By the end of the next day, it had racked up $310 million in sales. To put this in perspective, Avatar, James Cameron’s latest Hollywood blockbuster (notably following an ex-Marine remotely fighting through a video-game-like battle environment), earned a measly $27 million on its first day. Another comparison might be even more apt. Roughly 70,000 young Americans chose to join the U.S. Army last year. By contrast, 4.7 million chose to spend Veterans Day playing war at home.

And this is no mere American trend. More than 350 million people play video games worldwide, with the war-oriented sector perhaps the most important part of the global market. Modern Warfare 2 may have players join a U.S. special operations team, but one out of every 49 British citizens did so in its first 24 hours. Niche games have also amassed huge followings; in the polarized Middle East, Hezbollah-produced Special Force plays out an attack on Israeli soldiers, while Ummah Defense provides the vicarious thrill of taking on the U.S. military, Israeli settlers, and killer robots.

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Bush administration kindly asked soldiers not to kill innocents in Iraq

America, an army politely instructed to avoid massacres:

A 2003 handbook for the U.S. 1st Infantry Division in Iraq exhorts soldiers to “Do your best to prevent war crimes” and warns that “when an Arab is confronted by criticism, you can expect him to react by interpreting the facts to suit himself or flatly denying the facts.”

The document, obtained and posted by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, runs nearly 100 pages outlining on the history of Iraq, the customs of Arabs, and the rules of war.

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2SER interview on the Australia/Israel passport scandal

I was interviewed late last week on Sydney’s 2SER current affairs radio, The Razor’s Edge, on Australia’s currently testy relationship with Israel over the passport debacle.

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Former Aussie ambassador questions the closeness between Israel and Australia

The following article in today’s Sunday Age is by Ross Burns, a former Australian Ambassador in the Middle East:

In the course of a career in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, much of it spent handling Middle East matters, I rarely heard language as portentous as the statements on relations with Israel from Australian political leaders in the past couple of days.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said he had called in the ambassador of Israel to seek Israel’s co-operation in following up information that three Australian passports were used by suspects allegedly associated with the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior ues figure in Dubai.

“I made it crystal clear to the ambassador that if the results of that investigation cause us to come to the conclusion that the abuse of Australian passports was in any way sponsored or condoned by Israeli officials, then Australia would not regard that as the act of a friend . . . In the course of that inquiry, we would expect the Israeli government . . . to fully co-operate . . . If we don’t receive that cooperation, then there is a distinct possibility that we would draw adverse conclusions.”

The message was even stronger in Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s version: “This is of the deepest concern to the Australian government . . . It is not just one of those little things that happens that you deal with today and it’s fixed tomorrow.”

This prompt response to the protection of Australian national interests is fully justified. But it is remarkable in that the present government, led by a prime minister happy to be described as a “Zionist”, has held back from the slightest criticism of Israel, in spite of the many excesses of its response to the rocketing from Gaza in early 2009 and in the face of the obvious disinterest in the Netanyahu government in ending settlement activity on occupied lands to advance a “two-state solution”.

What has gone wrong? Has Australia encouraged in Israel an assumption that it is not just a supporter of Israel but an uncritical one? The acting prime minister during the Gaza operation, Julia Gillard, quickly cranked out two mantras – “Hamas brought this on itself” and “Israel has a right to defend itself”. She neglected to add that the “right to defend itself” also requires it to act within international norms.

While most Western countries have been cautious in their dealings with Benjamin Netanyahu and his openly anti-Arab Foreign Minister, Australia appeared more enthused than ever. Instead of buttressing US President Barack Obama’s stand on settlement activity, for instance, Australia floated a series of vacuous but highly symbolic gestures towards Israel including parliamentary congratulations on the sixth decade of its existence (not normally a topic for parliamentary resolutions) and instituting a “leadership exchange” jamboree at deputy prime ministerial level that no other nation enjoys except the United States.

Most inexplicably of all, perhaps, Australia has been in the forefront of those countries that have chosen to blacken the UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza war, headed by Richard Goldstone. I knew Goldstone in South Africa as a judge in the Orange Free State. Even under apartheid, he had devised a notable process of law reform that helped unravel the race-based political system. His energy, imagination and sincerity were without bounds.

I flew down to Bloemfontein to tap some of that inspiration while I was waiting to present credentials to then president F. W. de Klerk. The day we spent talking was among the most heartening I spent in South Africa. In my view, he did more than anyone except Nelson Mandela to help South Africa map a law-based path to negotiations. None of this has been noted 15 years later in Australia’s bucketing of his immensely thorough and impartial work last year.

This is perhaps an indicator, too, of our downgrading of the status of UN resolutions that define how a peaceful outcome to the Palestinian issue must be realised.

The ALP has stripped all reference to those UN instruments from its policy platform- strange for a party that still claims an “internationalist” approach to world affairs. Stranger still for a country that aspires to a seat on the Security Council.

Likewise, the government has sadly completed the work of its predecessor in neglecting our links with the Arab world. Except for drop-by calls on the way to Iraq or Afghanistan or to attend international meetings, I am aware of no bilateral foreign ministerial visits to the Arab world.

Of course, nothing that Australia might have said would necessarily have dissuaded Mossad from its obsessive tradecraft, and several countries more measured in their approach to Israel had their passports abused. The episode has all the marks of another over-the-top operation, the objectives of which could never justify the fallout. As soon as a figure like Mahmoud al- Mabhouh is rubbed out, another 10 enter the system.

It is unlikely that Australia will get the co-operation it seeks. The dark fulminations will pass. Economic links are minimal and won’t be affected. The ambassador-designate might have to cool her heels a bit longer in Canberra and the scrutiny of anything the Israelis present as “evidence” might be intensified.

Given community pressures and an election coming up, the old pattern will resume-hopefully, however, with fewer oscillations between euphoria and rejection.

That requires a more hard-nosed emphasis on Australian interests, including those in the wider region, by a government and party that have been too smitten for their own (or Israel’s) good.

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Canberra joins the Dubai hunt for Israeli clues

At least publicly, Australia is moving forward with its investigation into Israel’s alleged criminality in Dubai:

Australian authorities are working in an international team to track down the killers of a top Hamas militant who are suspected of being Israeli agents.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed Australian officials were ”co-operating” with the investigation being run by Dubai authorities, although he declined to discuss what that involved.

The Australian Federal Police also declined to comment.

But Dubai’s police chief Dhahi Khalfan was reported in the government-owned Al-Bayan daily as saying Australia would be part of an international police unit along with officers from at least seven other countries. The unit would seek to track down those responsible for the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, whose body was found in a Dubai hotel room on January 20.

The newspaper quoted Mr Khalfan as saying that officers from the United Arab Emirates, unspecified European countries, Australia and possibly the United States would be part of the team. The team is also believed to include authorities from Britain, Ireland, France and Germany.

Israel has come under mounting international pressure after Dubai police published details of 26 suspects and said that 12 British, six Irish, four French, one German and three Australian passports were used to help carry out the assassination.

The international police organisation Interpol has circulated warrants for the arrest of 11 suspects. Dubai later said it had 15 other suspects.

Revelations of stolen identities being used by suspected Israeli agents has caused an international outcry, with Australia threatening it would ”not be silent on the matter” and Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin saying ”we are very angry”.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith last week called in the Israeli ambassador for a explanation. Yesterday, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the government was still ”not satisfied with that explanation”.

Israel has said there is no evidence that its spy agency, the Mossad, was behind the killing.

Meanwhile, police in Dubai say they have DNA evidence to prove the identity of at least one of the assassins involved.

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Australia needs to find its voice over Israel (but it ain’t likely)

A fine letter in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald:

Finally, Kevin Rudd has done the unthinkable and questioned Israel about its actions (”Betrayed PM should not be taken for granted by Israel”, February 26). As Peter Hartcher points out, this is not the Prime Minister’s style.

Mr Rudd seems to have a distorted his Christianity by stating that “Israel is in his DNA”. As a Christian, I would have hoped he would recall the essence of the Christian message – that we are all children of God and implicitly share the same DNA: Muslim, Jewish, Christian and everyone else.

Mr Rudd was silent on the invasion of Gaza in February 2008, which left more than 120 Palestinians dead. He was silent about the deaths of more than 1300 Palestinians in January last year. He dismissed the United Nations fact-finding mission to Gaza, led by Richard Goldstone, that called for transparent war crimes investigations on both sides.

He would have also ignored the extrajudicial killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh but for the forgery of the three Australian passports. Certainly not a perfect example of man committed to following the principle of international law, but better late than never.

Yes, Israel needs friends, and there is no question that Australia remains one, but friends must be accountable for their actions. If Israel wishes to see the end of Hamas arms traders and of rocket attacks, it needs to follow international law, cease attacks by its air force, navy and army on Palestinians, and end the occupation of Palestinian territory.

Stewart Mills Balmain

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The Australian public is getting a good, long hard look at Israeli behaviour

The latest developments in the Australia/Israeli passport scandal:

First this:

A terrified Australian woman whose identity was used in the assassination of a top Hamas official says the federal government has not yet offered her any help.

Pregnant Nicole McCabe, 27, said she had no idea how her identity was stolen, as she still had her Australian passport in her Tel Aviv apartment, where she lives with husband Tsahi Look.

Australian authorities have not yet contacted Ms McCabe over the revelations she is among three Australians whose stolen identities were used in the killing of senior Hamas operative Mahmud al-Mabhuh in a Dubai hotel room last month.

“I don’t understand why nobody has called me to offer help from the government,” Ms McCabe told News Limited.

“Nobody. Not one phone call.

“I’m surprised the embassy has not contacted me. I’m going to call them tomorrow to ask for help.

“I’m terrified. I haven’t slept and I’m shaky.

“I’m worried for my health and I’m worried for my baby’s health.

“I have no idea how they got hold of my passport, Obviously it’s not my photo.

Ms McCabe, who is six months pregnant, has lived in Israel for two-and-a-half years and last left six months ago when she visited Australia and Thailand.

Joshua Bruce and Adam Korman also had their identities stolen and used in fake passports held by the alleged assassins.

Mossad, Israel’s secret service, is believed to be behind the organised hit.

And now Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has toned down his language against Israel:

Australia is not satisfied with Israeli explanations about the fraudulent use of Australian passports in the assassination of a Hamas operator, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says.

Mr Rudd said today the federal government had to “proceed very carefully” in the controversy because of its complex security nature.

Israeli’s ambassador to Australia was summoned on Thursday for an urgent meeting with Foreign Minister Stephen Smith.

“When it comes to Australian passport fraud or the use and abuse of Australian passports, this government has an absolutely hard line on defending the integrity of our passport system because millions of the travelling public depend on that each year,” Mr Rudd told reporters in Adelaide on Saturday.

“That is why the foreign minister has called in the Israeli ambassador and asked for an explanation.

“Thus far we are not satisfied with that explanation.”

Assassins with suspected links to the Israeli spy agency Mossad are believed to have stolen the identities of three Victorians.

The suspects were then involved in the murder of senior Hamas operator Mahmud al-Mabhuh in a Dubai luxury hotel on January 20.

Mr Rudd sidestepped criticism from one of the three Australians involved that they had not been contacted by Australian officials.

Nicole McCabe, 27, said she had no idea how her identity was stolen, as she still had her Australian passport in her Tel Aviv apartment, where she lives with husband.

Mr Rudd said: “My advice is that Australian officials have been in contact with a range of those associated with the most recent matters.

“Because these involve very complex and security intelligence matters, we have to proceed very carefully.

“I am just weighing my words very carefully.

“I wish to tread very carefully with the security and intelligence matters which arise in relation to each of the individuals and families concerned with this matter.

“Therefore I’m choosing my words very carefully so as not to compromise any person or so as not to compromise any continuing investigation.”

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Americans still seem to overwhelmingly love the Jewish state

For those of us who know and believe that debate in the US is shifting over Israel/Palestine, this Gallop poll is sobering:

For the first time since 1991, more than 6 in 10 Americans — 63% — say their sympathies in the Middle East situation lie more with the Israelis than with the Palestinians. Fifteen percent side more with the Palestinians, down slightly from recent years, while a combined 23% favor both sides, favor neither side, or have no opinion.

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Israeli PR needs a lobotomy

While Israelis are being encouraged to promote their country overseas – unsurprisingly ignoring the less savoury aspects of the occupation – one Israeli commentator is pleased that the country’s so-called enemies are fearful of “crazy Israel”:

The Goldstone Report, which claimed that Israel goes crazy when it is being attacked, caused us some damage (which should not be exaggerated) in the world, yet it was a blessing in our region. If Israel goes crazy and destroys everything in its way when it’s being attacked, one should be careful. No need to mess with crazy people.

What a charming man.

Another day, another announcement that utterly kills any chances of peace:

An Israeli planning committee has pushed forward plans for 600 new homes in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.

No wonder even the US-backed Palestinian Authority is considering embracing a push for a one-state solution.

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Israel feels a little more exposed in the UN

For Australian diplomacy – usually little more than a rubber-stamp for everything Israel does – this is significant:

Australia was last night preparing to abstain in a United Nations vote on a resolution urging Israel and the Palestinian Authority to investigate allegations of war crimes committed during last year’s war in Gaza.

The UN General Assembly was expected to vote this morning.

Allegations of war crimes committed by Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas were raised in a report by the South African judge Richard Goldstone.

In a strong show of support for Israel, Australia was one of only a few countries to vote against a similar resolution last year.

An abstention by Australia would represent a significant shift away from Israel and would be interpreted as a sign of the Rudd government’s anger over revelations this week that fake Australian passports were used in the operation to assassinate the Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mahbouh.

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Jews, stop using the Holocaust card

The fine words of a former Australian Prime Minister:

Kevin Rudd should take a much harder line against Israel in the wake of mounting evidence its Mossad secret service used doctored Australian passports in its plot to murder a senior Hamas militant, former prime minister Malcolm Fraser said yesterday.

Last night, Australian Federal Police investigators began interviewing three Australian passport holders living in Israel over the use of their documents by the killers of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

It is understood police in Dubai, where Mabhouh was murdered, have formally asked the AFP to help in their investigation.

Mr Fraser said the misuse of passports had caused growing unease among Victoria’s Jewish community — a claim backed by a senior member of the Jewish community, who asked not to be named.

Mossad remains the prime suspect in the murder, which Dubai police say involved at least 26 people from four nations — all using doctored passports.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith summoned Israeli ambassador Yuval Rotem to express “grave concern” about the passport issue.

Mr Fraser said the worries of Australia’s Jewish community were twofold. There were concerns about the actual misuse of Australian passports, and the tactics and policies of the Israeli government which cast the community in a bad light, he said.

Mr Fraser said the Jewish state could no longer use the Holocaust as an excuse to justify state-sanctioned murder, and criticism of its policies should not be dismissed as anti-Semitism.

“That happened 65-66 years ago and it cannot be used any longer to prevent proper discussion of Israel’s policies when those policies are counter-productive to world peace,” he said. “To suggest that those who are critical are anti-Semitic — I reject that utterly.”

Matthew Gray, a senior lecturer at the Australian National University’s Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, said only a nation-state like Israel could have carried off the Dubai killing.

While the murder of the senior Hamas official was a tactical success, the operation was rapidly turning into a strategic failure for Israel because two other countries whose tampered passports had been used — Britain and France — are permanent members of the UN Security Council, Dr Gray warned.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said the Coalition had not drawn any conclusions over Mossad’s alleged involvement.

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