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.

Questioning the Promised Land is a Jewish need

I’m pleased to see my friend and co-founder of Indpendent Australian Jewish Voices (IAJV), Peter Slezak, with a piece in today’s Sydney Morning Herald on the importance of Jewish dissent.

These are the kinds of debates the Jewish community are so afraid to have. By defending all Israeli actions, they are blind to the reality of what Israel has become. History won’t forget:

The Mavi Marmara victims are the most visible of many unarmed international solidarity workers and Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli military forces at peaceful demonstrations. Charges that Israel’s lethal commando assault violated international law are far from the most serious it faces, after wars on Lebanon in 1982 and 2006, and Gaza in 2008-09. The lame official excuses for the assault invite the question: what does it take for “supporters” of Israel to protest that enough is enough?

Jewish leaders and their community follow Israeli official script: the raid on the unarmed civilians of the flotilla was in self-defence, just as pasta, coriander and children’s toys entering Gaza pose an existential threat to the Jewish state. The collective punishment of Gaza is merely putting them “on a diet”. George Orwell would have been impressed by such Newspeak in “defence of the indefensible”.

Apologists claim international outrage towards Israel is evidence of global anti-Semitism, seeking to “delegitimise” the Jewish state. The slur has caused non-Jewish commentators and individuals to avoid public criticism. The Jewish establishment has even sought to discredit human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, though the same criticisms may be found in reports of Israel’s own B’Tselem.

The Mavi Marmara victims are the most visible of many unarmed international solidarity workers and Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli military forces at peaceful demonstrations. Charges that Israel’s lethal commando assault violated international law are far from the most serious it faces, after wars on Lebanon in 1982 and 2006, and Gaza in 2008-09. The lame official excuses for the assault invite the question: what does it take for “supporters” of Israel to protest that enough is enough?

Jewish leaders and their community follow Israeli official script: the raid on the unarmed civilians of the flotilla was in self-defence, just as pasta, coriander and children’s toys entering Gaza pose an existential threat to the Jewish state. The collective punishment of Gaza is merely putting them “on a diet”. George Orwell would have been impressed by such Newspeak in “defence of the indefensible”.

Apologists claim international outrage towards Israel is evidence of global anti-Semitism, seeking to “delegitimise” the Jewish state. The slur has caused non-Jewish commentators and individuals to avoid public criticism. The Jewish establishment has even sought to discredit human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, though the same criticisms may be found in reports of Israel’s own B’Tselem.

Diaspora Jewish communities and their leadership have not only avoided making public criticism of Israel themselves, but have sought to prevent other Jews speaking out as well. Those who dare, such as the signatories to Independent Australian Jewish Voices, are labelled “self-hating”, “useful idiots”, “kapos” and even “Jews for genocide”. However, if their communities expect uncritical loyalty of Jews to Zionism, they can hardly be surprised if others fail to make the distinction clearly.

The wider public is not mistaken in seeing a conspicuous Jewish silence as condoning whatever the state of Israel does. In Plato’s Republic, Socrates says: “We should be the first to use rhetoric to denounce ourselves and the people close to us, to expose their crimes and save them from immorality.” It is a moral truism, as is the biblical precept about the hypocrite in Matthew 7:”For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.”

For such reasons, in a recent article in the New York Review of Books, Peter Beinart has charged the diaspora Jewish establishment with being detached from reality, failing to recognise “Israel is becoming (has become) a right-wing, ultra-nationalist country” being abandoned by younger liberal and progressive Jews. As early as 1948, an open letter published in The New York Times signed by Hannah Arendt, Einstein and others warned against the fatal combination of “ultra-nationalism, religious mysticism and a propaganda of racial superiority”.

It is one of history’s ironies that Jews have embraced an essentialist idea of some intrinsic quality constituting their identity and destiny, since they have been perhaps history’s most aggrieved victims of it. Since the position of diaspora Jews has a critical influence on government policies in Israel itself and elsewhere, Beinart poses the question to Jewish leaders: what would Israel’s government have to do to make them scream “no”? Beinart asks: “If the line has not yet been crossed, where is the line?”

The question of Jewish identity and responsibility has been posed acutely by some Jews themselves, those who break ranks – those referred to in Isaac Deutscher’s essay as ”The Non-Jewish Jew”. Among these, Baruch Spinoza (1634-77) is described by Bertrand Russell as “the noblest and most lovable of the great philosophers”. For his heresies, he was given the severest punishment, Cherem – permanent excommunication from the 17th century Amsterdam Jewish community.

He notes the paradox that Jewish heretics who transcend Jewry belong to a characteristically Jewish tradition, among the great revolutionaries of modern thought, including Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. To Deutscher’s list we may add Hannah Arendt, the late renegade American historian Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, all reviled by their communities.

“They all went beyond the boundaries of Jewry,” Deutscher says, to transcend their narrowly conceived ethnic identity while remaining attached to it. Such Jewish thinkers embrace a wider, universal, Enlightenment outlook – the tradition of secular, liberalism and humanism. This is the position of the famous Jewish philosopher Marx – not Karl, but Groucho – who quipped “I wouldn’t want to join any club that would have me as a member”.

Do you feel good when your football team wins a game? Do you know any of the players whose success you enjoy and feel you share? Are you proud of being Jewish? Or Irish? Or Australian? What have you done to deserve credit for the achievements of Einstein, Beckett, Bradman or anyone else?

The true heroes in history are the heretics who adopt a critical attitude towards the national symbols and sacred traditions.

Edward Said, the Palestinian intellectual who took students to visit Auschwitz, made the point: “To this terribly important task of representing the collective suffering of your own people … reinforcing its memory, there must be added something else … The task, I believe, is to universalise the crisis, to give greater human scope to what a particular race or nation suffered, to associate that experience with the suffering of others.”

Israel is not the state of its citizens, of whom now 20 per cent are not Jewish, but the state of the Jewish people. The Knesset has considered a bill that would institute a jail sentence for anyone who speaks ”against Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state”. But, as Ariel Sharon explicitly recognised in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, there is a contradiction inherent in attributing these two properties – Jewish and democratic, like green and colourless.

In view of the brutal occupation of the West Bank, inhumane blockade of Gaza, continuing dispossession, injustice and suffering of the Palestinians, Jews might heed Einstein’s prophetic warning in 1955: ”The attitude we adopt towards the Arab minority will provide the real test of our moral standards as a people.”

Peter Slezak is a senior lecturer at the University of NSW’s school of history and philosophy of science.

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