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.

Zionist lobby says Nazi comparisons wrong and yet rather loves calling enemies anti-Semitic

Where to begin with this confused statement? The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, a key Zionist lobby group who rather loves defending the war crimes of Israel, release this today about BDS, Israel, Nazis, Palestine, Nazis, Jews, Nazis and you guessed it, Nazis.

You can almost see feel the tension in the statement, essentially saying, “we aren’t saying you BDS backers are anti-Semitic but really you are actually anti-Semitic”. No mention of the occupation, of course. Nor why BDS is thriving globally. BDS isn’t about Jewish businesses because they’re Jewish, you dishonest Zionist lobby. It’s called targeting the unaccountable Zionist state,  an increasingly anti-democratic entity, and those associated with it.

Get used to it; it’s growing by the day:

Criticism of the BDS Campaign

There has been widespread criticism of the recent BDS protests against Max Brenner outlets in Sydney and Melbourne. The criticism has come not only from Labor and Coalition members of parliament, Federal and State, but also from some of their Greens colleagues. The ECAJ thanks all of them for their efforts in opposing and speaking out against the Australian arm of the global BDS campaign against Israel.

The Max Brenner chain is a legitimate, privately owned business that operates in accordance with Australian law. It provides employment to approximately 750 Australian workers and pays taxes that contribute to the public revenue. Its alleged ‘crime’ is to be connected in some way to a company that supplies chocolate and other food products to the Israeli army.

Recently, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) was asked by the Victorian government, with the near unanimous support of the Australian Senate (excluding the Greens), whether the BDS campaign against Max Brenner outlets constitutes a secondary boycott in contravention of section 45D of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. The ACCC concluded that thus far there has been no contravention because the BDS campaign is unlikely to have had the effect of causing substantial loss or damage to the business of Max Brenner, as would be required to constitute a breach of section 45D.

Whilst in some respects that conclusion is disappointing, it highlights how ineffectual and unsuccessful the BDS campaign has been in persuading the Australian public not to patronise Max Brenner shops. Indeed, the BDS campaign has, if anything, succeeded in alienating broader public opinion in Australia and engendering sympathy and support for the target businesses.

Racist rhetoric employed in the BDS campaign

The ECAJ is, however, concerned about some of the rhetoric that has been deployed by both sides of the public debate concerning BDS. On occasions, some of those supporting BDS have lapsed into both overt and implicit antisemitism, and some of those opposing BDS have inappropriately likened Greens leaders to “Nazis”. Neither infraction excuses the other. We note that no members of parliament, Federal or State, on either side of the debate, have engaged in these extreme forms of rhetoric.

All expressions of antisemitism are repugnant not only to the Jewish community but also to the vast majority of Australians. An ancient and pernicious form of antisemitism is known as the “blood libel”, a vicious and revolting smear to the effect that Jews as a group habitually shed and consume human blood. (In point of fact, this is the exact opposite of Jewish teaching, which holds human life to be sacrosanct, a belief that has been inherited by both Christianity and Islam). In the BDS campaign against Max Brenner, the ancient blood libel is revived in the protesters’ chants:

There’s blood in your hot chocolate.

You support genocide.

Max, Max murderer.

It is of course ludicrous to describe someone who merely sells chocolate products as a “murderer”. Yet in our view, it is no accident that the BDS protesters choose to make their points in these specific ways, which tap into an historical reservoir of anti-Jewish tropes. They could make their points in other ways. True moral leadership requires our political representatives to repudiate this sort of deeply racist rhetoric, regardless of where they stand on the BDS issue.

One aspect of the BDS campaign that is particularly troubling is that the boycotts are aimed at businesses with Jewish owners. Thus, Max Brenner is targeted, but Intel or Microsoft or any other similar company, which operates significantly in Israel and supplies the Israeli Defence Force, is not targeted. It is entirely legitimate to draw attention to this disparity and to question the motives of BDS leaders.

There is further antisemitism in the implied denial of the Jewish people’s right of national self-determination. Another frequent anti-Israel chant is:

From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.

This implies that all of the land situated between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea is “Palestine”. Of course, part of that land consists of Israel. What is thereby advocated is the end of Israel as a sovereign State and its replacement by “Palestine”.

Distinguishing between political comment and inappropriate rhetoric

The ECAJ does not suggest that all criticisms of Israel are antisemitic.  Israel is a vibrant pluralist democracy and its citizens (Jews, Bedouin, Palestinians, and Druze) are often its most incisive critics.  But it is also false to suggest that no criticisms of Israel are antisemitic.   There is clearly an overlap, as the foregoing examples illustrate.

The existence of an overlap was also acknowledged in the Working Definition of Antisemitism developed by the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), which monitors racism and xenophobia in the 31 countries and candidate countries of the European Union, in collaboration with key NGOs and representatives of the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

The EUMC, now called the European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), adopted the definition in 2005 and distributed it to all its national monitors. In September 2006, the definition was adopted by the United Kingdom All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism.  It is also employed by units of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), representing about states. The definition has been translated into 33 languages including Arabic and Turkish. In February 2009, it was adopted in the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism.  The working definition includes the following:

Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:

•         Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.

•         Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

•         Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

•         Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

•         Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

Inappropriate Holocaust Rhetoric

The way to combat these more contemporary and subtle forms of antisemitism is not, in our view, to fight fire with fire. Whilst hyperbole is to be expected in any free-flowing political discussion in Australia’s robust democracy, special care is needed to avoid comparing any Australian political leaders or members of parliament to “Nazis” or comparing any political party in Australia to the former Nazi regime in Germany. There is, thankfully, nothing in Australia’s history and experience that is even remotely comparable to the unique evil and horror of the Hitler period in Germany and Europe.

Yet the use of inappropriate analogies with Nazism has crept into political discourse in Australia with increasing frequency. This has the effect of trivialising Nazi totalitarianism, particularly in the thinking of younger people who have no personal point of entry into understanding the realities of life under the Nazi jackboot.

For this reason our organisation some years ago adopted an express policy against inappropriate Holocaust rhetoric (see ECAJ Platform). The ECAJ: recognised that the Holocaust, the Nazi program of genocide, was a unique historical event; noted that the Holocaust is generally recognised as the benchmark of the most extreme case of human evil; and deplored the inappropriate use of analogies to the Nazi Genocide in Australian public debate.

The ECAJ is concerned that some of the media discourse has resorted to rhetoric that has been less disciplined than it should be. In particular we seek to discourage the use of imprecise analogies with the Nazi regime. One must acknowledge that there are significant historical differences between rag-tag groups of BDS protesters outside Max Brenner outlets in Australia and a campaign backed by the Nazi state and enforced by state-sanctioned Nazi thugs who picketed shops owned by Jews in Germany in the 1930’s.  Yet Nazis commenced their campaign as purportedly private action before there was government sanction for it.

In another context which has nothing to do with the BDS issue cartoons were recently published in a syndicated newspaper depicting Greens leader Bob Brown as a book-burning Nazi, complete with swastika arm-band, Gestapo cap and SA (Sturmabteilung) uniform. Prime Minister Julia Gillard was similarly portrayed. Even allowing for the usual latitude accorded to political cartoonists, nothing can justify comment of this nature. Political leaders are fair game for all kinds of criticism, but this exceeds the bounds of fairness and diminishes the uniquely evil character of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust.

Some BDS supporters have also been guilty of making inappropriate comparisons with the Nazi era. It is not uncommon to see placards at their demonstrations which depict the Israeli flag with a swastika at its centre in place of the Star of David or contain other images which, as referred to in the Working Definition of Antisemitism, draw comparisons between Israel and the Nazis. Clearly, BDS leaders and supporters are in no moral position to accuse others of lacking rhetorical virtue.

Rejecting inappropriate comparisons between the BDS campaign and Nazi Germany does not require us to accept the claim that the BDS protesters are merely opposed to Israeli government policies and actions with regard to the Palestinians, but are not in any way animated by anti-Jewish prejudice.  The BDS protests do not have to rise to the level of seriousness of the Nazi era in order, on occasion, to qualify as antisemitic.

Further, the BDS campaign is calculated to orchestrate public hatred, an ugly and unworthy tactic regardless of the alleged target.  The fact is that an unusually high percentage of Australian Jews are survivors of the Holocaust.  Nobody should callously dismiss the reaction of Australian Jews to the sight of Jewish-owned shops once more being picketed by chanting, aggressive demonstrators many of whose faces are contorted in hate, as can be seen on YouTube and other recordings of BDS events.   Even though the parallels to Nazi Germany are an historical over-statement, those who have suggested that that reaction is contrived should be ashamed of themselves.  The reaction is entirely genuine and understandable.

Nevertheless, the ECAJ is asking all of our political representatives who count themselves as supporters of Israel and opponents of BDS, and the media, to refrain from the inappropriate use of analogies to the Nazis, and to provide moral leadership to others to exercise restraint in their rhetoric. This is the right thing to do even if it is a vain hope that supporters of BDS will exercise a reciprocal responsibility to eliminate express or implicit antisemitism from their rhetoric.

3 comments ↪
  • monst0r

    The Palestinian national movement has deep Nazi roots. It is simply true, no matter how loud you spout your puerile, racist rhetoric.

  • Christo

    Antony's recent writings have ticked every single one of those examples of what constitutes anti-Semitism according to the European Agency for Fundamental Rights.

  • Ray Bergmann

    The tribunal of the 17th magistrate’s court of the Paris law courts, which specialises in matters regarding press rights, defamation of public figures and freedom of expression, has given a most important and clear ruling on the right of citizens and consumers to call for a boycott of Israel and its products.
    The judges acquitted Olivia Zémor on 8 July. She had been accused of discrimination against the Israeli nation, and incitation to racial hatred by the government and four associations of the Israeli lobby in France. They stressed that :
    “Since the call for a boycott of Israeli products is formulated by a citizen for political motives and it is part of a political debate relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – a debate concerned with a matter of general interest with international significance, the offence of provocation to discrimination, based on the fact of belonging to a Nation, is not constituted.”
    When the ruling was given on 8 July, the judge explained that the article of law cited by the plaintiffs (article 24, paragraph 8, Law of 1881) is designed to “fight any form of racism” and cannot be cited in order to forbid a call for boycott “suggesting a certain form of conscientious objection, which each of us is free to express or not to express” and “ launched by non-governmental organisations without prerogative powers”.
    Relying on the decisions of the Court of Cassation and of the European Court of Human Rights, the tribunal pointed out that :
    “Criticism of a State or its policies cannot be regarded, in principle, as infringing the rights or dignity of its nationals, without seriously affecting freedom of expression in a world now globalized, whose civil society has become a major actor, and since no ‘criminal offence against a Foreign State’ has ever been established under substantive law or international common law, because this would be contrary to the commonly accepted standards of freedom to express opinions”.
    Using the examples developed by the defence lawyers, Mr Antoine Comte, Mr Dominique Cochain and Mr Henri Choukroun, the tribunal added that “the other calls from certain sectors of civil society for the boycott of such and such products coming from a country or a company are numerous, without having ever been incriminated as misuses of freedom of expression”.
    Here the judge lists a great many previous and recent calls for the boycott of products, tourism in certain countries, Olympic games in others, among which the boycott of the Year of Mexico in France in 2011 and the boycott of Burmese products by Carrefour.
    He also insists on the fact that we can never be accused, of “provocation to discrimination, violence or hatred against a group of people because they belong to the Israeli nation, since certain sectors of Israeli opinion support the BDS call”. (He explicitly refers to the declaration of the Israeli Women’s Coalition for Peace, Israelis who ask international artists not to come and perform I Israel, and to the support given by many personalities from Desmond Tutu to French ministers, parliamentarians or intellectuals, whom we cannot suspect of any form of racism.)