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.

First they came for the Tweeters

There are growing signs of collusion between the Zionist lobby, fundamentalists who want the government to tell us what to hear and see and politicians such as Joe Lieberman who never saw a war against Muslims they didn’t like.

Now this. It must be resisted:

Twitter has been threatened with legal action by an Israeli pressure group in an attempt to force it to close accounts run by Hezbollah and other organisations classed as terrorist by the United States.

Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Centre, demanded in a letter to the microblogging service that it block access to Hezbollah, the East African al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab and other outlawed “Foreign Terrorist Organisations”.

“Please be advised that providing social media and other associated services to terrorist groups is illegal and will expose Twitter, Inc. and its officers to both criminal prosecution and civil liability to American citizens and others victimized by terrorisms carried out by Hezbollah, al-Shabaab or other FTOs,” Shurat HaDin’s letter said.

The lawsuit would target accounts such as @Almanarnews, which is run by a Hezbollah television station in Lebanon.
It adds to pressure on Twitter in the United States over tweeting by militant organisations. Joe Lieberman, chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, called on the firm this week to shut down accounts that support the Taliban.

Twitter reportedly rebuffed his call on grounds that the Taliban is not officially designated as Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the State Department. The firm has previously signalled its commitment to free speech by arguing that “the tweets must flow” and only shutting down accounts following a violation of its terms of service, such as impersonating someone else or harrassing other users.

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Keep those Ayrabs away from Australia, they look funny

The level of “conservative” debate in Murdoch’s Australian yesterday, in a piece by Hal G.P. Colebatch. I’m sure he’s seen heaps of Muslims on the TV and knows many of them intimately:

Middle Eastern migrants, except in exceptional circumstances, appear to be making little attempt to assimilate and are bringing in polygamy, honour killings and general religious intolerance.

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When far Right hearts Zionism, sensible folk run (yet so many Jews are smiling)

There’s nothing like hating Muslims to get the juices flowing of the nationalist Right and some Zionist organisations. Islam is the enemy and must be obliterated (that’s their view, not mine).

It’s an issue covered in the book On Utoya in which I contributed this year and deserves far more scrutiny. This kind of alliance should concern us all (especially since fascism rises in Israel itself). Not long after the Holocaust, the idea that some Jews feel comfortable working alongside white supremacists in the fight against Muslims is a devastating critique of the disastrous effects of Zionism. Al Jazeera reports:

Right-wing movements previously associated with anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi ideologies are increasingly opting for a surprising tactic to garner legitimacy within mainstream politics: Forging alliances with extremist Jewish organisations under the banner of fighting “Islamisation”.

“Far-right parties are professing a new found love of Israel as a way of escaping their past anti-Semitism and racism, and to justify their prejudice towards European Muslims as not being racist,” Toby Archer, a researcher who studies far-right parties and the “counter-jihad blogosphere”, explained to Al Jazeera. “Parties like the British National Party (BNP) in the UK, Vlaams Belang in Belgium, and the National Front in France are all coming out from a neo-fascist past.”

These parties have stopped using anti-Semitic rhetoric, Archer said, which had prevented them from attracting support. It is important to distinguish between the traditional far-right, who are historically anti-Semitic, and the populist new-right, who have emerged in the last two decades and partake in an anti-Muslim discourse, he said.

The English Defence League (EDL) closely linked to the BNP, is a right-wing anti-Islamic extremist group based in the UK. The EDL has gained notoriety for its aggression against British Muslims and its links with neo-Nazi groups. Last year, it moved to garner support within the Jewish community by officially opening a Jewish Division open to “represent the Jews who are fighting against Islamisation,” according to a statement.

Tommy Robinson, a spokesperson for the EDL, said one of the group’s fundamental beliefs was that as a “shining star of democracy”, Israel has the right to defend itself. 

Signs of lingering anti-Semitism within the UK’s far-right have not stopped the Jewish Defence League (JDL), a group the US Federal Bureau of Investigation considers a “violent extremist organisation”, from eagerly accepting a partnership with the EDL.

In January 2011, JDL Canada organised a rally in support of the EDLMeir Weinstein, national director of the JDL in Canada, defended its stance, saying the EDL is “taking issue with radical Islam” and supports Israel. Shortly after the rally, mainstream Jewish organisations in Canada publicly distanced themselves from the EDL.

James Clark, an activist with Stop the War Coalition in Canada, has faced the JDL at several rallies. He believes that Jewish groups are shifting towards far-right nationalists, rather than the other way around.

“The JDL has tried to move their politics to the right,” he told Al Jazeera. “They are quite a fringe organisation, but made a bit more respectable by more mainstream Zionist organisations that give them a platform; organisations who support them, but don’t feel safe saying the same thing in public.”

He added that the JDL is obsessed with Muslims and the Muslim community, and preys on the irrational fear that Canada might soon be run by Sharia Law.

The JDL also purports to have significant influence over the Canadian government, who Clark describes as “far and above the US government as Israel’s best friend”.

In Europe, the JDL appears to be expanding. They have recently opened a UK branch (French, German, Swedish, Danish and Austrian chapters are already in existence) and an all-encompassing European umbrella organisation. The JDL Europe’s membership is reported to be around 3,000, with more than 5,000 supporters.

Steven Weigang, founder and chief executive officer of the JDL Europe and the German branch, said the group is “necessary to prevent another holocaust. The anti-Semitism is growing in Europe and we can’t just stand on the side-lines.”

He reaffirmed that JDL Europe shares the views of JDL Canada and its relationship with the EDL, without addressing the EDL’s links to the BNP.

Right-wing groups are gravitating towards the JDL, rather than the other way around, but more in terms of policy towards Israel rather than sharing the same ideology, Weigang said.

“I think the Right in Europe is moving towards sharing our politics”, he said. “The Europeans feel that what is [happening] in Israel [is] on the agenda… I am not sure if they share the same visions as we do. They maybe say it, but they don’t mean it.”

Samuel Ghiles Meilhac, a historian who specialises in the French Jewish community, told Al Jazeera that there has been a distinct shift in the community from its previous alignment with the left towards the right.

While representatives of mainstream Jewish organisations are not associated with right-wing parties like the National Front at the moment, Meilhac thinks this could change. In recent years, the National Front has been pandering to Jewish voters by focusing on a “common enemy: the Islamisation of Europe”.

“Most people who are part of the Jewish mainstream in France remember the 1970s and 1980s when the National Front were making jokes about what happened in World War II,” Meilhac said. “But the question is: If the extreme right doesn’t make references to the Jews now, will there still be people in the Jewish mainstream powerful enough to reject them?”

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Syria may be convulsing but foreign intervention must be avoided

The situation in Syria continues to descend into a civil war-like situation, according to people on the ground.

This interesting report, by BBC journalist Paul Wood, offers a disturbing insight into the Assad regime’s desperation and confusion since the beginning of the revolution:

Qutaiba, a 22-year-old engineering student, had never been arrested before Syrian security forces detained him at a checkpoint in a suburb of Damascus and dragged him to a military base. At the time, he didn’t know if he would survive: activists like him were disappearing, sometimes turning up later as mutilated corpses. But he did survive, and what he went through would later lead him to me.

When Qutaiba arrived at the military base, at first he was left to stand outside, hooded, hands cuffed behind his back. It seemed as if everyone walking past gave him a kick, a punch, or a blow from a rifle butt. After maybe 15 minutes, he was taken to see the officer in charge, a colonel. The hood was removed, though not the handcuffs. 

The colonel, looking the prisoner up and down, asked, “Who hit this guy?”

“It was Abdullah,” one of the guards answered. 

The colonel shouted for Abdullah, who quickly arrived. 

“You motherfucker,” the colonel spat at the soldier. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a hundred times: No one. Should touch. Any. Citizen.” 

On the word “citizen” the colonel’s hand flew out and smacked Qutaiba on the side of the head. The blow sent him crashing to the ground, looking at their boots. The officer had struck him “with the flat of his hand, but it was a strong one,” he later remembered. The colonel remained silent. The guards and Abdullah laughed uproariously.

Then he was taken away to be beaten and tortured over a period of weeks. It was not sophisticated or inventive. Electric shocks while he lay on the floor in a pool of water. Endless kicks and punches that would leave his guards exhausted at the end of each flurry. For the first five days, they didn’t even ask any questions. That came later, the initial pummelling just to soften him up. 

Always, he tried to remain standing. “When you are on the ground, they will hit you more,” he said. “They were doing Debke on my body,” he told me, naming the Arabic folk dance that means literally “stamping of the feet.” He laughed at that, and good-naturedly, and as he remembered each taunt from the guards. “This is for Facebook.” Smack. “This is for Twitter.” Punch. “This is for CNN, for the BBC, for Al Jazeera.” A drumming of feet. “Look, we’ve caught the leader of the Syrian revolution.”

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Shocking Nakba testimony by former Israeli Palmach fighter

The cool, calm exterior of how Jews ethnically cleansed Palestinians to form the state of Israel:

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Naomi Klein @ #Occupy: “This generation grew up being told there is no alternative to capitalism”

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Israel lobby AIPAC shows just how much we should fear Iran, Muslims and Arabs

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Become a reporter and insider (if you think that’s your role)

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, one of America’s finest commentators and reporters, on what journalism has mostly become today; individuals who love power and want to be close to it. Not all of us sell that lie:

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Memo to blind Zionists; never-ending occupation is having a PR problem

Interesting piece in Salon that will be familiar to many of us but the key theme is that debate in the US over Israel/Palestine is shifting and the Israeli Foreign Ministry can’t dictate as much as before:

Criticism of the special relationship, once rare, is now frequent. Newsweek/Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan  has become a regularsource of attacks on the unqualified U.S. support for Israeli policy. Time magazine’s Joe Klein has been similarly outspoken. “If you don’t think that the Israel Lobby has an enormous influence on the Congress, you’re deluding yourself,” he wrote recently.

Peter Beinart, also of Newsweek/Daily Beast, inspired headlines with hiscritique of the “Failure of the American Jewish Establishment.” He has a forthcoming book sure to get a lot of attention called “The Crisis of Zionism.” Former New York Observer writer Philip Weiss has created a one-stop shop for critics of Israel and U.S. policy. And, of course, Salon’s own Glenn Greenwaldregularly questions the bipartisan consensus on Israel.

As one would expect, these developments are causing a great deal of consternation from those determined that views favorable to the Palestinians never get a hearing. In 2006, the American Jewish Committee released itsinfamous report accusing these new critics of Israel of being simply anti-Semitic. Last year, Lee Smith of Tablet magazine made the odd charge that publications like the Atlantic and Salon encourage Jew-hating writers in the hopes of increasing page views. Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol has lamented that charging Israel’s critics with “anti-Semitism” doesn’t effectively silence them any longer. And this week Iran-Contra convict Elliott Abrams criticized Friedman and Klein because they exemplify the mainstreaming of Walt and Mearsheimer’s ideas.

But it isn’t only pundits and academics. Diplomats and the people who would be on the center-right of American politics (if such a thing still existed) have been vocal about their alienation from U.S. discussion of Israel. Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution, an advisor to three presidents on Middle East and South Asian issues, told me in an email that “Fear of angering extreme evangelicals and the old lobby still inhibit real debate about Israel in American politics.”

Paul Pillar, former CIA bigwig, has become a stark critic of Israel for the National Interest. He has defended the comparison of Israel’s occupation policies with apartheid South Africa, and says that he agrees with all of Walt and Mearsheimer’s analysis, including the most incendiary charge — that the Israel lobby was instrumental in pushing the U.S. to invade Iraq.

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Rejecting intimidation, justice for Palestine must progress in 2012

Leading Israeli historian Ilan Pappe offers some thoughts for the coming year:

If we had a wish list for 2012 as Palestinians and friends of Palestine, one of the top items ought to be our hope that we can translate the dramatic shift in recent years in world public opinion into political action against Israeli policies on the ground.

We know why this has not yet materialized: the political, intellectual and cultural elites of the West cower whenever they even contemplate acting according to their own consciences as well as the wishes of their societies.

This last year was particularly illuminating for me in that respect. I encountered that timidity at every station in the many trips I took for the cause I believe in. And these personal experiences were accentuated by the more general examples of how governments and institutions caved in under intimidation from Israel and pro-Zionist Jewish organizations.

In recent years, I have learned firsthand how intimidation of this kind works. In November 2009 the mayor of Munich was scared to death by a Zionist lobby group and cancelled my lecture there. More recently, the Austrian foreign ministry withdrew its funding for an event in which I participated, and finally it was my own university, the University of Exeter, once a haven of security in my eyes, becoming frigid when a bunch of Zionist hooligans claimed I was a fabricator and a self-hating Jew.

Every year since I moved there, Zionist organizations in the UK and the US have asked the university to investigate my work and were brushed aside. This year a similar appeal was taken, momentarily one should say, seriously. One hopes this was just a temporary lapse; but you never know with an academic institution (bravery is not one of their hallmarks).

I do not wish to underestimate the task ahead of us. Only recently did we learn how much money is channeled to this machinery of intimidation whose sole purpose is to silence criticism on Israel. Last year, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs — leading pro-Israel lobby groups — allocated $6 million to be spent over three years to fight BDS campaigns and smear the Palestine solidarity movement. This is not the only such initiative under way.

But are these forces as powerful as they seem to be in the eyes of very respectable institutions such as universities, community centers, churches, media outlets and, of course, politicians?

What you learn is that once you cower, you become prey to continued and relentless bashing until you sing the Israeli national anthem. If once you do not cave in, you discover that as time goes by, the ability of Zionist lobbies of intimidation around the world to affect you gradually diminishes.

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Turboparalysis is our future so get with the program

Michael Lind says in Salon that this is our current state of affairs and it ain’t going anywhere:

If a neologism could capture the national and global politics of our time, in the way that “stagflation” captured the combination of stagnation and inflation in the economy of the 1970s, I would propose “turboparalysis” for the combination of vigorous and dramatic motion with the absence of steady movement in any particular direction.  At the level of the nation-state and the world as a whole, wheels are spinning furiously and engines are being gunned, to no effect.

Optimists are an endangered species, now that it appears that we are at best in the end of the beginning of a prolonged crisis of the world economy, not the beginning of the end.  Hopes that the global financial crash of 2008 would be followed by a deep recession and then a sharp recovery have faded.  Coordinated stimulus programs by major countries  in the early stages of the crisis probably helped to limit the damage, but they did not produce a recovery.  The alternatives — beggar-thy-neighbor trade policies and budgetary austerity — can only make things worse in the short run.

Nearly one in six Americans is now on food stamps, so American consumers are not going to lead the world out of recession any time soon.  The long agony of the eurozone may not produce the imminent apocalypse that many fear, but even if Europe muddles through it is unlikely to serve as an engine of global growth that could drag the world out of the ditch.  And the possible implosion of China’s own internal asset bubble could punch another hole in the foundering canoe of the world economy.

On the left the Occupy movement is also an antinomian movement of protest against entrenched and corrupt elites, not a traditional reform movement with achievable goals and a plausible plan.  If, as seems likely, there are years of economic stagnation and crisis ahead, then we may see a series of eruptions like the Tea Party and Occupy movements, most or all of which will briefly emerge, energize one or another party for an election cycle or two, and fade away.

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Jeremy Scahill on American foreign policy in an Obama/Romney/Gingrich future

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