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.

Random taste of mainstream Israeli racism

Here’s Israel Interior Minister Eli Yishai talking at a conference in April about the role of foreign workers and how the Jewish state should handle them (ie. with contempt and racism):


Problem alert; New York Times “journalist” shared pre-publication article with CIA

Unless there is some stunningly effective explanation, which is highly unlikely, this story (via Politico) is almost the perfect example of the ever-deepening collusion and over-sharing between mainstream reporters and the intelligence services. This isn’t journalism:

Newly available CIA records obtained by Judicial Watch, the conservative watchdog group, reveal that New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti forwarded an advance copy of a Maureen Dowd column to a CIA spokesperson — a practice that is widely frowned upon within the industry.

Mazzetti’s correspondence with CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf, on Aug. 5, 2011, pertained to the Kathryn Bigelow-Mark Boal film “Zero Dark Thirty,” about the killing of Osama bin Laden, and a Times op-ed column by Dowd set to be published two days later that criticized the White House for having “outsourced the job of manning up the president’s image to Hollywood.”

According to Judicial Watch, Mazzetti sent Harf an advance copy of Dowd’s column, and wrote: “this didn’t come from me… and please delete after you read.  See, nothing to worry about!”

POLITICO has just reached out to the Times for comment, as it was unable to do so prior to Judicial Watch’s decision to lift the embargo on the files. (See update).

Judicial Watch obtained the files through a formal Freedom of Information Act request. The full email can be viewed here.

UPDATE (12:41 p.m.): New York Times Managing Editor Dean Baquet called POLITICO to explain the situation, but provided little clarity, saying he could not go into detail on the issue because it was an intelligence matter.

“I know the circumstances, and if you knew everything that’s going on, you’d know it’s much ado about nothing,” Baquet said. “I can’t go into in detail. But I’m confident after talking to Mark that it’s much ado about nothing.”

“The optics aren’t what they look like,” he went on. “I’ve talked to Mark, I know the cirucmstance, and given what I know, it’s much ado about nothing.”

Baquet would not provide further details, which means his statements amount to a plea to readers to take it on faith that Mazzetti’s leak was ethically sound.

(h/t Byron Tau)

UPDATE (4:15 p.m.): Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy emails to explain that Mazzetti made a mistake:

“Last August, Maureen Dowd asked Mark Mazzetti to help check a fact for her column. In the course of doing so, he sent the entire column to a CIA spokeswoman shortly before her deadline. He did this without the knowledge of Ms. Dowd. This action was a mistake that is not consistent with New York Times standards.”

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Don’t believe that Sri Lanka has become more democratic

Read here for an incredibly brave human rights worker, Ruki Fernando, explaining the reasons why Sri Lanka remains mired in despotism:

This is how our society used to behave and think during the war. There were hardly any concern in the south about the Tamil victims when horrendous things were happening, because people simply wanted to believe the version put forward by the government. That made things easier for the government to not only to suppress the people in the north-east, but even to suppress any dissent in the south. In a society, when no one cares about the plight of others, everyone becomes vulnerable and everyone’s rights will be at risk. Three years after the war, many in the south are not willing even to consider that abducting Tamils and torturing them in detention or making them disappear as colossal crimes and that exposes the level of degeneration of our ethical values and standards. Our insensitivity to such atrocities and our willingness to turn a blind eye to such crimes reflect the erosion of our moral sensibility.

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“After Zionism” co-editor talks more about open space for Middle East debate in Europe

Ahmed Moor writes for Mondoweiss:

Antony Loewenstein wrote about a discussion he participated in in Tel Aviv around our jointly edited anthology, After Zionism.

We were lucky enough to have an opportunity to speak about a one state future with Ghada Karmi and Dimi Reider in London recently. The Frontline Club – a journalistic hub – provided us with the venue while Tim Llewellyn (a former BBC journalist with expertise in the Middle East) moderated the discussion. 

In reality, the one-state solution is only an idea now – but the one-apartheid-state was our point of departure. Recognition of the fact that we’ve moved well beyond anything called “two states for two peoples” was the basis for our discussion.

The conversation was lively – but it could have been livelier. In other words, the four of us had few disagreements. Part of this had to do with the panel make-up, but I think it was also because we were speaking in London. The Palestine/Israel discussion in the UK (and Europe more broadly) has long been more open than that in the US. Facts are harder to argue against there.

Video of the event here.

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“Beyond Good Intentions”; new film examines disaster capitalism in Haiti

More here.

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US arms the world but Iran is the threat?

The evidence is clear; Washington fuels more conflicts globally than Tehran could ever hope to do:

Weapons sales by the United States tripled in 2011 to a record high, driven by major arms sales to Persian Gulf allies concerned about Iran’s regional ambitions, according to a new study for Congress.

Overseas weapons sales by the United States totaled $66.3 billion last year, or more than three-quarters of the global arms market, valued at $85.3 billion in 2011. Russia was a distant second, with $4.8 billion in deals.

The American weapons sales total was an “extraordinary increase” over the $21.4 billion in deals for 2010, the study found, and was the largest single-year sales total in the history of United States arms exports. The previous high was in fiscal year 2009, when American weapons sales overseas totaled nearly $31 billion.

A worldwide economic decline had suppressed arms sales over recent years. But increasing tensions with Iran drove a set of Persian Gulf nations — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman — to purchase American weapons at record levels.

These Gulf states do not share a border with Iran, and their arms purchases focused on expensive warplanes and complex missile defense systems.


Australian audiences wake to see and hear Israeli violence against Palestinian children

Strong story by Ruth Pollard in today’s Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age.


Fear radical, pro-Islamist Obama

So says a new, massively popular documentary currently in the US, 2016: Obama’s America:

Once again, fundamentalist Zionism is masked behind a supposed fear of Muslims.


Just another day of Israeli enforced apartheid in West Bank town of Nabi Saleh


Breivik both sane and deeply connected to now mainstream Islamophobic discourse

Last year I wrote a chapter on the far right and Israel in an ebook, On Utoya, on the massacre in Norway committed by Andres Breivik.

With the verdict now in, one of the book’s co-editors, Tad Tietze, has written a piece in the Guardian that provides the necessary political context:

There are many reasons to welcome the verdict in the trial of Anders Behring Breivik: that he is sane and legally responsible for the murder of 77 people – mostly members of the Norwegian Labour party – on 22 July last year.

The guilty verdict recognises the monstrosity of Breivik’s acts, carried out in pursuit of his political beliefs. It also delivers the outcome wanted by the majority of Norwegians, in particular because it means he will spend no fewer than 21 years – and most likely life – in jail. Justice has been done to the fullest extent possible under Norwegian law.

To understand the full import of the outcome, however, one needs to look to the wider realms of politics and society. The trial was dominated by the question of Breivik’s sanity for more than just procedural reasons.

Once it was realised a white, middle-class Norwegian man was the culprit and that he’d left a sickening but coherent 1,500-page manifesto for all to read, the race was on for some on the right to depoliticise Breivik’s acts. The problem was that his politics were not just similar to their own, but often drawn directly from their statements, cut and pasted into his tract. In many cases the only difference was that he took their language of a war of civilisations to its logical conclusion in violence.

It wasn’t just harder rightwingers such as Melanie PhillipsMark Steyn and Pamela Geller who tried to deny the connection, but many more moderate writers and politicians. This should not be surprising, as Breivik’s opposition to Muslims, multiculturalism and a “cultural Marxist” fifth column was never far from the surface in the mainstream discourse of the war on terror. Norway, for all its famed tolerance, continues to be an active part of the Nato occupation of Afghanistan.

The main form this depoliticisation took was the medicalisation of Breivik’s actions in terms of psychological or psychiatric pathology. Within days, everyone from forensic psychiatrists to the London mayor, Boris Johnson, felt the need to put Breivik in a diagnostic box. Occasionally, even reportage of his personal history and psychology went to ludicrous extremes to seek his motives in anything but what he actually said. This reached its pinnacle with the first court-ordered psychiatric report, which found him to be suffering from “paranoid schizophrenia” on the basis of clumsy and inappropriate interpretation of ideas and behaviours common in far-right and online gaming subcultures.


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On tour: imagining “After Zionism” in Israel and Palestine

My following essay appears on the American website Mondoweiss today:

The drive from East Jerusalem to Tel Aviv takes around one hour. It’s a stinking hot day and I’ve come from Ramallah in mid-August 2012. Despite flying into Ben Gurion airport in the morning I am stopped and initially refused entry by the Israeli border guard police when trying to come back into Israel. I’m on a private Palestinian bus, taken at the Qalandiya checkpoint, and asked to get off to explain who I am.

I don’t have any Israeli stamp in my passport because I requested at the airport for the officials to stamp a separate piece of paper to avoid troubles when travelling around the Muslim world. A customs official took that paper as I exited and I’m told by activists that this is an increasingly utilised tactic that only affects people who want to travel back and forth between Israel and the occupied territories.

Even when I arrive at the airport I am held and questioned for more than one and a half hours and asked why I have recently visited places such as Pakistan and Afghanistan and “how many Muslims did you speak to there?”

Of course, none of this harassment comes close to what Palestinians and minorities face on a daily basis in Israel proper and Palestine.

I am in Israel and Palestine for an independently organised tour of my new book, After Zionism (co-edited with Ahmed Moor). It’s a collection of new essays on today’s reality and examines the ways in which a one-state solution could be implemented. It features chapters by John Mearsheimer, Sara Roy, Jeff Halper, Omar Barghouti, Diana Buttu, Joseph Dana, Jonathan Cook, Phil Weiss and many others.

The owner of East Jerusalem’s Educational Bookshop, Mahmoud, drives me to Tel Aviv. He tells me that the Israeli establishment is increasingly keen to censor views they don’t like. He recalls stories of having books briefly impounded at Ben Gurion airport, and some stolen, that feature examination of Hamas, Hizbollah and the armed Palestinian struggle. He laughs that sometimes the books are taken simply because there’s photo on the cover that features a gun. Mahmoud fears that outright censorship of books in English, currently an unknown factor, is likely in the coming years considering the amount of anti-democratic legislation in the Knesset.

The event in Tel Aviv has been complex to plan. The message of the book should clearly be heard by Israeli Jews – the destruction wrought by Zionism, the failures of the Israeli Left to bring justice for occupied Palestinians and the growing and blatant racism within Israeli society – but Ahmed and I wanted to make sure any event complied with BDS conditions.

Associating with any Israeli government organisation or one supported in any way by the Zionist state is frowned upon and I didn’t have any desire in discussing our book that backs BDS with an event that ignores its key points. This would be hypocrisy on a grand scale.

I emailed Palestinian Omar Barghouti to ask his thoughts. He said he wouldn’t personally appear in Tel Aviv and didn’t see the point anymore in engaging liberal Zionists but he suggested one venue, run by the feminist group and BDS national committee partner Coalition of Women for Peace, in the heart of Tel Aviv. It’s an organisation that has fought a long-running battle against Israel’s more draconian policies and paid a price for doing so. 

The event attracts a full house and features +972’s Noam Sheizaf and political activists Hadel Badarni and Yael Ben Yefet. It’s a humid evening with an engaged crowd.

I begin by explaining the rationale behind the project, a desire to move away from the tired and redundant arguments about one-state or two and instead provide concrete examples of why true justice for Palestinians and Israelis can only come through one state. More essentially, I argue that Zionism itself is the issue. It can’t be reformed, re-defined or re-imagined. From its beginning, it was about subjugation of the Arab, a desire to colonise as much land as possible in the name of Jewish liberation.

From that perspective, the ideology has been remarkably successful at achieving complete domination of the land and today’s reality, something I see during my visit with hours waiting at checkpoints and clogged roads waiting for teenage IDF soldiers to let us pass, is now irreversible. The occupation is integral to Israeli society and resisted by very few. I tell the audience in Tel Aviv that it’s now our responsibility to both acknowledge the crimes in 1948, 1967 and beyond and imagine an inclusive future for both Israelis and Palestinians. What that state or entity will look like is the challenge. In my own personal view, it must equally include Palestinian and Israeli (not Zionist or exclusionist) culture and history.

Sheizaf says that his political journey has brought him to confusion today. A supporter of Oslo, then the two-state solution and finally the one-state and now uncertainty. He recalls a recent survey of Israeli public opinion that finds a majority of Jews happy with the status-quo. That’s my sense of the vast bulk of the Jewish Diaspora. Some are undoubtedly pained by the ongoing occupation but do little apart from mouthing platitudes against it. No sanctions. No boycotts. No divestment. A plea for both sides to return to the negotiating table. Just empty words.

Sheizaf talks about the website 972’s attempt to broaden the conversation about questions ignored in the Israeli mainstream but there are lines (and laws) that will not be crossed. It is often a liberal Zionist site, not that this stops Sheizaf calling Israeli behaviour “apartheid” – and they clearly struggle ideologically and even legally to openly discuss some of the more controversial issues of the day, including boycotts, a one-state equation and de-Zionising Israel.

The conversation with all the speakers – the Israeli women articulate well the challenges in getting past the ingrained Israeli fears towards Arabs, Palestinians, Iranians and non-Jews and Badarni especially acknowledges the struggles within Israel to imagine a country that treats all citizens equally – is indicative of that rare thing in Israel today; deconstructing Zionism from the Left and wondering what could replace it.

The Q & A session is spirited. Many of the questions express despair at mainstream Israeli opinions and the disconnect between what’s happening down the road in Palestine and the desire for many Israeli Jews to simply not care. It’s less known that most Israelis continue serving in the IDF reserves until 45 years of age, often in the occupied territories, so a continual connection to the conflict is there every year.

One older woman says she’s been arguing for years that the Israeli Left has fundamentally refused to tackle the underlying issues here, namely that believing in a two-state solution paradigm has perpetuated the strife. Nobody with any power has ever had any serious desire to implement it. Up to 700,000 illegal Jewish colonists in the West Bank make that clear.

A number of audience members question the viability of the one-state solution, wondering how Israeli Jews will be convinced to give up their privilege. I respond that they won’t – white South Africans didn’t voluntarily end apartheid because they suddenly loved blacks – but increasing isolation and condemnation may well reveal to more of the world that a fundamentalist Jewish state is what the country’s leaders and many in the public have always wanted. Deciding between Jewish and democratic is easy; the former was the goal from day one.

It’s a fascinating evening, not least because I’m told such discussions are so rarely held here. The Palestinian issue has largely been pushed out of public discussion, a deliberate ploy by the government and Right, with the supposed threat of Iran dominating the media (a point I explained on BBC Persian TV recently). It could be argued that many in the settler movement are far more engaged in a future reality for themselves than the Israeli mainstream and Left. “Feckless” is the way a good friend describes the Israeli Left’s unwillingness or inability to challenge the pro-colonist reality in the last decades since the Oslo peace accord. Some anti-occupation protest here. Involvement in the Palestinian non-violence movement there. But virtually no differences on the ground itself.

The following evening After Zionism is discussed in East Jerusalem with independent journalist Joseph Dana and Palestinian Diana Buttu at the New Educational Bookshop. Before the event begins, famed nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu arrives, we make eye contact and he sits on his own in the back of a packed room. The audience is mostly Palestinians and foreigners. A few Israelis, too.

Dana argues that discussing one or two states ignores the broader questions, namely recognising the core of the problem, Zionism. “Israel long ago decided whether it wanted to be Jewish or democratic, it can’t be both.” It chose the former. Dana explains that spending any time in the occupied territories makes it very clear what Israel has had in mind since the beginning; colonisation, occupation and repression. Every Israeli leader has wanted the same thing and achieved its goal with perfection. The international community is neutered or complicit, including the EU.

Some of their diplomats are in the audience, including a senior one from Holland, who tells me afterward that the issue of Zionism never enters discussions with Israeli officials though the EU is trying its best to provide assistance to the Palestinians. I say that the EU is far too often happy to economically boost the Jewish state, including the recent news to upgrade Israel’s special trading status.

Buttu explains how the Oslo period has entrenched the rot inside the Palestinian Authority and allowed a Western and Israeli backed entity to manage the occupation for the Zionist nation. She offers no particular solution to this issue but states that the challenge for Palestinians especially is to create and imagine a different political reality where dignity and self-determination are central. She implies that neither Hamas or the PA will ever be able to prove this. The need for an independent Palestinian political movement, with mass appeal, is surely desperately needed. Buttu continued her arguments on a recent Al Jazeera English program filmed in Ramallah.

During the Q & A, a number of people questioned the viability of a one-state solution and Israel and the West ever allowing it to happen. The obstacles, detailed in After Zionism, are undeniably great, but the first step is once and for all excising the two-state equation as either feasible or just. It’s then the responsibility of all major players, both inside and outside of the region, to forge a future that brings peace with justice through a political framework.

Vanunu asks one of the last questions. “Tell me”, he says, “where is this conflict going?” Tough question. We all argue that that until there’s acknowledgement that the status-quo isn’t working, we’ll be stuck in the same tired formulations. A solution won’t come through a sound-bite or a return to “negotiations” with two unequal sides. Dana is perhaps the most pessimistic about the future, believing that any serious talk about one-state today is pointless when this falls into the trap of a paradigm that is tired and favours the more powerful entity, Israel. Besides, he continues, we haven’t even admitted what’s been happening since 1948, ethnic cleansing by force and stealth. With Israel’s huge natural gas reserves, its economic stability will need to be challenged in a variety of creative ways.

I disagree with some of Dana’s points, as surely it’s important to imagine a different, more just outcome. After Zionism offers some practical examples.

Speaking personally, I believe that until there is less ignorance in the West about Israeli behaviour – how often do we continue to hear talk about “democratic” Israel and its striving for peace in the region? – the responsibility of writers and other engaged parties is to remind the world that the Oslo rules were broken from day one and benefitted the occupier. If the idea of being an “intellectual” means anything substantial, it’s about not accepting the frame given by a state and its proud adherents and offering an alternative vision.

Speaking to The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) founder, Jeff Halper, during my stay confirms this paralysis. He, like so many other people I see, realise that there are increasingly limited spaces for any interaction between Israelis and Palestinians, as the anti-normalisation movement deepens.


A few days after the East Jerusalem event, I watch with Dana the wonderful new documentary, Under African Skies, about Paul Simon and his controversial visit to apartheid South Africa in the 1980s to record Graceland. It’s mainly about the glorious music but the issue of Simon breaking the cultural boycott of the country is canvassed. It’s relevant today, in the context of Israel, where Simon played last year, because the film reveals Simon to naively believe that music and art can overcome oppression and boycotting South Africa was not something Simon, without consulting the ANC, who strongly backed BDS, had any intention of following.

I find the film moving on a number of levels; being in Palestine and Israel and talking about the ways in which today’s deadlock can be shifted. BDS is one way of pressuring Israel and it’s already having a major psychological effect (with minimal economic pain, thus far). The black South African musicians were desperate to be heard internationally, despite the cultural boycott technically blocking locals playing outside the country. Their position was understandable, if still contentious. But Simon, who speaks the language of reconciliation, admits to arriving in South African with no real understanding of apartheid. He soon becomes an unlikely critic of the regime but willfully ignores the demands of the cultural boycott movement because he believes he’s more important than the wishes of an oppressed people’s leadership who were calling to completely isolate a repressive state.

Similar arguments are made today by musicians and artists who want to come to Israel. Talking will help. Understanding can only come when both sides get together. But this fundamentally ignores the inherent power disparity in the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. Intellectual independence is vital in any political struggle but individuals don’t have the right to oppose a liberation movement with clear political goals if they believe that collective action is the only way to bring down oppression.

Simon’s recent visit to Israel shows he understands nothing more today than in years past, completely oblivious to the solidarity required. Any cultural association with the Israeli government (Artists Against Apartheid explain) must not happen because Palestinian civil society has demanded it. Groups under occupation are in a far better position to dictate these rules than (sometimes) well-meaning people in the Diaspora. However, it would be wrong to say that there aren’t Palestinians who challenge BDS dictates, including at the movie theatre in the West Bank town of Jenin.


The final event for After Zionism is in Ramallah at the Quaker’s Friends Meeting House with Omar Barghouti and Joseph Dana. Being the last night of Ramadan, the space was still quickly filled with a smattering of Palestinians, Western aid workers and writers. Barghouti explains how the challenge for a democratic future is to decolonise Israel both ideologically and practically. There needs to be a just way to compensate all citizens, Jews, Palestinians or others, who have been expelled since 1948. He says that a distinction between public and private land and property would be taken into account in one, democratic state. Barghouti’s chapter in After Zionism outlines how this could happen.

His key point is that colonial privileges currently enjoyed by Jewish colonists in the West Bank must stop immediately, like at the end of apartheid South Africa. I like his line that Jews living in Brooklyn can’t behave in a brutal way towards Arabs as they do if they move to the occupied territories. Barghouti sounds an optimistic tone by arguing a combination of the Arab Spring, BDS and a multi-polar world is making it easier to imagine the end of Zionist exclusion. It will be increasingly hard to maintain a ghettoised Jewish state in the heart of a democratic region.

I’m encouraged to hear Barghouti say that in the last 12-18 months, BDS is suddenly taking off across the world. He says he can’t keep up with the number of university campuses wanting to initiate programs against Israel firms and campaigns to convince Western musicians and artists not to play Israel. I’m told that Israeli music promoters are paying 2-3 times the normal rate to convince foreigners to come because the political price for doing so is growing.

Cultural isolation for Israelis is far from complete but it’s undeniably on the rise. For example, the fact that Madonna recently felt the need to try and bring peace activists from both sides during her show – Israeli liberal Zionists came while anti-occupation activists refused – shows the campaign is starting to bite.

During the Q and A – many in the audience were Westerners working for Western NGOs in Palestine – there was a palpable frustration with the role of these organisations in perpetuating the conflict rather than solving it. “Are we helping manage the occupation for Israel?”, one Australian asks. Some Palestinians, while liking the idea of a one-state solution, wonder how it will be achieved with such a powerful Zionist state next door. Dana says that now is not the time to be talking about the composition of a future state but rather we should better understand today’s reality and act accordingly. I say that Western audiences are yet to be seriously exposed to the idea of a anything other than the two-state equation and a “peace process” so if not now, when? Similar discussions occur during book events in London, including at the Frontline Club and SOAS.

Palestine is a contradiction. Dana and I hang out at a public pool in Ramallah. It’s full of parents with their children swimming in the cool water. There’s a pool bar serving beer on tap. Palestinian women are sitting in skimpy bikinis. This is not the image of Palestine that we’re used to seeing. Ramallah is a relatively liberal and Christian-dominated city and it’s unlikely many other places in the West Bank, and certainly not Gaza, would allow such behaviour, but despite growing conservatism, liberal life goes on. It’s yet another example of the Ramallah bubble.


Yes, I’m a politician and would enjoy being romanced in Israel on the lobby’s tab

There’s so little transparency about the reality of Zionist lobby sponsored trips to Israel that any sunlight is appreciated (here’s a start). This is an issue I’ve been investigating for years, including in my first book, My Israel Question (soon to be released in an updated edition in Arabic and Indonesian).

Politico adds yet more meat to the bones of American politicians whoring themselves at the lobby altar:

A late night in Israel that had members of Congress diving into the Sea of Galilee — one naked, others partially clothed — began with confusion about who would cover the bar tab for House Republicans, spouses and aides.

And it ended back in the United States, where the FBI questioned staff on the trip about the dinner, exactly who jumped into the water and whether anything inappropriate had happened as Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) removed his clothes, according to sources with direct knowledge of agents’ line of questioning.

The trip has gotten national attention since a POLITICO story unveiled the FBI’s involvement, Yoder’s nudity and Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) rebuke of lawmakers who had lost “focus” of the trip.

But more details are emerging from sources close to the events, painting a fuller picture of the American Israel Education Foundation’s trip that ended up become an embarrassing incident for House Republicans and the party’s leadership. AIEF is the nonprofit arm of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, long considered one of the most powerful advocacy groups in Washington. AIEF has sponsored hundreds of trips to Israel for lawmakers, aides and journalists since 2000, spending more than $7 millions on those trips, public records show.

The night — Aug. 18, 2011 — was the group’s first free evening the whole trip. Previous evenings included dinners with policy experts, Israeli politicians and the U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Accompanying the GOP group for part of the trip was Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino mogul who has donated nearly $100 million to Republican candidates this election cycle. Adelson took them to Yad V’Shem, a famed Israeli Holocaust museum, for which he is a major donor, sources said. Adelson did not travel with the group to Galilee, participants said. An Adelson-affiliated charity donated $1.2 million to AIEF in 2006, but he is not currently a donor to the group, sources said.

The stop in Tiberias, an ancient city on the Sea of Galilee, was a time for the 40-plus GOP lawmakers and staff to relax and blow off steam. A festive dinner at Decks, a waterside eatery, began around 9 p.m., sources on the trip said. After a few hours, dinner was over, and the Republicans repaired to the bar.

After several hours of drinking, Rob Bassin, AIPAC’s national political director, paid the tab for the entire evening, which included several hundred dollars for drinks, in addition to the earlier meal. The GOP group racked up a tab of $340 to $500 on booze, ranging from vodka to wine, sources familiar with the trip said.

Steve Stombres, Cantor’s chief of staff, objected, concerned about ethics rules that prohibited the organization from paying for anything more than dinner. Stombres’s concern was so sharp that he spent the next few days collecting money from lawmakers to pay back AIEF.

Neither Bassin nor Stombres would comment for the record.

House ethics rules allow “reasonable expenses” for food and lodging but do not cover “entertainment or recreational activities,” such as late-night drinks.

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