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 comedy, intentional and otherwise

1) An aid worker friend of mine, who regularly enters Gaza via Israel’s Eretz Crossing, was sent a questionnaire, a “satisfaction survey” from Israel, asking about its work:

A satisfaction survey has been created to help refine the role and services provided for our clientele. This survey will assess the types of services provided and the level of support you received from our office personnel. Our ultimate goal is to provide you with professional, courteous, and efficient service. Once the survey is completed, the data will be compiled and reviewed by our staff. The survey is anonymous, so feel free to add any comment or suggestions.

There was a link to the following online questionnaire. Parody is dead and buried when occupiers are asking visitors how well they’re doing.

2) Arguing for a one-state solution and challenging Israeli racism usually brings some comical defences of Zionism. Here’s two examples (the first is by Australia’s “leading” Zionist lobby, AIJAC and the second is by CIF Watch about my recent After Zionism event in East Jerusalem). Note how in both cases there’s a pathological desire to demonise Arab and Palestinian ambitions and a willingness to maintain racist, Jewish domination because that’s what is supposedly required to protect Jews. Tragically, supporting occupation is now a popular Zionist trait.

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“After Zionism” reviewed in Al Akhbar English

The following review by Rebecca Whiting appears in Al Akhbar English:

Book Review: After Zionism Edited by Antony Loewenstein and Ahmed Moor, 2012 Saqi Books

Last September, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas bid for Palestine to receive full member-state status at the United Nations, based on the pre-1967 borders. After enraged reactions from Israel and the US, the UN member states voted against it. Now, Abbas is preparing to make a down-graded request for Palestine to be a non-member observer state, a move that if accepted would grant the PA leadership participation in General Assembly debates and improve their international standing and sway. Debates are raging as to what these political constructs and terms would mean on the ground for the Palestinian people.

After Zionism is a collection of essays by academics, activists and journalists analyzing the present day Israeli state and the ongoing daily suffering of the Palestinian people. The book’s main aim is to encourage debate surrounding the one-state solution to the conflict engulfing historic Palestine, demanding an outcome in which all Israelis and all Palestinians would live as equal citizens.

The authors by no means share a single vision on the issue; their essays range from advocating a one-state democracy as an inevitability to others explaining why this possibility, which would render Israel no longer a Jewish majority state, would never be allowed to come to pass. The scope of the subjects and views addressed in the collection allows for meaningful analyses of the current landscape, how it was reached, and what the possible future outcomes might be.

The introduction, written by the two editors Antony Loewenstein and Ahmed Moor, argues that talk of a two-state solution has now been empty for some years. In their view, the voracious colonial expansion on both sides of the Green Line as well as deep divisions among Palestinian factions serve to endorse this position.

The first few essays divulge in detail the narrative expounded by the Israeli state since its inception and its denial of the Nakba. The authors explore the mechanisms by which the Israeli state so effectively erased the collective memory of the ethnic cleansing that was an essential element of its birth.

In the thread of explaining the background to the present day situation, the next essays dissect the Oslo Agreements negotiations. The negotiations were designed to ensure that the Israeli state could control the demographic, consolidate its hold over Palestinian land and lives, and maintain its international diplomatic standing. It was a “peace-process” according to a Zionist agenda and the protracted talks allowed for continued Israeli settlement expansion with political impunity.

By this stage in the book, one feels quite overwhelmed by Israel’s seemingly unstoppable hegemony, the strength of the establishment machine in effecting the Israeli state’s refusal to recognize Palestinian rights, and at how impossible to confront the status quo is. At this point comes the first essay that characterizes the power wielded by the Palestinians, citing their unique ability to garner support and solidarity. The crescendo is sadly short-lived as the essayist, Saree Makdisi, goes on to call for a battle in the field of symbolism and imagination that is hard to feel compelled by.

Several of the essays are optimistic in their conviction that this era is a time of great change in global thinking. From the internet allowing more access to truth and reality, uncensored by propagandists to the uprisings across the Arab world amid demands for democracy, they feel certain that they global community is becoming increasingly aware and simultaneously less tolerant of human rights abuses.

In a discussion of the evolving environment, several of the essays argue that as more American Jews feel they have to choose between their liberal humanitarian views and supporting the state of Israel, the Israel lobby with its powerful hold on American policy will gradually lose its sway. Most interestingly, the realization is made that the Zionist movement has in fact sabotaged itself. With its ravenous expansion of colonial control and its wars of aggression it can no longer maintain its mask of democracy and its appeal to the Diaspora Jews and is hence becoming increasingly isolated in the international arena. More than one writer, however, tempers the optimism by remembering that amid this change in sentiment, no change has yet been noticeable in America’s policies.

It is not until one of the last essays in the book, a dissection of the legal possibilities and ramifications of a one-state solution, that it is mentioned that Palestinians living in the 1967-occupied territories can be expected to oppose a unitary state, not wanting to co-exist with their long-time oppressors. Then, in the essay, ‘How Feasible is the One-State Solution?’, Ghada Karmi notes that in a 2009 poll, only 20 percent of Gaza and West Bank Palestinians favored a bi-national solution. These are the first acknowledgements that for all the theorizing, the wishes of the people whose lives are under debate must be considered.

Israeli academic and activist Jeff Halper makes the crucial point that it is absolutely essential for the Palestinian people to have representative political leadership backed by civil society movements and organizations, as “Non-Palestinian civic players, numerous, articulate and active though they may be, can neither represent the Palestinians nor take an independent leadership role. It is the Palestinians themselves who must provide the leadership and direction.” These factors call into question the value of an international academic debate on the subject, though, as repeatedly recognized by the writers, Israeli policies will never change without external pressure being exerted.

Nearing the end of the book, the reader might well feel frustrated by the seemingly insurmountable obstacles to real change being implemented. At this point a bold strategy is suggested: “voluntary annexation of the Occupied Territories to Israel, thus transforming the struggle against occupation into one for equal civil rights within an expanded Israeli state.” The challenges and outcomes of such a move are discussed here in one of the most interesting parts of the book.

In an anti-climatic finale, the last essay propounds that the early, pre-formation of the state of Israel Zionist ideology was not inherently statist or colonial and explores the Israeli psyche of victimhood and staunch “ethnic-exclusivist nationalist ethos,” and argues that change will never come about without a dramatic shift in the national ethos. Although interesting and valid points are made, the reader is again left sensing unconquerable obstructions barricading the way towards positive change.

 

Throughout the compendium, calls and suggestions for action are somewhat thin on the ground. The Boycott, Division, and Sanctions movement is widely supported by the authors, though their views differ as to the strength of its efficacy. The power of the book lies instead in its approach to this debate that through becoming more widespread can lead to action on both civil and legislative levels.

Variations in style and address from the eloquently academic analyses to the recounting of personal experiences give the book an accessibility and human aspect. The validity of the subjects covered is enforced by the political pragmatism intertwined with the reality and emotive accent of personal experience, giving the reader an arsenal of information, analyses and theories.

The collection of different approaches could leave the reader bewildered as to which line is the most plausible, most realistic, most just. And in this we find an accurate reflection of the moral and legal contradictions entangled in the situation. There is, however, one point on the authors unanimously agree: the fight now cannot be for power or for territory – it must be a fight for human rights.

 

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On Americans being keen to embrace torture and nuking “terrorists”

Welcome to the post 9/11 world in America. Stanford University’s Amy Zegart explains the details of a very disturbing public survey:

A quarter of all Americans are willing to use nuclear weapons to kill terrorists. No joke. This was among many surprising findings in a new national poll that YouGov recently ran for me on hot-button intelligence issues. (The poll, conducted between Aug. 24 and 30, 2012, surveyed 1,000 people and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points).

To be honest, I threw in the nuclear bomb question on a lark, not expecting to find much. Boy, was I wrong. Aside from learning that 25 percent of Americans would stop the next terrorist plot with a several-hundred-kiloton atomic bomb, the poll numbers suggest that Americans have become more hawkish on counterterrorism policy since Barack Obama became president.

Consider this: In an October 2007 Rasmussen poll, 27 percent of Americans surveyed said the United States should torture prisoners captured in the fight against terrorism, while 53 percent said it should not. In my YouGov poll, 41 percent said they would be willing to use torture — a gain of 14 points — while 34 percent would not, a decline of 19 points.

Sure, the devil is in the details. Poll responses are highly susceptible to question wording. So I had the pollsters ask some of the exact same questions in the exact same way that appeared in a January 2005USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, the most detailed pre-Obama poll on interrogation techniques that I could find. It turns out that Americans don’t just like the general idea of torture more now. They like specific torture techniques more too.

Respondents in 2012 are more pro-waterboarding, pro-threatening prisoners with dogs, pro-religious humiliation, and pro-forcing-prisoners-to-remain-naked-and-chained-in-uncomfortable-positions-in-cold-rooms. In 2005, 18 percent said they believed the naked chaining approach was OK, while 79 percent thought it was wrong. In 2012, 30 percent of Americans thought this technique was right, an increase of 12 points, while just 51 percent thought it was wrong, a drop of 28 points. In 2005, only 16 percent approved of waterboarding suspected terrorists, while an overwhelming majority (82 percent) thought it was wrong to strap people on boards and force their heads underwater to simulate drowning. Now, 25 percent of Americans believe in waterboarding terrorists, and only 55 percent think it’s wrong. The only specific interrogation technique that is less popular now than in 2005, strangely enough, is prolonged sleep deprivation.

Support for assassinating terrorists has also grown, though not as much as for torturing them. In part this is because assassinations have always been quite popular. In that same 2005 poll, 65 percent were willing to assassinate known terrorists. Today, 69 percent are. Perhaps more interestingly, the percentage of Americans who say they are unwilling to assassinate known terrorists has declined dramatically, from 33 percent in 2005 to just 12 percent today. The public’s enthusiasm for assassinations extends to foreign leaders who harbor them. In both the 2005 and 2012 polls, more than a third of respondents (37 percent and 36 percent, respectively) were willing to kill foreign leaders who “harbor terrorists,” even though it’s not at all clear what “harboring terrorists” really means (is it harboring when a government is too weak or inept to combat terrorists inside its borders?). Keep in mind that there is also this little detail called the law, which has banned assassinating heads of state since 1976, when Congress discovered the CIA had been secretly concocting plans to kill Fidel Castro and other Third World leaders using poison, hit men, and even exploding seashells.

 

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Haiti is disaster capitalism ground zero

My following investigation appears in New Matilda:

When Antony Loewenstein visited Haiti earlier this month he found a country still struggling to recover from 2010’s devastating earthquake – and foreign NGOs doing little to empower ordinary Haitians

The earthquake shook Haiti’s National Palace to its core. The moment tremors hit on 12 January 2010, the iconic building swayed and partially collapsed. Video footage shows the chaos and destruction of a structure that symbolised both the centre of Haitian political life and its dysfunctional relationship with Washington.

When I visited the site earlier this month, it was the day actor Sean Penn’s NGO J/P Haitian Relief Organisation removed the dome section of the palace during a lightning storm. Penn has become one of the most high profile Americans working in Haiti and is now the country’s ambassador, going around the world supporting the presidency of Michel Martelly in its efforts to rebuild the country.

The New York Times positively reported on the demolishing of the palace by Penn’s group, barely acknowledging the deep unease that many Haitians feel that an American-run organisation is once again running the show in their nation. Sovereignty is outsourced.

travelled around Haiti to investigate the role of the American government, NGOs, foreign corporations and the Haitian authorities in keeping the country deliberately on its knees, dependent on outside forces, economically weak and politically insecure.

Armed UN forces still patrol the streets around Port au Prince though there’s little evidence that the security situation requires it. “Haiti is controlled by foreign powers”, long-time activist and former politician Patrick Elie told me.

After seeing Papua New Guinea, Pakistan and Afghanistan this year, Haiti defines the toxic reality of disaster capitalism. It’s an ideology that operates largely out of the public eye and with stunning efficiency. The political and media elites sell it as “development”, a helping hand for poor nations that just happens to enrich multinationals.

What I saw in Haiti I also witnessed in the other places: the uncanny ability of NGOs to exaggerate a situation to ensure a never-ending flow of donor aid and weak, local politicians who are still adjusting to a quasi-democratic reality after decades of US-backed dictatorship.

The influence of Washington remains deep, evidenced by a strange press conference in March where President Martelly produced eight passports that he claimed proved he was a Haitian and not American citizen (leaders must only be the former). The then American ambassador, Kenneth H Merten, confirmed in Creole that this was true. A local journalist told me that this was despite the fact that some of the passports were fake and evidence remained that Martelly was still an American citizen.

A culture of US-backed complicity hangs in the air. It’s surreal driving past the home of former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier in the hills overlooking Port au Prince knowing that there’s little international pressure to prosecute him for years of brutality and human rights abuses during his 1971 to 1986 rule. He returned to Haiti in 2011 after years of exile in France and lives in carefree luxury. Duvalier, unlike many African despots targeted by The Hague, remains a friend of the West and is therefore untouchable.

A key mantra of the Martelly government is the phrase “Haiti is open for business“. When Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe appeared in Washington with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in July, American “leadership” was praised as essential to the country’s future. Clinton’s “love” for the Haitian people was mentioned. “The US is doing a lot of good things in Haiti”, Lamothe told the press conference. Haiti has just celebrated 150 years of independence from America but the relationship today has mostly changed in rhetoric not reality.

Lamothe acknowledged that, “Haiti’s government in the past have made a lot of bad decisions as well about governance that created a situation where Haiti depends on international assistance for just about everything”.

Today the situation is different, he says. “The northern industrial park is a development model we want to replicate and that we want to support.”

The Prime Minister refers to a massive US-led initiative in the town of Caracol near the country’s second largest city, Cap-Haitian. With unemployment hovering around 50 per cent, Lamothe said that “over 100,000 to 200,000 people will benefit from that park.”

After a nearly nine hour drive through the country on crumbling roads through spectacular mountains and tiny, hill villages, I arrive in Caracol to find a modern structure with only one working factory. It’s run by the South Korean company Sae-A, accused of serious labor rights violations in Guatemala and underpaying staff. Hundreds of workers come streaming out after a long day at work and a few say that they’re upset to be only receiving US$4 per day, half of which is spent on travel expenses and food. The Haitian minimum wage is US$5.

The New York Times published an investigation into the park in July that accused Bill Clinton’s organisation, the Clinton Foundation, the Haitian government and American authorities of ignoring the countless warnings about the sustainability of the industrial park but going ahead anyway. Anything to show “progress” in the country.

The Clinton Foundation’s record is already compromised, accused of sending to Haiti the same kind of toxic trailers used in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina that were found to have worrying levels of formaldehyde. I met virtually nobody in Haiti with a kind word to say about Clinton himself, a man seen as enriching his friends and himself at the expense of developing projects that bring true independence to Haitian business.

I walked around the industrial park, after being told by a senior Haitian manager, Alix Innocent, that all locals in the area support the project and any environmental issues have been sorted. He told me that the Inter-American National Development Bank is currently working out a master plan to manage any environmental problems. This is happening after the project is nearing completion.

The vast majority of factories are currently empty shells, soon to be production houses for clothes destined to sell at The Gap and other foreign clothing outlets. I briefly glimpsed the sole operating factory before being asked to leave by a security guard. It didn’t look like the cramped sweatshop I was expecting.

Instead, union organiser and human rights activist Yannick Etienne told me this is a new form of slavery. Haitians have been told they must embrace a “new form of imperialism” that pays poorly, isn’t sustainable and ignores worker’s rights.

Anthropologist Timothy Schwartz, a man with vast experience both inside and outside the aid sector, understands the dependency that is forced on Haiti, principally by the US government and USAID. Many of the USAID people he knows — including some very close to Hillary Clinton in the State Department, he told me — only know one model for a place like Haiti: foreign, corporate investment.

Caracol is just the latest example of this. Even though it hasn’t worked in the country for decades, the same policies are simply repeated because the USAID people on the ground only stay for a few years and then they’re moved to another place. “The plant at Caracol was decided by Washington, the Haitian government had nothing to do with it”, Schwartz says.

Schwartz is also a ferocious critic of the NGO industry in Haiti — he alleges the UN and many NGOs continue to inflate numbers of dead and homeless since the earthquake in order to continue receiving international support — and demands a far more accountable system is put in place.

It’s hard to disagree after visiting the centre of Port au Prince, the epi-centre of the earthquake’s fury. Half demolished buildings sat precariously above workers selling used shoes, and fruit. Water runs through the streets. Rubbish and the smell of faeces fills the air.

At a massive refugee camp in the city, Sou Piste, I spoke to many Haitians who have been languishing in squalor since the earthquake and only given flimsy tents by USAID. They’ve seen no help from the government or international bodies. They asked me where all the billions of pledged aid has gone. A small amphitheatre, originally designed to host sporting events, is now where people relieve themselves. The odour was pungent with children running around barefoot. Men play make-shift checkers and sit and stand around while women carry young infants.

The site, and countless others around the country, is a damning indictment of the UN, NGOs and international governments. Rubble from the earthquake still sits in many parts of Port au Prince despite Sean Penn’s group and others beginning the task of removing it. I was refused access to the refugee camp that Penn runs in the capital.

It’s yet another example of the feeling of powerlessness conveyed by many Haitians, a sense that they don’t control their own country, that outside forces, some of whom may mean well, are doing little to empower locals to make Haiti truly independent again.

After all, this country was the first in history to fight a slave rebellion and win.

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An apology and explanation: when the tongue goes before the head on Israel/Palestine

During the recent world tour for my new book, After Zionism, I appeared with my co-editor Ahmed Moor at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Here’s a report of the evening from the Palestine Chronicle.

During the Q and A, a Jewish man, Jonathan Hoffman, co-Vice  Chair of the Zionist Federation and alleged ally of the far-right English Defence League, asked me how many people had to die to create one-state in Palestine and Israel. Initially, the chair of the event Frank Barat dismissed the question as being from a known Zionist provocateur but Hoffman insisted I answer. Eventually I said in frustration: “Six million. That’s my answer. Write that down”.

It was a stupid comment, ill-advised and said without proper thought. I unreservedly apologise. A number of friends and colleagues have written to me expressing concern about it and they’re right. I should never have said it as it goes completely against my beliefs. I do not advocate violence against civilians. My co-editor Moor rightly said after me that nobody had to die to create the one-state solution but people’s minds and actions had to change.

For many Zionists, advocating a one-state solution is akin to pushing the Jews into the sea. Nothing could be further from the truth. The current situation on the ground in Israel and Palestine is a Jewish state using its power and privilege to discriminate against Muslims, Christians and others. It is neither democratic nor just. One of the key points that I’ve been arguing for many years about the Middle East (including in this recent piece in The Guardian) is that the discussion isn’t between one or two states but between ongoing apartheid and every citizen in Israel and Palestine being treated equally. In my view, and the position of increasing numbers of people globally, the one-state equation is the only way to achieve this and that’s why we’re advocating for it.

Of course, none of this excuses my out of line, frustrated and offensive outburst.

Here’s to a healthy and respectful debate moving forward and finding democratic means to bring peace and justice to all Israelis and Palestinians.

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Assange to UN: “It is time for the US to cease its persecution of WikiLeaks”

More on the compelling Julian Assange speech to the UN here.

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“After Zionism” discussion at Washington DC’s Palestine Centre

The following event took place to a packed room on 13 September with my co-editor on After Zionism, Ahmed Moor, the head of the Palestine Centre, Yousef Munayyar and me:

Transcript is here.

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As two-state “solution” dies a necessary death, one-state in Palestine gains serious traction

My following article appears in The Guardian today:

The Palestinian finance minister recently warned that the two-state solution would be in crisis unless the Palestinian Authority (PA) immediately received more funds.

“The two state solution is in jeopardy if the PA is not able to continue to function,” Nabeel Kassis said.

But Kassis was talking about an imaginary state, one largely funded by international donors. The World Bank announced last week that “sustainable economic growth” was impossible while Israel continued tocontrol vast swathes of the West Bank.

Large protests against the PA by Palestinians indicates growing unrest over rising prices and the failure to realise any tangible political moves towards independence. This is why growing numbers of Palestinians under occupation are talking about adopting the one-state solution and pressuring their leaders to follow.

“The idea of one state is about … breaking apart the system of privilege that exists and being able to live as an equal,” says Diana Buttu, a former legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team and contributor to a book I have just co-edited, After Zionism.

During a recent visit, I heard many Palestinians say that the two-state solution was barely discussed seriously in Palestinian circles, but that the PA, currently too reliant on western support not to continue the fiction of state-building, as yet persists in believing in its inevitability. The status quo is beginning to crumble, though, with senior PA officials now talking about abandoning the two-state idea and pushing for a one-state equation. Hamas concurs. This will only grow.

The real issue in the Israel/Palestine conflict is barely mentioned in this American election cycle; the obsession with Iran has seen to that. Yet, it is increasingly addressed in public debates, opinion pieces and among both the Jewish and Arab communities that it is time to end the two-state industry. Nearly 20 years after the Oslo process, there are now up to 700,000 Jewish colonists living illegally in the West Bank. A just partition of the land, with a Palestinian right of return, is impossible. It is for this reason, among others, that a one-state solution is gaining traction, even within conservative circles.

Liberal Jews in the United States, firm believers in justice and human rights, are especially conflicted. The controversy surrounding writer Peter Beinart’s recent book, The Crisis of Zionism, encapsulated their growing unease with blindly supporting the Jewish state, the occupation and a two-state solution – all once an article of faith. As Yousef Munayyer, a Palestinian American, recently wrote, to blogger Jerome Slater:

“If the two-state outcome is exposed for fantasy, and Palestinians en masse demand civil rights, it is hard to see a sustained, western objection.”

And among the “non-objection” camp would be many American Jews. Demographically, the two US groups most committed to maintaining the occupation are Christian evangelicals and Orthodox Jews. If a significant number of American Jews start peeling away from the US pro-Israel lobby, breaking with the tradition of pressuring the US Congress to back every Israeli policy, the Jewish state would potentially face economic crisis.

The challenges are profound – not least unwinding two decades of Oslo propaganda that dictates the two-state solution as the sole answer – but there are growing calls to imagine what a democratic, secular state in the Middle East might look like.

The effect of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movements in the USEurope and around the world, combined with a rise in Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, which is animated against both Palestinians and Africans, the logic of a democratic, one-state solution seems more desirable and less utopian by the day. A plan for its implementation – a state promising justice for all of its citizens: Jews, Muslims, Christians or atheists – is already being mapped out.

The US political establishment largely backs the perpetuation of the two-state charade – witness former State Department official Aaron David Miller writing a few months ago that this outcome is the “only game in town” – but the unpredictability of today’s Arab world means that alternative ideas have a chance to gain traction. Israel’s ability to control events on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza is shifting, not least due to Egypt’s new-found assertiveness.

There has never been serious international pressure to implement a two-state solution; instead, Israeli settlement has been indulged. But moving the one-state idea from the fringes to the mainstream obliges defenders of the current situation to explain their reasoning behind endorsing a so-called solution that entrenches discrimination against Arabs. Now is the time to break open the debate.

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Wait, they teach Israeli children to hate Arabs?

Here’s a revealing short film, shot at an Israeli army museum, that features a range of kids including one who says, “I picture a dead Arab and that makes me happy”:

More here on the film-maker.

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“After Zionism” discussion in New York brings thoughts on Gaza, Obama, Jews, Arabs and other related issues

Last week’s New York event for After Zionism with Mondoweiss founder Phil Weiss and me brings this interesting post about the discussion on Mondoweiss:

Last Tuesday Antony Loewenstein, the Australian co-editor of the new collection, After Zionism, and I, one of the contributors, gave a talk at the Brecht Forum in NY. It’s below.  Loewenstein, on a book tour that is taking him from Palestine to Los Angeles, starts it out, on the one-state reality of Israel and Palestine, and the absurdity of the two-state discourse; and how we are going to get to a just resolution of the matter. Some of the other highlights: We talk about the possibility of a handshake on the White House lawn in the second Obama administration– the creation of a Palestinian state– and what such a deal would entail for Palestinians. I talk some about the American Jewish politics of the matter (and tell the story I do in this post) and speak of the optimism inherent in the book’s title. And in Saree Makdisi’s statement in his essay about Palestinian power. “[W]hat do you call the ability, without any other inducement than an appeal to the imagination, to move hundreds and hundreds of millions of people around the entire world, who have over and over again, for six decades, steadfastly demonstrated their support and solidarity with the Palestinian people and their cause? What do you call that capacity, that potential?” Later on in the dialogue, Loewenstein and I differ about whether putting the star of David on rubbish bins in Gaza is anti-Semitic. I say it is (and the same sensitivity westerners are called on to exhibit in distinguishing between the pronouncements of Islamic states and Islam should be demonstrated by Middle Easterners in not conflating Judaism and the Jewish state); though the crowd is against me. Jane Adas, who went to Gaza with me, engages me on that point late in the video. 

Video is here.

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Living under drones; the reality of US weapons in Pakistan

A new report documents the reality of what “precision” drone attacks mean for Pakistani civilians:

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Another day and more shilling for Israeli electric car company Better Place

Here’s a classic example of how not to write business journalism stories. Pick a company, in this case Israeli firm Better Place, ignore any human rights questions that hang over the organisation (allegations of war crimes and complicity in the West Bank occupation, read here), and provide a glowing profile of the organisation’s head. Easy as that. Thank you Damon Kitney in Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian, you succeed brilliantly at tone-deaf writing:

Shai Agassi will never forget the moment. It was November 2007, only weeks after the launch of his electric car company, Better Place.

Agassi was on a trip with his chairman, Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer, when he posed a tough hypothetical question.

“I said to him, ‘(General Electric boss) Jeff Immelt comes to you tomorrow and puts a blank page in front of you and says: `Put a number on it’ (a price to buy the business).

”What would you do?’ And he looks at me with anger and says, ‘We just started this company, and you are already selling it! We are not selling this company!’ And he ended with this: ‘If this company gets to be any less than a $100 billion valuation, you are a failure’! ” Agassi tells The Weekend Australian in a wide-ranging interview.

“And I said: ‘You gave me the right answer. I didn’t want to hear you say you would sell it for a profit.’ He said the right thing.

“We believe this one has got the makings of getting to be the biggest company ever.”

Agassi has always aimed big.

A proud Israeli, with an Iraqi father and Moroccan mother, the software whiz has been called part-scientist, part-visionary and part-salesman.

At age 36 he was named one of the top 20 “Global Influentials for 2003″ by CNN-Time magazine. By 2007 he was president of global software giant SAP’s product and technology group and viewed as a successor to chief executive Henning Kagermann.

But in March that year, after missing out on the top job, he shocked corporate America by resigning to set up Better Place.

Two years later, he still made Time magazine’s 100 most influential people list and was dubbed “an environmental hero”.

Arguably he didn’t need to work after he and father Reuven had sold two software companies they co-founded to SAP for a cool $US410 million earlier in the decade. He had to wait less than a year for his first big break at Better Place, the Silicon Valley company created to lease car batteries to electric car customers and run a network of charge points and battery change stations to help foster the growth of cars that could potentially change the world.

Charge spots are strategically located in homes, offices and carparks and the swap stations are be modelled on petrol stations.

In January 2008, the Israeli government signed a joint venture with Better Place to develop a network in Israel, allowing Agassi to raise $US200m.

A year later, he raised another $US135m to roll out a network in Denmark, and during the next two years Better Place raised an additional $US550m, including a $US200m equity raising late last year for projects in western Europe that valued the company at $US2.25bn.

Its backers include Morgan Stanley, Lazard Asset Management and HSBC.

It is now targeting Australia, with a network in Canberra. Melbourne is next.

Last year, Better Place announced a strategic partnership with Renault Australia to bring the world’s first switchable battery car, the Fluence Z.E. (Z.E. stands for zero emissions) to Australia.

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