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.

CIA criminality rewarded not punished

A classic case of America’s establishment protecting its own (via the Washington Post). It’s why the United State’s constant claims of “spreading democracy” around the world hasn’t even started at home:

As John Brennan moved into the CIA director’s office this month, another high-level transition was taking place down the hall.

A week earlier, a woman had been placed in charge of the CIA’s clandestine service for the first time in the agency’s history. She is a veteran officer with broad support inside the agency. But she also helped run the CIA’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and signed off on the 2005 decision to destroy videotapes of prisoners being subjected to treatment critics have called torture.

The woman, who remains undercover and cannot be named, was put in the top position on an acting basis when the previous chief retired last month. The question of whether to give her the job permanently poses an early quandary for Brennan, who is already struggling to distance the agency from the decade-old controversies.

Brennan endured a bruising confirmation battle in part over his own role as a senior CIA official when the agency began using water-boarding and other harsh interrogation methods. As director, he is faced with assembling the CIA’s response to a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee that documents ­abuses in the interrogation program and ­accuses the agency of misleading the White House and Congress over its effectiveness.

To help navigate the sensitive decision on the clandestine service chief, Brennan has taken the unusual step of assembling a group of three former CIA officials to evaluate the candidates. Brennan announced the move in a previously undisclosed notice sent to CIA employees last week, officials said.

“The director of the clandestine service has never been picked that way,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official.

The move has led to speculation that Brennan is seeking political cover for a decision made more difficult by the re-emergence of the interrogation controversy and the acting chief’s ties to that program.

She “is highly experienced, smart and capable,” and giving her the job permanently “would be a home run from a diversity standpoint,” the former senior U.S. intelligence official said. “But she was also heavily involved in the interrogation program at the beginning and for the first couple of years.”

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If I ruled the world

I was asked by Osman Faruqi, editor of the University of New South Wales student newspaper Tharunka, to write a column:

The role of the US hegemony is over. Washington no longer controls the world by charm and force. It’s a multipolar planet with countless centres of power. Wouldn’t this be something to celebrate?

In theory, yes. But then, all of a sudden, in a long session of the United Nations Security Council, an Australian from Sydney is appointed to the new position of head chief to manage an unruly earth. Unlike the Secretary General, this individual wields real power to bring change.

That person is me. After thanking my parents and atheist deities, I give the following speech:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your belief in me. It is an honor to assume this position and I pledge to use it responsibly.

At this time in world history, it’s vital to speak truths that many of you will find unpalatable. The vision for a better world is easy to convey. Who doesn’t want a cleaner and safer planet for our children? But getting there is the challenge and, from today onwards, the following policies will be implemented with your generous consent.

The last centuries have seen countless countries commit genocide and gross human rights abuses. Without serious reparations for the crimes committed, from Britain in the Congo in the late 1800s, America through slavery and Australia’s treatment of its indigenous population, we will continue living in the shadow of these outrages. Without proper compensation for today’s generations, it is impossible to properly progress as a community.

All too often, our leaders talk about human rights as an abstract notion, without realising their populations recognise the hypocrisy at the heart of the pledge. Sales of deadly weapons to the world’s most despotic regimes have never been higher and this will stop. Today. Israel, America, Europe and other leading arms manufacturers will have to find new ways of making money, while nations such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will no longer be able to repress their own people with guns assembled in the United States.

We have a responsibility as a connected world to not tolerate and enable injustice in one state while opposing it elsewhere. Applying international law and holding power to account, whether these officials or governments are sitting in Washington, London, Canberra, Tel Aviv, Kigali or Beijing, must be central in the 21st century. Accountability will be served if Syria’s Bashar al-Assad appears in the Hague alongside George W. Bush and Tony Blair.

A just planet also means a sustainable earth. Climate change is real and worsening. Renewable energy sources will be used in all nations as soon as is humanely position. This will, once and for all, reduce the reliance on dirty fossil fuels that are already causing severe health problems in China and extreme weather patterns in Australia, Antarctica, Africa and South America.

Closer to home, Australia’s two-party system is crumbling under its own internal contradictions. With minor differences between Labor and Liberal, and the Greens struggling to assume a larger political role, we should encourage smaller groups, such as the Wikileaks Party and Pirate Party, to oppose the growing surveillance state.

Tackling the world’s most serious issues requires a robust and diverse media. No one media owner will be allowed to own more than 50 per cent of newspapers, television, online or other sources. Tax breaks will be given to assist new ventures get heard above the often toxic and belligerent mainstream press.

I have only touched on some subjects that I believe must be addressed for the 21st century to avoid the human catastrophes that befall the 20th century. Undoubtedly, you will all have other ideas. My door is always open.

As an atheist Jew, I wish you all the best in your endeavours.”

Antony Loewenstein is a Sydney-based independent freelance journalist, author, documentarian, photographer and blogger. He is the author of My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution
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Daily brutality in Syria’s Aleppo

Remarkable footage by German filmmaker Marcel Mettelsiefen for Britain’s Channel 4:

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Noam Chomsky delivers 2013 Edward Said lecture in London

On 18th March, Chomsky spoke on, “Violence and Dignity – Reflections on the Middle East”:

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US-trained death squads in Iraq are our legacy

A remarkable documentary, by the Guardian and BBC Arabic, on the role of US-funded death squads in Iraq via torture skills honed in Latin America during the “dirty wars“. Powerful, explicit and brutal (though there are critics), such films are essential to challenge the spurious argument that the war was anything to do with freedom (as Australia’s former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer shamefully claims today) and all about installing a US-friendly puppet in Baghdad, whatever the cost. One of the key journalists on the story, the Guardian’s Maggie O’Kane, talks to Democracy Now! about the investigation and the complete lack of accountability by the US government.

Wikileaks documents were vital in leading this story:

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Two-state solution in Palestine dead, buried and cremated

Last year I co-edited a book with Ahmed Moor called After Zionism (re-issued this week with an updated introduction). It’s about the one-state solution and the reasons this outcome is the most just for both Israelis and Palestinians.

This piece in Salon discusses, after Barack Obama’s visit to Israel and Palestine last week, the illusion of the two-state equation and the growing voices for a more equitable future:

While the “one-state solution,” however conceived, remains a semi-forbidden zone in mainstream international policy discourse, it keeps cropping up all over the place on both the right and the left. Within a few weeks last summer, leading Israeli settler activist Dani Dayan published an Op-Ed in the New York Times urging the international community to give up “its vain attempts to attain the unattainable two-state solution,” while radical journalists Antony Loewenstein and Ahmed Moor published an anthology of writing by academics and activists entitled “After Zionism: One State for Israel and Palestine.”

Less than a month later came the English translation of eminent Israeli sociologist Yehouda Shenhav’s explosive essay, “Beyond the Two-State Solution,” which imagines a bi-national, bilingual federal democracy of Jews and Arabs that would encompass the entire territory of present-day Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. Shenhav, Dayan, Loewenstein, Moor and the leadership of Israel’s staunch enemies Hamas and Hezbollah might agree about nothing else, including which day follows Tuesday and whether the sky is blue. But they’d all agree that a negotiated two-state solution won’t work. Indeed, Israeli film director Dror Moreh, who made the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Gatekeepers” and falls somewhere toward the pragmatic center of Israeli politics, recently told me the same thing. He sounded rueful about holding that opinion and thinks it’s still worth trying but suspects it’s simply too late.

Obama’s Jerusalem speech was aimed squarely at people like Moreh, who still support a peace deal but are inclined to believe it’s impossible. In a larger sense, the president was also trying to provide a boost to the fading momentum of the two-state cause. He spoke directly to the Israeli people, rather than to a divided Knesset dominated by Netanyahu’s hard-line coalition, precisely because a “one-state solution” (or, more properly, an enhanced version of the current one-state reality) has become the de facto position of the Israeli government. It’s difficult to find much distance between Netanyahu’s actual policies and Dani Dayan’s argument that “no final-status solution is imminent” and therefore all parties should focus on “intense efforts to improve and maintain the current reality on the ground.” Netanyahu’s version of kicking the can down the road works like this: We occasionally pay lip service to the idea of a negotiated settlement, at some distant future date when the Palestinians have essentially capitulated to Israel’s demands in advance, while continuing to build settlements that carve the territory of any hypothetical Palestinian state into Swiss cheese.

Rolling Israel’s borders back to the status quo ante of 1967 seems like a bizarre and impractical project in the first place, and as Ahmed Moor puts it, “the unacknowledged truth is that Palestine/Israel is already one country.” Roughly one-fifth of the people living inside Israel’s current borders are Arabs, and the Jewish population of the West Bank will likely soon reach or exceed that level. Extricating the two entities from each other after all this time will be something like separating conjoined twins who’ve grown most of the way to adulthood.

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Radio Live in New Zealand on 10 year anniversary of Iraq war

The ten year anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq will leave the media agenda now. It should not. The country we invaded and occupied remains broken. I was interviewed this morning by New Zealand’s Radio Live about the conflict (starting at 19.52).

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Israeli Jews thank Obama for backing their apartheid state

The following protest took place outside the US embassy in Tel Aviv on March 22:

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How anti-Semitism became normalised in the British Muslim community

Mehdi Hasan writes in the New Statesman about an issue that receives far too little coverage:

Growing up, I always assumed that this obsession with “the Jews” was a hallmark of the “first-generation” immigrants from the subcontinent. In recent years, I’ve been depressed to discover that there are plenty of “second-generation” Muslim youths, born and bred in multiracial Britain, who have drunk the anti-Semitic Kool-Aid. I’m often attacked by them for working in the “Jewish owned media”.

The truth is that the virus of anti-Semitism has infected members of the British Muslim community, both young and old. No, the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict hasn’t helped matters. But this goes beyond the Middle East. How else to explain why British Pakistanis are so often the most ardent advocates of anti-Semitic conspiracies, even though there are so few Jews living in Pakistan?

It is sheer hypocrisy for Muslims to complain of Islamophobia in every nook and cranny of British public life, to denounce the newspapers for running Muslim-baiting headlines, and yet ignore the rampant anti-Semitism in our own backyard. We cannot credibly fight Islamophobia while making excuses for Judaeophobia.

To be honest, I’ve always been reluctant to write a column such as this. To accuse my fellow Muslims of being soft on the scourge of anti-Semitism isn’t easy; I feel as if I am “dobbing in” the community, telling tales to the non-Muslim teacher. Nor do I particularly want to assist the English Defence League in its relentless campaign to demonise all Muslims, everywhere, as extremists and bigots.

We aren’t. And we’re not all anti-Semites. But, as a community, we do have a “Jewish problem”. There is no point pretending otherwise. That Bradford’s Council for Mosques has been campaigning to save the city’s last remaining synagogue from closure doesn’t change the fact that thousands of British Muslims will have been nodding in agreement as they read Lord Ahmed’s comments about Jewish power and influence – or will have assumed that theTimes scoop is evidence in its own right of a “Zionist plot” against the peer. Oh, and I’m well aware that this column will also be held up by some of my fellow Muslims as “proof” that “Mehdi Hasan has sold out to the Jews”.

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Obama damns Israeli occupation but will do nothing to stop it

The expectations around Barack Obama in Israel and Palestine were low. This visit was all about showing love for Israel and Zionism with a touch of criticism if it wouldn’t upset his hosts. Noam Sheizaf at +972 correctly explains that pretty words aren’t useful in this conflict:

Measuring the value or effect of a speech on its own is futile. Words matter in a political context, power relations and the actions that they accompany. Just as nobody seriously thinks that a good speech can make health care reform pass in the House, Obama’s speech needs to be evaluated within the politics that surrounded his first term and his current visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories.

On the level of words and rhetoric, there was a mixture of “good” and “bad” in Obama’s speech. The worst parts, I think, were the reaffirmation of the Israeli perception, according to which Israeli governments continue seeking peace but have been answered by Arab refusal. When there is a comprehensive peace offer on the table from ALL Arab regimes – the so called Saudi Peace Initiative – which Israel has chosen to ignore for over a decade, such rhetoric on the part of the president only helps Israelis to continue avoid facing the truth. The president also backed the Israeli demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, something that Netanyahu introduced as a way to avoid meaningful talks. No previous Israeli government has put forward such a demand, but after Obama backed it, now everyone will. Bad move.

On the positive side, there were some very clear words about the occupation, and they were based not only on Israeli interests, but also on moral values and the Palestinian right to freedom. I want to post this part here, because these are important and truthful words:

 

“[The] Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized. Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day. It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.”

Still, without meaningful political actions, this was an empty effort. Everybody in Israel can be happy with the president’s speech: the Left heard all those niceties regarding peace, while the Right proved that the occupation has no cost, that the rift with the U.S. doesn’t exist and that denying the Palestinians their freedom is sustainable policy (examples herehere). At the end of the day, Netanyahu’s confrontational attitude has humbled the U.S. president and changed both his tactics and his goals on the Israeli/Palestinian issue. The prime minister payed a price for his politics, no doubt – seeing the president talking to Israelis over his head was surely unpleasant, and could further diminish his popularity – but Netanyahu was nevertheless able to maintain the status quo on the Palestinian issue, which is both something he believes in, and the key to his political survival.

More seriously, the real questions are completely ignored in the circus surrounding the Obama visit. This piece in the LA Times, by Ian S. Lustick, outlines some of the issues while still ignoring the ethnic cleansing that took place in 1948:

Zionism proposed a Jewish state in Palestine as a solution to the great crisis of European Jewry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Jewish state would protect a beleaguered people, end anti-Semitism and provide modern expression for Jewish nationalism. More than a century later, Israeli leaders, whether they believe in it or not, still invoke Zionism to justify their policies and to reject criticism. But the assumptions and beliefs that were an effective basis for policy a century ago are outlandish now.

Just consider: Theodor Herzl’s Zionism began with the assumption that the homelessness of the Jews was a vital problem for the international community, which would impose a Jewish state on resisting Arabs to solve it. Early Zionists imagined building a modern secular democracy, a rampart of Western civilization against a barbarian east sunk in backward religious ideas. Eventually, it was expected, the region would modernize, becoming like Israel, and accepting of and even grateful for its presence. It was assumed as well that in a Jewish state, Jews would be protected against threats to their existence.

The iron grip of this outmoded ideology is why Israel seems so out of step with the times.

Israel is not the vanguard of a Europeanized Middle East that embraces it gratefully. The world is fixated on an international problem of homelessness for a persecuted people — but not the Jews, the Palestinians. Israel is not secular, and it is not the only democracy in the region.

As the masses enter politics in the Muslim Middle East, the governments they are producing are not Israel’s allies.

Even the Iron Wall, the idea that at least medium-term security can be provided by establishing Israel in Arab eyes as an unwanted but permanent reality, collapses under the threat of missiles carrying weapons of mass destruction, and the Holocaust mania they engender.

Any ideology is a map of political terrain — locating dangers, roads ahead, obstacles and opportunities. Forced to use a Zionist map of the late 19th century to navigate the 21st, Israelis are confused, often to the point of fury and despair. Israelis need a new map; one that does not identify anti-Semitism as the root of the country’s problems; that is not wedded to the unilateralist “heroism” of land grabs in the 1930s and 1940s as a way to overcome moral uncertainties and international opprobrium; that does not fashion Palestinians as Nazis or the U.N. as the British Mandate.

The new map must also reflect the one fundamental objective of Zionism that has been achieved. Israel is a normal country, as prone to stupidity and brutality in the name of its old gods as any other. More ominously, it is as likely as any other small country to pay the terrible costs of not seeing the flaws in itself it so naturally sees in others.

In its day, Zionist ideology was a valuable problem identifier and guide to solutions. Now, however, except for the foundational principle that Jews deserve the rights of any other people, the traditional discourse of Zionism is an obstacle to Jewish welfare and security. Israel can live in a post-Zionist age, or it can die in one. As we say in the Jewish tradition, choose life.

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Rolling Stone covers BDS against Israel

A small but important step towards mainstream coverage of an issue, Israel’s colonisation and apartheid, that is only getting worse. Rolling Stone reports:

Pink Floyd‘s Roger Waters says a boycott of Israel, similar to the one implemented against South Africa during apartheid, is the “way to go.” He accuses the Israeli government of running a similar regime by occupying the West Bank and Gaza territories in a new interview with the Electronic Intifada.

Waters became an outspoken supporter of the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel after visiting the West Bank in 2006, where he spray-painted the lyric “We don’t need no thought control” from Pink Floyd’s famous anthem “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” on the Israeli West Bank barrier.

“They are running riot,” said Waters of the Israeli government, “and it seems unlikely that running over there and playing the violin will have any lasting effect.”

Waters currently serves as a juror on the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, which seeks to bring attention to how Western governments and companies assist Israel in what they perceive to be violations of international law. The singer plans to publish an open letter to his peers in the music industry asking them to join him in the BDS movement.

In the interview, the musician also spoke about reaching out to Stevie Wonder before he was set to play a gala dinner for the Israeli Defense Forces in December. “I wrote a letter to him saying that this would be like playing a police ball in Johannesburg the day after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. It wouldn’t be a great thing to do, particularly as he was meant to be a UN ambassador for peace,” Waters explained. “It wasn’t just me. Desmond Tutu also wrote a letter.”

“To his eternal credit,” Waters continued, “Stevie Wonder called [the gala’s organizers] up and said ‘I didn’t quite get it’ [and canceled the performance].” Waters went on to criticize the lack of media attention given to Wonder’s cancellation, as well as discuss his own speech to the U.N. about the conflict last week.

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Obama apparently believes Israel is a neurotic child needing cuddles

The Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg tells Haaretz as Barack Obama touches down in Israel:

President Obama listened carefully to the things President Clinton told him. I believe he now understands that the Israelis are a damaged, lonely and neurotic people who face genuine threats to their existence, so they need love badly. Obama won’t embrace you the way that Clinton embraced you because he isn’t Clinton and he doesn’t embrace anyone. But in his own way he will do his best to tell you: I love you. I get what you are and I admire what you’ve done. Obama will thereby create the space that will enable him to combat Israeli policy that seems wrong to him and in his estimation jeopardizes Israel’s future and also hurts the United States.

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