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.

What imperial cluelessness looks like in occupied Iraq

Former CNN and Time journalist, Australian Michael Ware, writes a devastating critique of the Iraq war from the inside, as a man who spent years reporting the apocalyptic insurgency that ravaged the war-torn nation. From the Lowy Interpreter:

When insurgent leadership factions first offered peace terms, at least to my knowledge, it was to prevent the nascent conflict. It subsequently evolved into terms to end the insurgency and assassinate al Qaeda. It was a conversation pressed spasmodically by the guerrillas, with a view to a negotiated political settlement with the US.

I remember precisely where I was the first time the emerging insurgent leadership told me of their intentions. It was way back in the war’s first summer. In 2003. Before the insurgency’s full fury had been unleashed. I remember the carpet in the room in the farmhouse where I was sitting, cross-legged. Even now, as I write, I still see it.

We were amid the lush green along the Euphrates in a village brimming with recently discarded Iraqi military who until not too long ago had been at the heart of Saddam Hussein’s secretive police state. Fifteen or so of these men gathered in a sparse living room for lunch, and I was the guest.

My host was a man I knew had been a colonel in the former regime’s intelligence service. Like many of his kind, he believed his commission had not been terminated by the American invasion. He and his family became my good friends. His sons were former military. Sometimes we’d shoot bottles out the back of their small rural property.

As we all ate with our hands, scooping great clumps of rice from a vast communal platter piled high, so heavy and unwieldy it took two adolescents to place it in the centre of the room atop an orange plastic sheet, my host began to speak. He told me in long, detailed bursts of oration how all of them, and their comrades, had been so terribly wronged by the occupation. And how perilous the situation had become for the Americans.

It quickly became evident something tectonic had shifted within these guys I’d come to know (first for a TIME Magazine article collating anecdotes on the Battle of Baghdad, then as friends and long-standing sources). This, I recall thinking, is why I’d been invited for lunch. They had militarised. There were discernible semblances of command and control. They were energised. It would not be long before US forces would only enter this area with great caution and ready to brawl. ‘But,’ I asked through my translator, ‘can you defeat them?’

My friend didn’t miss a beat. ‘No,’ he said, with an are-you-kidding kind of look on his face. ‘They’re the greatest military on earth, of course we cannot defeat them on the battlefield.’ There was simply no way for them to go head-to-head with the occupying forces. But, he continued, they had read Mao, and Ho Chi Ming, and Giap, and Che. ‘We will win,’ he said to me, with a wry smirk. ‘And we’ll do it on that,’ and he pointed to a dead television set covered in a corner of the room. ‘On television.’

He and I had drunk whiskey together. When the old man wasn’t around some of the lads would proudly show me their best porn. We all smoked like Victorian factory chimneys. The guys paraded some of the prostitutes they would occasionally engage. We shared wild and funny times. Still, something had changed. And he said: ‘could you explain something for me?’

‘If I can, of course. You know that.’

‘Then tell me. I used US satellite imagery to kill Iranians in the eighties. Some of us did Ranger or Pathfinder training in the States. Al Qaeda? Never in this country. Right?’ he asked, rhetorically. ‘We had no great love for Saddam, and didn’t mind you taking him down. If you came for the oil, then take it; we have to sell it to someone. And, we’re happy if the occupier becomes a guest and we host US bases, akin to Germany and Japan.’

He paused.

‘So, how is it we end up on the opposite sides of this thing? I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.’

And there it was. Spoken. An insurgency.

The US military, it seemed to me, was labouring under an entirely different misapprehension. The US Army, which then owned Baghdad and the rest of the country with it, simply could not understand who was shooting at them nor why they would be shooting in the first place.

Then, by mid-2004, there was revolutionary change on the civilian side of the US mission.

In June of that year, sovereign power was transferred from America’s Bremer back to the nominal Iraqi government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. The transfer took place two days ahead of schedule, to avert mass attacks. The ceremony appeared rushed and in secret. Official US Government photos released soon after showed Bremer on the tarmac of Baghdad’s airport, scampering out of the country.

For the Americans, the bumbling CPA was replaced by the US embassy and a relatively informed and quintessentially pragmatic State Department. A welcome, seismic shift. With Ambassador John Negroponte in place, halting dialogues could begin to splutter, and stutter, and stumble. Even before November 2004’s great Battle of Fallujah, one of the best-placed Ambassadors in America’s five-Ambassador embassy went to the edge of that besieged insurgent metropolis to discuss terms with the city’s high command.

The insurgency, for its part, flexed its muscle in Iraq’s twin elections in 2005. In the first, in January, the leadership told its constituents not to participate in the process, to vote by boycott. En masse the Sunni population stayed away from the ballot boxes.

But it was in the second ballot, in December 2005, that the insurgency in Iraq came of age. In that election, not only did the insurgency urge its people to vote, which they did in droves, but the high command told its fighters to do the same. One commander I’d long known told me his men would drop their weapons and vote, and fifteen minutes later would be attacking an American convoy.

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ABCTV News24’s The Drum on Iraq, Palestine and media reforms

Last night I appeared on ABC TV’s The Drum (video here) on the 10th anniversary of the 2003 Iraq war.

We discussed the appalling legacy of the Iraq invasion, the massive loss of life and continued chaos of the country. Accountability, in the political or media elites, is far and few between.

I argued that the visit by Barack Obama to Israel changes nothing about the reality of ongoing Zionist occupation in the West Bank. Apartheid is here to stay.

Finally, the idea that big media players in Australia, including the Murdoch empire, shouldn’t be regulated in any way is laughable and goes against what the general public wants in survey and survey. Bullying is what media owners do before breakfast. Free speech in a democracy means transparency towards journalists and owners has to include ways in which citizens can get answers from wayward outlets.

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The necessary reckoning for the Iraq war

Jeremy Scahill explains on MSNBC the American agenda in Iraq, from the early 1990s, was to destroy and control Iraq:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Lest we forget who led coalition of fools into Iraq

Today, the 10 year anniversary of the disastrous Iraq invasion, is time for reflection, anger and honesty. Too many politicians, journalists and war mongers want to forget. We should not allow it. Medialens is right:

What was truly shocking in March 2003 was that Blair was able to weave this obvious web of deceit and be greeted, not even with whispers of dissent, but with thunderous applause and praise by the political-media ‘club’.

It was this appalling speech that had ‘helped to restore the integrity of parliament’, according to the anti-war Mirror. Blair’s ‘patent sincerity has impressed, banishing his reputation as a fickle politician without convictions’, according to the Independent. And yet, for any rational viewer or reader, the cynicism, and the silence about that cynicism, was jaw-dropping.

Much has been made of different newspapers being ‘for’ and ‘against’ the war in Iraq. But in fact all newspapers and broadcasters failed to raise even the most obvious objections to the case for believing the war was necessary, legal or moral. In March 2003, the way journalists feign fierce dissent while tossing feeble challenges for political executives, fellow ‘club’ members, to swat away, had never been more obvious.

The Iraq war showed how the ‘free press’ is structurally hard-wired not to obstruct US and UK regimes bent on war. The corporate media – entrenched in the irrational and dangerous assumption that it should accept frameworks of debate laid down by ‘mainstream’ political parties – took key illusions seriously. As a result, the fraudulent discussion about Iraqi WMD raged on and on with the real world left far behind.

And this was no passive media ‘failure’; it was an active, resilient determination to promote ‘the view from Downing Street’ and Washington. In 2002 and 2003, hundreds of Media Lens readers and other media activists – including journalists, academics, lawyers and authors – sent many hundreds of rational, referenced emails to newspapers and TV stations. Time and again, their crucial evidence and sources were simply ignored. The idea that coverage of the Iraq war represented a terrible ‘failure’ for the corporate media is an exact reversal of the truth. Iraq was a good example of how these media consistently excel in their structural role as defenders of powerful interests.

The real ‘failure’ was the emergence of undeniable evidence that the media had all along been boosting Bush-Blair lies. But even this would have mattered little in the absence of Iraqi resistance and the vast death toll generated by the US determination to divide and conquer that resistance. If Iraqis had quietly accepted the conquest, the talk would not have been of ‘media failure’ but of ‘humanitarian success’, with all criticism dismissed as ‘carping’. This was indicated very clearly by the BBC’s then political editor Andrew Marr in April 2003, when he commented that the quick ‘fall’ of Baghdad, with Iraqis ‘celebrating’, had put an end to all ‘these slightly tawdry arguments and scandals. That is now history’. (Marr, BBC 1 News at Ten, April 9, 2003)

It is a bitter, even surreal, irony that the media ‘failure’ on Iraq is being lamented by journalists who have since repeated the same performance on LibyaSyriaIsrael-PalestineIranVenezuelaWikiLeaksclimate change, and much else besides.

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Breaking news; Israel’s new government is fundamentally pro-colonies

Israeli peace group Gush Shalom issues the following statement:

March 18, 2013 – Today was established in Israel an extremist right-wing government in which settlers and their allies hold all the key positions: their Minister of Housing will construct settlement housing; their Minister of Industry will divert industries to the settlements; their Chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee will provide them with plenty of funds. The Minister of Defense – who is, in effect, the military dictator holding sway over the Occupied Territories – is opposed to any gesture towards the Palestinians, even the smallest and most symbolic. It is a government which appointed a minister to take charge of conducting negotiations with the Palestinians and an entire ministerial team to oversee such negotiations, but would not be able to conduct any such negotiations in reality.

The primary responsibility for Israel being saddled with such a pernicious and dangerous government does not rest with PM Netanyahu nor even with Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party. The main responsibility lies squarely upon Yair Lapid, the man who scored a big victory in the elections and frittered it away, who dealt a crushing blow to the right-wing block in Israeli politics and then single-handedly restored this same bloc to great power. Lapid’s supposedly “left of center” party won many more votes than Naftali Bennett’s extreme-right formation, but the alliance of these two parties worked entirely in favor of Bennett and his settlers.

Bennett had taken sober, well calculated steps, focusing on gaining the commanding positions in order to strengthen and bolster the West Bank settlement enterprise. Lapid wasted the incredibly strong position which fell into his hands in the aftermath of the elections, using it to advance marginal and insignificant objectives such as a reduction in the number of government ministers or recruiting members of Haredi Ultra-Orthdox community into the Israeli Army (an aim which would not be achieved in practice, anyway). Moreover, Lapid promoted some manifestly negative and harmful aims, such as steeply raising the electoral threshold which parties would need to cross to gain parliamentary representation – thus violating the democratic right of minorities in Israeli society to be represented.

Lapid only paid faint lip service to the need of negotiations with the Palestinians. But he even gave up without a struggle such major objectives of his constituency as civil marriage and public transportation on the Sabbath. Now he is getting ready to run the Ministry of Finance and implement austerity policies and severe budget cuts which would hurt the same middle class which Lapid purports to represent.

Hopefully, Lapid’s voters will remember all this at the next elections.

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Crime of Iraq war, 10 years on, defined by US hubris

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Wait, why is Obama really going to Israel again?

Barack Obama is soon to land in Israel and only a fool believes the US President is doing anything other than appeasing the Zionist lobby, occupation backers, the arms industry and other cretins and fools. Gideon Levy in Haaretz:

Barack Obama has decided to punish the Israelis: He is talking to them as if they were ignoramuses. The U.S. president has also decided to punish himself: He is betraying his principles, those that have won him international acclaim and the Nobel Peace Prize.

There’s no other way to understand what he said in his interview with Channel 2 on the eve of his visit here. The flattery he heaped on Israel’s leader considerably exceeded diplomatic protocol and even phony American manners. His denial of his values deviated even from the opportunism one might expect from a politician. Obama said he wants to “connect to the Israeli people.” This he actually did well; he told Israelis what they wanted to hear.

But from Obama we could have expected a lot more. When Obama said he admires Israel’s “core values,” which values was he talking about? The dehumanization of the Palestinians? The attitude toward African migrants? The arrogance, racism and nationalism? Is this what he admires? Don’t separate buses for Palestinians remind him of something? Doesn’t two communities living on the same land, one with full rights and the other with no rights, “ring a bell,” as they say in America?

To admire “core values” while knowing we’re talking about one of the most racist countries there is, with a separation wall and apartheid-like policies, means betraying the core values of the American civil rights movement that made the Obama miracle possible. Too bad he can’t fulfill his fantasy of wearing a fake mustache and wandering around to have conversations with Israelis; he would hear how they talk about blacks like him. Too bad he can’t sit in a cafe and “just hang out,” as he’d like. He’d hear which “core values” really move Israelis.

Obama wants to lower expectations of his visit. Well, they can’t get any lower. During his first term they said we’d have to wait until his second. So now it’s here, and he says he’s only coming “to listen.” But his job isn’t to listen; everybody has listened far more than enough. Now it’s time for action, and it’s still being delayed.

Meanwhile back in reality, here’s a few travel tips from American-Arab comedian Amer Zahr:

Mr. President, I hear you are traveling to Israel next week.  As a concerned patriotic American citizen of Palestinian descent, I have some pointers for you.

Now, I assume you’ll be flying into Tel Aviv.  Usually, when non-Jews arrive there, especially if they are a little darker-skinned, they are asked to wait in a… let’s call it a “VIP Room.”  Incidentally, the room is quite nice. There’s a water cooler, comfortable chairs, and a soda machine.  It’s probably the only place in the world where you can be racially profiled and get an ice-cold Coca-Cola all at once.

To avoid the room, I would mention that you are the President of the United States.  It might help.

You may get strip-searched.  Saying you are an American doesn’t help much here.  I’ve tried.  I even sang the national anthem last time an Israeli soldier was looking down my pants.  Right after I said, “Oh say can you see,” he said, “Not much.”

To escape this embarrassment, I would mention that you are the President of the United States.  It might help.

In case they don’t already know, you might not want to tell Israeli security you are half-Muslim.  As a fellow half-Muslim, I can tell you they don’t really care about the percentage.  Any bit of Muslim freaks them out. And I’m not sure if you heard, but the fans of one of Israel’s soccer teams, Beitar Jerusalem, actually protested when the club signed two Muslim players.  When one of them scored in a game last week, hundreds of fans actually walked out of the stadium.  One of the fans later stated about the Muslim players, “It’s not racism. They just shouldn’t be here.” Hopefully, they don’t know your middle name is “Hussein.” Maybe they didn’t watch the inauguration.

In any case, I would mention that you are the President of the United States.  It might help.

This next one might be a little tough.  Maybe you didn’t hear, but lately there has been a little “African problem” in Israel.  Over the past several years, tens of thousands immigrants from Africa, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, have entered the “only democracy in the Middle East.”  Most of them are looking for work, and some are political refugees.  Israel has recently rounded up many of them for deportation.  Oh, and by the way, they don’t call them “refugees” or “migrants,” they call them “infiltrators.”  Israelis have held numerous demonstrations in Tel Aviv, where most of the migrants live, to demand an African exodus from Israel.

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Blackwater head just wants love and cuddles for helping CIA

Eli Lake in The Daily Beast interviews the usually elusive head of Blackwater, Erik Prince, and details the fact that the private mercenary force was and may well remain an invaluable extension of the CIA:

Founded in 1997 by Erik Prince, heir to an auto-parts family fortune, Blackwater had proved especially useful to the CIA in the early 2000s. “You have to remember where the CIA was after 9/11,” says retired Congressman Pete Hoekstra, who served as the Republican chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from 2004 to 2006 and later as the ranking member of the committee. “They were gutted in the 1990s. They were sending raw recruits into Afghanistan and other dangerous places. They were looking for skills and capabilities, and they had to go to outside contractors like Blackwater to make sure they could accomplish their mission.”

But according to the documents Blackwater submitted in its defense—as well as an email exchange I had recently with Prince—the contractor’s relationship with the CIA was far deeper than most observers thought. “Blackwater’s work with the CIA began when we provided specialized instructors and facilities that the Agency lacked,” Prince told me recently, in response to written questions. “In the years that followed, the company became a virtual extension of the CIA because we were asked time and again to carry out dangerous missions, which the Agency either could not or would not do in-house.”

One document submitted by the defense names Jose Rodriguez, the former CIA chief of the Directorate of Operations, and Buzzy Krongard, the agency’s former executive director, as among those CIA officers who had direct knowledge of Blackwater’s activities, in a section that is still partially redacted. This document is the closest Blackwater has come to acknowledging that Prince himself was a CIA asset, something first reported in 2010 by Vanity Fair. One of the names on the list of CIA officers with knowledge of Blackwater’s work in the document is “Erik P”—with the remaining letters whited out.

This document made Blackwater’s defense clear: “the CIA routinely used Blackwater in missions throughout the world,” it said. “These efforts were made under written and unwritten contracts and through informal requests. On many occasions the CIA paid Blackwater nothing for its assistance. Blackwater also employed CIA officers and agents, and provided cover to CIA agents and officers operating in covert and clandestine assignments. In many respects, Blackwater, or at least portions of Blackwater, was an extension of the CIA.”

When I asked Prince why Blackwater would often work for free, he responded, “I agreed to provide some services gratis because, in the wake of 9/11, I felt it my patriotic duty. I knew that I had the tools and resources to help my country.”

Moreover, according to still-sealed testimony described to The Daily Beast, the agency had its own secure telephone line and a facility for handling classified information within Blackwater’s North Carolina headquarters. CIA officers trained there and used an area—fully shielded from view inside the rest of the Blackwater compound by 20-foot berms—to coordinate operations.

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Why Zionist lobby bullying strengthens occupation

Larry Derfner, Haaretz, 14 March:

Branding harsh critics of Israeli policy as anti-Semites helps the occupation thrive, and what’s good for the occupation is good for Israel, certainly for Netanyahu’s Israel, and what’s good for Netanyahu’s Israel is good for the Jewish establishment of Britain, the United States and several other countries.

It’s a shame: These people are going to bat for Israel’s subjugation of a people, for Israel’s wars of aggression to defend that practice, and they’re doing it in the name of all the horrors the Jews ever faced and at times still face. I don’t know anything more cynical than that. I don’t know any greater dishonor of Jewish history than that.

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That rare occasion when Australian politicians speak truths over Palestine

There were two examples in yesterday’s New South Wales parliament. Firstly, Labor Councillor Shaoquett Moselmane dared talk about the reality of Israeli crimes in Gaza and a host of other usually unutterable realities in polite company. There were then attempts to shut him down by his own party and the rapacious Zionist lobby. The usual suspects are scared that somebody may hear something contrary to a pro-apartheid and pro-occupation position. Cover your ears!

NSW Upper House Greens politician David Shoebridge gave the following powerful speech that challenged the wilful myopia expressed by nearly all politicians. A recent Zionist lobby trip took silly little politicians to Israel to get their fill of propaganda and falafel:

I speak to this motion and note at the outset that it is a very unbalanced one. Indeed, a member asked if The Greens took part in this study mission to Israel. As far as I am aware, no Greens member of Parliament went on this study mission. That was primarily because of the one-sided nature of the itinerary, which is reflected in the one-sided nature of this motion.

In a motion that purports to talk about building an understanding of the complex and various issues impacting on Israel and other jurisdictions within the Middle East, it is extraordinary that in the more than 100 words and five paragraphs of this motion not one word is mentioned about Palestine or the Palestinians. The human rights of the Palestinians are airbrushed out of the motion, just as they were airbrushed out of the itinerary of the study tour that travelled to Israel and some very small parts of the West Bank.

Having heard the contributions of members who went on the study tour and having read the motion, I can see that this is little more than a public relations exercise for the Israeli Government. Indeed, this public relations exercise has been run in part through the offices of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies which arranged the tour and, I understand, partly paid for the study trip to Israel.

For the record, I do not recall getting an invitation from the Jewish Board of Deputies for this visit. However, had I received one I would not have accepted the invitation to go on this study trip because of the extraordinarily one-sided itinerary provided to members.

If the Parliamentary Friends of Israel were interested in building an understanding of the complex issues in the Middle East, as they purport to be, their itinerary should have included a couple of other places to visit. First, the itinerary should have included visits outside the limited confines of Israel, Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

How could members of this Chamber who wanted to get a balanced understanding of the issues facing the Israelis, the Palestinians and the Middle East travel to that part of the world and not meet with any members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, or at least those members of the Palestinian Legislative Council not currently being held in Israeli jails, many of them without trial and without being charged with any criminal offence?

How could members go there and meet with only one of the legislative bodies, the Knesset, and ignore the Palestinian Legislative Council? How could members, who wanted to get a balanced understanding of the issues facing Israel, Palestine and the Middle East, go to the other side of the planet and fail to visit Gaza, the world’s largest outdoor prison?

How could members not go to see the way the Palestinians live under the illegal blockade or not speak to the local health workers about the conditions in Gaza, or the paramedics about how they respond to the impacts of aerial bombardments by the Israeli military?

If they had visited Gaza they would have been able to see the X-rays that the Gaza doctors show of children’s kidneys riddled with kidney stones because of the saline water they are required to drink. The Israeli wells on the edge of Gaza are stripping out the fresh water from the arterial basin and the arterial basin is filling up with saline water from the sea. That saline water fills the wells. Most of the water treatment plants have been destroyed by Israeli bombardments and almost every child in Gaza has kidneys riddled with kidney stones and ongoing health problems.

Next time members should go to Gaza, look at the children, look at the damage, look at the X-rays and get some balance in their visit.

If they had gone to Gaza surely they would then have gone to the West Bank and outside Bethlehem and Jerusalem and spoken to Palestinian villagers whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed by the apartheid wall. Talk to the farmers whose olive groves have been cut off by the illegal apartheid wall, who cannot get to the fields that generations of their family had previously tended because of an illegal apartheid wall built by Israel through the middle of their homes, villages and farms.

Surely members could also have met with Israeli peace activists, such as Jeff Halper from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and spoken to Palestinians who have been illegally evicted from their homes and land to make way for internationally condemned settlements being built by the Israelis.

But, no. Members spoke to the Israeli settlers but they did not visit and speak to the people who have been evicted illegally for these internationally condemned, unlawful settlements that are now riddling the West Bank.

How could members not have travelled to Hebron and done the Breaking the Silence tour, where former Israeli soldiers would have told them about what goes on in the occupied territories, about the violence and the discrimination perpetrated by the Israeli military and the settler movement against the native Palestinian population?

Or were they Israeli voices that members wanted to edit out and not hear? The inconvenient truth.

How could members not visit those Palestinian refugee camps in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, where Palestinian refugees from 1948, 1967 and beyond live in sub-standard Third World conditions and are denied their human right to return to their homes? Members did not speak to them, see their title deeds and see the keys they still hold for the homes that were taken from them in the illegal occupations and evictions that have been taking place for decades in that part of the world?

It is extraordinary to note that Labor members, one of whom is notionally from the Left, visited Israel and small parts of the West Bank but did not travel to Nablus and meet with any of the Palestinian trade unions. How could members have travelled over there and not spoken to the firefighters in the Nablus fire station who were locked into their compound by Israeli tanks and snipers and prevented from doing their job as firefighters? They were prevented from saving the lives and homes of their families and friends for days and days as homes burned; children and other people died while the Israeli military shelled and burned their city around them.

The motion is not balanced; the visit to Israel was not balanced. It was not about getting an understanding of the complex and various issues but, rather, about getting a narrow part of the Israeli understanding.

For members who went on such an unbalanced tour and failed to see the balanced truth, the oppression the Palestinian people face daily as a result of the illegal occupation of Israel, and to support this motion and preach to the rest of the Chamber about truth, understanding, peace and non-violence is extraordinary.

Lockheed Martin goes seabed mining; what could go wrong?

There’s a new frontier soon to open in the endless search for resources, deep under the water at a time with little regulation or environmental protection. Papua New Guinea may soon be moving forward with untested technology, exactly the country that can least afford it, after being shafted by multinationals for decades (something I examine in a forthcoming book and film on disaster capitalism).

This news should be greeted with disdain and opposed (via the Guardian):

David Cameron has pledged to put Britain at the forefront of a new international seabed mining industry, which he claimed could be worth £40bn to the UK economy over the next 30 years.

But the prime minister has chosen an American defence company – Lockheed Martin – to spearhead the drive to collect from the depths of the ocean the copper, nickel and rare earth minerals used in mobile phones and solar panels.

Russia and China also have licences to “mine” the ocean bed but Cameron said on Thursday: “With our technology, skills, scientific and environmental expertise at the forefront, this demonstrates that the UK is open for business as we compete in the global race.”

Speaking at a launch at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands, he said talks were already under way with a potential supply chain of up to 100 British companies, even though the main activity will take place off the west coast of America.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has, in partnership with UK Seabed Resources – a newly-formed subsidiary of Lockheed – obtained a licence and contract to explore a 58,000 sq km area of the Pacific Ocean for mineral-rich polymetallic “nodules”.

These rocky chunks, the size of a tennis ball, will eventually be scooped up using a seabed harvester and then broken up to release the minerals, if all goes to plan. Lockheed claims to have discovered riches in that particular area off the US coast after a bizarre hunt in the 1970s for a lost Russian submarine paid for by eccentric US billionaire Howard Hughes.

The defence and aerospace group is keen to stress that its extraction measures are different from the deep-sea mining techniques that have been proposed by others and which have enraged environmentalists.

It also argues that the nodules containing rare earth minerals found on the seabed have little of the uranium content that has also been a brake on terrestrial mining in places such as Greenland.

“Environmentally responsible collection of polymetallic nodules presents a complex engineering challenge but our team has the knowledge and experience to help position the UK at the forefront of this emerging industry,” said Stephen Ball, the British-born chief executive of UK Seabed Resources and of Lockheed Martin UK (a company that is part of the managing consortium of the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston as well as being a key Ministry of Defence contractor.)

The science minister, David Willetts, also present at the project launch, said the UK should benefit from already being a leader in underwater robotics and autonomous systems used in the development of North Sea oil and gas.

Ball was more cautious than the prime minister about the potential to create thousands of jobs and bring in more than £1bn a year from the industry, saying he was not too keen on “aspirational promises”.

And while he was keen that British companies should be engaged in future deepsea production, he said they would only be chosen if they were better than the competing foreign firms.

Currently the licence obtained from the International Seabed Authority (ISA) gives the UK government and Lockheed the right to explore but not extract, so a second licence would be required for that. And before any mechanical harvester is built, there will have to be a thorough environmental study, which could begin this summer.

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