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.

Challenging US-led Dirty Wars

My book review appears in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

Days after the Boston marathon bombings in April, the surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, reportedly told authorities that he and his brother, Tamerlan, watched online the sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, the US-born cleric who was killed by an American drone in Yemen in 2011.

It was just the latest appearance in the media of Awlaki; his death was praised by US President Barack Obama as a ”major blow to al-Qaeda’s most active operational affiliate”. Two weeks later, the Obama administration killed Awlaki’s son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, in a drone strike in Yemen. It remains shrouded in mystery. American investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill uncovers evidence that Obama himself was ”surprised and upset and wanted an explanation”. One White House official described it as ”a mistake, a bad mistake”.

In arguably the most comprehensive examination of post-September 11, 2001 ”war on terror” policies, Dirty Wars reveals how Washington’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has risen to become the most elite force in the US arsenal. It led the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, but its more disturbing role is conducting missions across the globe that receive no media.

Scahill, a national security correspondent for The Nation, long-time contributor to Democracy Now! and author of Blackwater, travels to Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and beyond to report on the war we don’t see with embedded journalism, an all-too-common feature of modern war coverage. Wikileaks-released documents provide essential evidence for his work.

Take the nightly JSOC raids in Afghanistan, reportedly to capture alleged Taliban or al-Qaeda members. The reality is very different, as I heard myself in Afghanistan in 2012.

Scahill uncovers a massacre of civilians by US forces in Gardez in Paktia province in 2010 and the attempts to cover it up by senior military figures including the head of JSOC, William McRaven.

What’s most shocking is not just details of this horrific crime, but also the frequency of such acts.

Journalist Nick Turse reveals similar activities during the Vietnam War in his recent book,Kill Anything That Moves. My Lai-style massacres weren’t an aberration, he proves, but rather a regular occurrence. Scahill’s digging challenges the notion that ”surgical strikes” and ”targeted assassinations” are a clean way to prosecute foreign policy.

”One of the enduring legacies of the Obama administration,” the writer said in May to HBO’s Bill Maher, ”is that Obama has normalised assassination as a central component of US national security policy.”

Dirty Wars is infused with a necessary anger towards the lack of questions in the US about these destructive policies. ”Obama has sold the Bush/Cheney policy to liberals,” Scahill argues, and he’s right that a vast majority of Americans claim to support drones. However, this is only because citizens so rarely see or hear the victims of these covert attacks. The corrective is to speak independently to the civilians apparently being liberated by Western weapons.

The power of Scahill’s work is making the reader question the legality and morality of American policy. Not unlike Ronald Reagan’s dirty wars against left-leaning countries in Latin America in the 1980s – hundreds of thousands of victims were murdered by US-backed thugs in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile and elsewhere – today’s proxy forces operate with the same level of impunity.

Scahill spends time with Somalian warlords who are paid by the US to fight al-Qaeda militants, but while in Mogadishu he discovers a CIA-run underground prison that assists Somali intelligence officials.

”We define our society by how we treat the most reprehensible of citizens,” Scahill said on US TV earlier in the year. The success of this book, a New York Times bestseller, is rejecting the official rationale given to pursue a ”war on terror” that causes blow-back on our own societies and destruction across the globe.

Antony Loewenstein’s latest book is Profits of Doom (MUP).

Purchase Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield by Jeremy Scahill here.

DIRTY WARS: THE WORLD IS A BATTLEFIELD

Jeremy Scahill

Serpent’s Tail, 672pp, $29.99

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Missing the biting wit of George Carlin skewering US men loving war

We need such comedians today, people unafraid to call bullshit on futile wars:

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Right Now radio interview on Profits of Doom

The human rights group Right Now has strongly covered my new book Profits of Doom. I was interviewed on their radio station on Melbourne 3RRR on vulture capitalism and the dangers of outsourcing asylum seekers to private corporations:

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Questioning an ever-increasing and corporatised aid budget

My following article appears in the Guardian today:

I couldn’t believe my ears. I was in Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, in 2012 and a local Oxfam employee told me that he wished Australia would again take control of his country. He argued that in the nearly four decades since independence, the state had not adapted to standing on its own. He wanted Canberra to train a new generation of Papua New Guineans in good governance. I had never heard a formerly colonised man begging for the return of his old master.

Australia already provides more than $500m every year to Papua New Guinea, though the record of implementation and losses from rampant corruption are infamous.

I understood the Oxfam employee’s impulse, yet cautioned against viewing Australian aid as inherently benign. Although we spend more than $5bn annually on “official development assistance”, there remains serious questions as to the efficiency and priorities of this money. Who receives it and why? Who decides? What are the key aims of the funds, and how do Australian business profits factor into Canberra’s decision making process?

It’s worth questioning the impulse to automatically support a constant increase in Australia’s aid budget. On this, the position offered by Greens senator Lee Rhiannon is one of the more nuanced, criticising both major political parties in refusing to guarantee regional development for the most vulnerable people by funding offshore processing of asylum seekers in squalid locations such as Nauru and Manus Island.

I often hear fresh and disturbing reports of private contractors paid by Australian taxpayers who are incapable of humanely managing refugees on Pacific hellholes. Even The Salvation Army, sources tell me, are barely coping with the influx of refugees, legitimising the government’s desperate plans to dump individuals away from prying media cameras. Mark Isaacs, a former Salvation Army staff member with no aid or social work training, worked for the NGO in Nauru; unsurprisingly, he’s now scathing of the ways in which Canberra mismanages the situation.

This is the new face of Australian aid, outsourced to NGOs that should know better and firms that only see dollar signs from a policy-on-the-run government. We are exporting a development model that isn’t working.

Public debate over Australia’s aid budget is largely invisible, including during an election campaign. Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop recently said that “our diplomats will be required to understand our commercial interests.” In other words, the bottom line will always trump human rights. This should concern the peoples of Bougainville, Afghanistan or Mongolia. Take Rio Tinto, which stands accused of countless environmental breaches in the Gobi Desert and a host of other areas where Australian corporations operate with shoddy records.

It’s our responsibility to determine how we are viewed by the world, and our aid budget is a key component of this public face. Unfortunately, there are currently few legal or regulatory restrictions on Australian firms operating in foreign nations – a deliberate bi-partisan arrangement that runs counter to a recent call by the Australian Council for International Development who demanded greater accountability and transparency in foreign aid.

Self-appointed experts aren’t helping either. Bill Gates, speaking on ABC TV’s Q&A in May, claimed that aid “never creates dependency” and critics of the system are “promoting evil”. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have undoubtedly contributed greatly to the reduction of many deadly diseases globally, but their commitment to human rights is spotty. In June this year, Gates bought a stake in the troubled Israeli occupation-backing British multinational G4S. Moreover, Gates is sending the completely wrong message to the general public: “trust us, we know who should get your tax dollars, and accept our rationale for ever-increasing aid budgets”.

The facts simply don’t bare this out, as I’ve seen myself in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Palestine. Aid dependency routinely leaves the host community or nation lacking necessary skills to empower themselves. This is arguably the aim, with western contractors tasked to “educate” the natives. Look at Haiti, where untold millions of dollars of aid has done little to address endemic housing and social problems.

This is not a call to massively reduce aid while claiming we’re good global citizens. Aid-bashing is a favourite pastime of neo-liberals who don’t believe we should be helping anybody. Austerity in the aid budget should be resisted, but strengthened accountability and transparent democratic processes are necessary.

Truly humanitarian aid (such as vaccinations) are vital and should be administered fairly while empowering local communities. Funds directed to tackling corruption or enhancing security -– witness in Afghanistan the futile efforts by bloated US corporation DynCorp to train police and security forces – are usually prone to abuse and yet this doesn’t stop London, Washington and Canberra continuing to fund them, perhaps so they can say they’re making a valiant effort despite countless reports outlining the failures.

Aid can’t solve developing country’s problems, though it can help if pursued well. Australia should not follow the lead of other industrialised nations by intimately tying aid to business outcomes. The results can only be exploitation in the name of helping impoverished nations. Sustainable aid revolves around trusting local partners in developing countries, and building connections that empower people without the constant presence of enriched foreign consultants.

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Right Now positively reviews Profits of Doom

The great publication Right Now (they recently published an extract from my new book, Profits of Doom, on Christmas Island) today publishes a strong book review by Maya Chanthaphavong:

The drive by governments to privatise what are usually key governmental functions, such as refugee processing and detention, reform and prison, and health care is one that is being mirrored around the world — with the big winners being transglobal/multinational corporations.

In his book Profits of Doom: How Vulture Capitalism is Swallowing the World Antony Loewenstein provides case studies on how corporations such as Serco and  G4S make a profit from activities that were traditionally provided by the State. In the opening chapter, “Curtin Immigration Detention Centre – Cash for Care”, Antony visits the RAAF base, once referred to as “hell on earth“ and the place where the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) have opened a refugee camp to house mostly male detainees. It’s an interesting glimpse into the bureaucratic processes of running detention centres that the vast majority of the Australian population will never have to think about — yet the effects of such transglobal companies ripple throughout society. The chapter details how a corporation such as Serco can manage to run multiple detention centres in Australia with relative autonomy and transparency and segues nicely into the second chapter, “Christmas Island: Prison in the Pacific”, where he witnesses a boat of refugees heading to shore.

Loewenstein devotes a substantial part of the book to Papua New Guinea (PNG), recently in the news because of the Australian government’s decision to send asylum seekers to Manus Island. It’s obvious that the Australian decision is the least of their problems when its natural resources are being plundered in the name of big business — as well as by states competing for power in the region. The ability to get up close and personal with characters from grassroots organisations to provincial governors means that Loewenstein is able to present a different viewpoint to that of the prominent happy and carefree images of PNG that grace corporate publications. It’s easy to see just how applicable the term ‘disaster capitalism’ is to the country and easier still to see the type of influence it will have in terms of real socio-economic benefit to the majority of the inhabitants of PNG (sadly, very little).

Of note too are the chapters on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Haiti where the line between contractors and governments get mixed, and where for the most part the law becomes blurred and the need for transparency flies out the window. In Afghanistan, the US State Department awarded contracts worth over one billion to DynCorp in a bid to build up local security forces, while in Haiti 500 million of the 1billion in humanitarian aid was handled by the US Department of Defense — this was also directed to contractors. The book’s case studies have uncovered the covert players in what appears to be a game to control States — and Loewenstein’s arguments that the erosion of democracy is being met with relatively little fanfare or care by the world media becomes stronger and stronger as the reader progresses.

Profits of Doom: How Vulture Capitalism is Swallowing the World is written in a conversational narrative and this lends weight to the book as a whole. Loewenstein is interested in trying to tell the stories of those people involved in, caught up in, living in, experiencing and struggling against massive corporations and their ideologies, and juxtapositioning this against the organisations that seek to control most aspects of governmental functions.

It is a confronting read but one that should be on everyone’s list, lest you are aware of who really controls the purse strings around the world.

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Here we go again; another Western-led war in the Middle East

The Guardian’s Seumas Milne on the seemingly inevitable war against Syria:

All the signs are they’re going to do it again. The attack on Syria now being planned by the US and its allies will be the ninth direct western military intervention in an Arab or Muslim country in 15 years. Depending how you cut the cake, the looming bombardment follows onslaughts on Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Mali, as well as a string of murderous drone assaults on Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.

The two former colonial powers that carved up the Middle East between them, Britain and France, are as ever chafing for a slice of the action as the US assembles yet another “coalition of the willing”. And as in Iraq and Sudan (where President Clinton ordered an attack on a pharmaceuticals factory in retaliation for an al-Qaida bombing), intelligence about weapons of mass destruction is once again at the centre of the case being made for a western missile strike.

In both Iraq and Sudan, the intelligence was of course wrong. But once again, UN weapons inspectors are struggling to investigate WMD claims while the US and its friends have already declared them “undeniable”. Once again they are planning to bypass the UN security council. Once again, they are dressing up military action as humanitarian, while failing to win the support of their own people.

The trigger for the buildup to a new intervention – what appears to have been a chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta – certainly has the hallmarks of a horrific atrocity. Hundreds, mostly civilians, are reported killed and many more wounded, their suffering caught on stomach-churning videos.

But so far no reliable evidence whatever has been produced to confirm even what chemical might have been used, let alone who delivered it. The western powers and their allies, including the Syrian rebels, insist the Syrian army was responsible. The Damascus government and its international backers, Russia and Iran, blame the rebels.

The regime, which has large stockpiles of chemical weapons, undoubtedly has the capability and the ruthlessness. But it’s hard to see a rational motivation. Its forces have been gaining ground in recent months and the US has repeatedly stated that chemical weapons use is a “red line” for escalation.

For the same reason, the rebel camp (and its regional sponsors), which has been trying to engineer a western intervention in the Libya-Kosovo mould for the past two years to tip the military balance, clearly has an interest in that red line being crossed.

Three months ago, the UN Syria human rights commission member Carla Del Ponte said there were “strong concrete suspicions” that rebel fighters had used the nerve gas sarin, and Turkish security forces were reported soon afterwards to have seized sarin from al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front units heading into Syria.

The arms proliferation expert, Paul Schulte, of King’s College London, believes rebel responsibility “can’t be ruled out”, even if the “balance of probability” points to the regime or a rogue military commander. Either way, whatever Colin Powell-style evidence is produced this week, it’s highly unlikely to be definitive.

But that won’t hold back the western powers from the chance to increase their leverage in Syria’s grisly struggle for power. A comparison of their response to the Ghouta killings with this month’s massacres of anti-coup protesters in Egypt gives a measure of how far humanitarianism rules the day.

The Syrian atrocity, where the death toll has been reported by opposition-linked sources at 322 but is likely to rise, was damned as a “moral obscenity” by US secretary of state John Kerry. The killings in Egypt, the vast majority of them of civilians, have been estimated at 1,295 over two days. But Barack Obama said the US wasn’t “taking sides”, while Kerry earlier claimed the army was “restoring democracy”.

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Australian Jewish heads love Zionist colonies, conservatism and remain lost cause

Australia has a federal election on 7 September. We’re looking at a change of government to Liberal leader Tony Abbott; a period of neo-conservatism awaits us. I agree with Wikileaks head Julian Assange who argues that one of the key issues is liberating ourselves from genuflecting towards Washington on every issue.

Israel/Palestine has barely featured in the campaign though the Zionist lobby is upset the ruling Labor party talks about West Bank colonies as “illegal”. They want obedience to the Likud line, that Palestinians are a) evil b) violent and c) anti-Semitic. A sign of the paranoia and ignorance of the lobby came this week when Zionist lobbyist Albert Dadon (a man with a background of embracing Israeli apartheid) banned a film critical of Israel from the Israeli Film Festival. Comical, tragic and pathetic.

Here’s a feature in Haaretz by Dan Goldberg which reflects the constipation, ignorance and racism amongst the Zionist elites. Here’s hoping younger Jews are far more enlightened:

Jewish community leaders in Australia have virtually abandoned support for the governing Labor Party, with most privately hoping the conservative Liberal Party wins the federal election next weekend.

The near consensus in favor of Tony Abbott to replace Kevin Rudd as the nation’s next PM comes as the Liberal Party reportedly plans to upgrade relations with Jerusalem, make visa applications easier for Israelis, ban more terror groups and stop financial support to any organization that supports the boycott Israel campaign.

According to a report in The Australian newspaper on Monday, an Abbott-led government would add Israel to the growing list of countries that can access fast-track visas for short-term visits to Australia.

The latest polls predict the Liberal Party will win the September 7 election by 53 percent to Labor’s 47 percent. Voting is mandatory and Orthodox Jews have started to pre-poll because all Australian elections are held on Saturdays.

If the polls are accurate, it would spell the end of a bitter battle between Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Jewish leaders, who were infuriated in January when he joined British Foreign Secretary William Hague in stating that all Israeli settlements are “illegal under international law.”

Carr, a founder of the New South Wales Parliamentary Friends of Israel group in the 1970s, reignited Jewish angst last month in a speech outside Australia’s largest mosque. “All settlements on Palestinian land are illegal under international law and should cease,” he said. “That is the position of Kevin Rudd, the position of the federal Labor government, and we don’t make apologies for it.”

It prompted fellow Labor lawmaker Michael Danby to take out a full-page advertisement in last week’s Australian Jewish News reminding Carr of Labor’s “carefully calibrated even-handed policy on peace.”

Danby, one of federal parliament’s most vocal advocates for Israel, added: “Foreign ministers have come and gone but Australia and our Australian Jewish community’s bond with Israel is as solid as Jerusalem stone.”

But Albert Dadon, the founder of the Australia-Israel-UK Leadership Forum, who first took Rudd to Israel a decade ago, told Haaretz: “An old tradition in Australian politics was bipartisanship when it comes to support for Israel.

“Unfortunately it is evident that it’s Labor that broke with that tradition and attempted to use Israel as a political football,” said Dadon.

Another senior leader said there is “no question” the leadership of the Jewish community favors the Liberal Party.

He claimed some Jewish leaders felt “betrayed” by the Labor Party after Julia Gillard, who he described as “an unwavering friend of Israel,” was dramatically deposed as prime minister at the end of June.

During Rudd’s first stint as prime minister from 2007 to 2010 he led a successful campaign for Australia to win a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council, but was accused of sacrificing support for Israel in a bid to woo Arab votes.

Gillard wanted to oppose the vote to upgrade the status of Palestine at the UN last year but was thwarted by a campaign reportedly led by Carr, who preferred to abstain.

The Jewish vote in Australia is neither uniform nor influential given its relatively small size, and most Jews generally vote primarily on economic and social issues, and not based on the party’s Middle East policy.

But the Liberal Party’s strong economic credentials, coupled with its unapologetic support for Israel, are understood to have attracted increased Jewish support in the last decade.

One Jewish leader said Labor’s wavering posture on Israel would affect some Jewish voters. “I know there are a lot of Jewish people who feel strongly about it,” he said.

Abbott, a London native who once enrolled at a Catholic seminary before abandoning plans for the priesthood, has wooed Jewish voters since his first public speech soon after being elected leader of the Liberal Party in December 2009.

“I’d like to think that nowhere in the world [does Israel] have more stauncher friends than us,” he told Dadon’s Leadership Forum in Melbourne.

Dr. Ron Weiser, a former president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, told Haaretz: “It is not uncritical support that we seek; it is the support of a friend who understands that Israel is a moral entity that behaves morally and with that understanding is more likely in the first instance to assume that Israel is correct rather than incorrect.”

In an apparent swipe at Carr, he added: “We seek the support of a friend who understands the complexities of the Middle East and the fact that the obstacle to peace is not the legality of settlements but rather Palestinian intransigence and Palestinian unwillingness to accept a two-states-for-two-peoples solution.”

But some Jewish leaders fear a Liberal government could “open the door to Holocaust denial” by amending the Racial Discrimination Act. Abbott has mooted the possibility of diluting section 18c of the RDA, which makes it illegal to commit an act that could “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people … because of their race, color or national or ethnic origin.”

It was precisely this section that was cited by Federal Court judge Catherine Branson in 2002 when she ruled that Adelaide’s Dr Fredrick Toben must stop publishing Holocaust denial material on the Internet in a landmark case brought by Jewish community leaders.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, another Jewish MP alongside Danby in the Labor government, argued in an open letter to Abbott recently that his preference to limit section 18c to acts of “intimidation or harassment” is inconsistent with his support for the London Declaration on Combatting Anti-Semitism.

“Section 18c is precisely the kind of legislated protection against anti-Semitism and discrimination that the London Declaration calls on its signatories to enact,” Dreyfus wrote.

The best outcome for the Australian Jewish community would be a narrow victory for the Liberal Party, added one senior Jewish leader.

“That would mean Australia would revert to its historic position regarding Israel but they will not be able to ram through badly thought-out amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act.”

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Weekly reminder to assist my documentary on disaster capitalism

A week after launching my Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 for my documentary with New York colleague Thor Neureiter, on the subject of disaster capitalism and Profits of Doom, we’re close to 30% of our target with many more pledges still to come, I’m told. Thanks for all your support thus far. But we have a long way to go. I’ll be gently reminding people until our deadline in September. Independent work needs your help.

Here’s US independent news site Mondoweiss helping along:

Our friend Antony Loewenstein is working on an important documentary about the pillaging of resources without respect for the people’s interests in Afghanistan, Haiti, and Papua New Guinea. He’s got a Kickstarter campaign up for the project; I’m going to donate today (because we all know this is the way journalism will be funded in years to come). Here’s Antony’s pitch:

 I’ve spent my professional career investigating stories the mainstream media largely ignores from Palestine to Syria and Cuba to China. Uncovering the silences, revealing the lives of people the corporate press deems unimportant. Israel/Palestine has been a key focus, including my best-selling book My Israel Question and last year’s edited collection After Zionism (with Ahmed Moor). Detailing Western-backed apartheid should be a duty of all rational human beings.
 
Now, after this month’s release of my new book Profits of Doom: How Vulture Capitalism is Swallowing the World (endorsed by Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Scahill, John Pilger and others) – a work that’s taken me to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia – I’m launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund an independent documentary. Working with New York based film-maker Thor Neureiter, we’re needing to raise $20,000 in one month to take us back to Afghanistan, Haiti and Papua New Guinea and shoot more footage of lives negatively affected by US foreign policy, mining interests, privatized aid and business lobbies in Washington that only care about the bottom line. And to document inspiring resistance against the odds. 
 
We’d greatly appreciate your financial support (at this link). Independent film-making and journalism takes time and effort and your assistance will make this work a reality. Spread the word and please tell your friends and family. And if you know any wealthy benefactors, send them our way. 
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On the dangers of militant atheism

One of the themes in my recent book For God’s Sake is tackling the role of extremism in all its guises, including atheism.

I was interviewed this week by Jenna Price in The Canberra Times:

Australian journalist and atheist Antony Loewenstein, co-author of For God’s Sake, says evangelical atheism, or what is now called “new atheism”, is on the rise – and he believes it is a direct result of the al-Qaeda attacks on the US on September 11, 2001.

“There’s been a weird trend for people to overcompensate for what they perceive is a religious influence,” he says. “They mimic the extremism or forcefulness of how important it is to not believe.”

It is pretty unpleasant, bagging out all the other faiths in the most unpleasant way.

”It’s almost an insecurity and a hatred of religions without acknowledging the many benefits faith can bring, ” Loewenstein says. “[The new atheists] ignore the fact that for billions of people around the world, religion brings hope.”

Loewenstein is a Jewish-born atheist, so it is not as if he is carrying a flag for the God team. But, as he points out, atheist militants are not much of an advertisement for a world which, without God, is meant to be more tolerant and harmonious.

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Perth Indymedia interview on Profits of Doom

I was interviewed last night by Perth Indymedia on my new book, Profits of Doom, and we discussed privatised detention centres, privatised war in Afghanistan and Iraq and resistance in the form of the #Occupy movement. Listen here.

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Western elite outrage over Syria has little to do with chemical weapons

Forget the crocodile tears of Western leaders. This is about unseating a leader who opposes Western designs in the Middle East (albeit Assad is an incredibly brutal dictator).

Here’s Australian intellectual Scott Burchill:

How genuine is the West’s concerns about the use of chemical weapons in Syria five days ago? Not very, I suspect.
 
To illustrate my pessimism, how did the West respond to Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons against the Kurds of Halabja on 17 March, 1988 when over 5,000 people were poisoned. Outrage, condemnation, missile attacks? The opposite.
 
First, Washington disingenuously blamed Iran – knowing exactly who was actually responsible. They then continued to shower Saddam with “$5 billion in food credits, technology, and industrial products, most coming after it began to use mustard, cyanide, and nerve gases against both Iranians and dissident Kurds” (historian Gabriel Kolko). After the attack on Halabja Saddam was further rewarded by George Bush 1 with new lines of credit and praise from Bush’s Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly, who described the monster as “a source of moderation in the region.”
 
Twenty months after this horrific crime, Washington was still providing Baghdad with dual-use licensed materials, including chemical precursors, biological warfare-related materials and missile guidance equipment – enabling Saddam to initially develop his WMD programs. 
 
During the worst decade of Saddam’s rule (1980-90), the UK sold Iraq £2.3 billion in machinery and transport equipment and £3.5 billion in trade credits, supporting the creation of a local arms industry and freeing up valuable resources for the Iraqi military. London responded to the atrocity in Halabja by failing to criticise Saddam (ditto for Washington), doubling export credits to Baghdad and relaxing export guidelines making it easier to sell arms to Iraq. 
 
In Australia, a search of Hansard for the year 1988 reveals no expressions of concern about the chemical attacks by Iraq. Nothing at all.
 
The US and UK might respond to public pressure and “do something” terrible to Syria, but it will not be out of any humanitarian concern felt in Washington or London about the use of chemical weapons.
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