This week’s horrific terrorist attack in Sydney, a crazed self-styled cleric held people hostage in the Lindt cafe in central Sydney killing three people including the gunman, has shocked the country and generated global headlines. Too much of the media coverage was exploitative and sensational, framing the event as led or even inspired by ISIS. Rupert Murdoch’s outlets were particularly egregious.
I was asked to comment about the wider political issues for Al Jazeera America. I wasn’t an eyewitness to the siege so offered some context for such events in Australia and globally:
Last night I appeared on ABCTV News24’s The Drum talking about ISIS, terrorism and Gough Whitlam’s collusion in the occupation of East Timor:
Last week I spoke at Sydney’s Politics in the Pub about the recent Gaza conflict and implications for global attitudes towards Israel. Thanks to Cathy Vogan for filming the event:
In August I was involved in an IQ2 Squared debate in Sydney (and my side won, for the record, despite the audience starting off backing the other team.) This was broadcast by ABCTV1’s Big Ideas:
Are we becoming enslaved to our technology?
This was a decent Intelligence Squared debate with the audience split between the oldies, some middle aged hipsters and a bunch of law students.
The biggest drawcard was Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton, who turned in a good performance for the negative. That is, we are not enslaved by technology. He was backed by journalist, filmmaker and blogger, Antony Loewenstein, and Asher Wolf, a self-described ‘information activist’.
On the affirmative was Crikey’s Bernard Keane, Alastair McGibbon, an Associate Professor at the University of Canberra and Katina Michael. Michael is an Associate Professor in the School of Information Systems and Technology at the University of Wollongong. Consequently hers is a surprising stand and she does a decent imitation of a rapper in a great big spray on the ‘evils of technology’.
This debate was moderated by Simon Longstaff and recorded at the City Recital Hall in Sydney.
During the recent Byron Bay Writer’s Festival this event, broadcast by ABCTV1’s Big Ideas, was a robust discussion on the rights, responsibilities and pressures of conflict reporting in a post 9/11 world:
In this session writers Abbas El-Zein, Antony Loewenstein and Washington Post journalist David Finkel deliver strikingly different perspectives on the Iraqi and Afghan wars. An intense discussion develops about the nature of reporting and advocacy, with Finkel and Loewenstein very much opposed.
Finkel has covered wars in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, documenting the impact of war on the psyche of the soldiers at the front. Loewenstein explains that whilst he is not without empathy for the plight of the individual soldier, his sympathies lie with the Iraqis and the Afghans.
Finkel drives home the need to tell a story without an agenda “so that readers can feel what war can be.” El-Zein is in agreement and observes “the job of a journalist isn’t to judge” but to deliver to the public the most comprehensive information available.
This session was filmed at the Byron Bay Writers Festival and moderated by Jacqui Park.
This panel brings together a group of Australians of Italian, Chinese, Indigenous, Jewish, and Vietnamese descent to talk over the notion of home.
What is it? Where is it? What is belonging?
They discuss the importance of land, acknowledging their different approaches towards ownership and property, and the experience of living in a country that has been inundated and crisscrossed by many migratory patterns.
This conservation features Teresa Crea, Annette Shun Wah, Alexis Wright, Philip McLaren, Lionel Fogarty, Antony Loewenstein and Chi Vu. Staged in Darwin at the Wordstorm writers festival this seems a particularly apt forum for such a dialogue.
This morning I was invited onto Channel 7’s Weekend Sunrise to discuss the Israeli onslaught in Gaza and Israeli government extremism:
The following was broadcast last week by ABC TV’s Big Ideas:
Big Ideas went to the deep north for the Wordstorm festival in Darwin. This is a festival that covers local and national politics and culture with a hefty dose of late night rapping. Some of the rap probably needs a late night time slot; but we can bring you this uncensored session on freedom of the press that pulls together some local journalists and some from the bigger smoke.
The panellists are Kerrie Anne Walsh, formerly of the Canberra Press Gallery & author of The Stalking of Julia Gillard; Glen Morrison, a journalist from Alice Springs, John Van Tiggelan; formerly with The Good Weekend & currently a journalist with The Monthly, writer Claire Scobie & the ubiquitous Antony Loewenstein – blogger, doco maker and journalist. His last book you might recall was Profits of Doom.
Kerrie Anne Walsh is particularly good on the big changes in the reportage and alignments within the Canberra press gallery.
I was interviewed for the SBS TV news earlier this week on Canberra’s insane decision to avoid calling East Jerusalem “occupied” despite the entire world knowing that it is, except the occupying nation itself, Israel. Shalailah Medhora is the journalist (and a link to the video is here):
Last week Attorney-General George Brandis told Senate Estimates that Australia would drop “occupied” when referring to East Jerusalem.
Australia is the only nation apart from Israel to change its language on the contested land.
“Australia [will] isolate itself from the entire international community, and from the peace process,” Ambassador to the General Delegation of Palestine, Izzat Abdulhadi, told SBS.
The Ambassador has met with counterparts from Arab and Asian nations to draft a letter calling for an urgent meeting with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to clarify Australia’s position.
“In this letter we express our deep concern about this position of Australia,” Mr Abdulhadi says.
“We think it’s important for Australia to revise its position.”
Israeli Ambassador to Australia, Schmuel Ben-Schmuel, has welcomed the policy shift.
“It’s a reasonable step which I wish all like-minded countries would accept,” Mr Ben-Schmuel told SBS.
The Ambassador says the change will help the peace process.
“The way through peace is through direct negotiation through the parties involved.”
Former Australian Ambassador to Israel, Ross Burns, disagrees.
“Now we seem to be losing our capacity to dialogue with the Arab side,” the ex-Ambassador turned Palestinian advocate, says.
“Our name has been mud, particularly among the Palestinians, but also generally in the Arab world.”
Some commentators think the decision to drop “occupied” is less about the federal government’s ideology, and more about keeping the Jewish lobby happy.
“They’re trying to do this as some kind of quid pro quo in relation to the Racial Discrimination Act,” Independent journalist and author Antony Loewenstein says.
Representatives of the Israeli community in Australia refute that.
“It’s irrelevant,” Colin Rubenstein from the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council says.
“It’s completely unrelated to that.”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop issued SBS with a statement saying there’s been no change to the federal government’s position on the legal status of the Palestinian Territories.
The Palestinian Authority has summoned Australian representative in Ramallah, Tom Wilson, to issue a please explain.
Dr Saeb Erekat, a senior member of the Palestinian Authority, has written to Minister Bishop saying that the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation may review their relations with Australia in light of the policy shift.
The following was broadcast today on ABCTV1:
Can vulture capitalism be stopped?
That’s the question put up by Antony Loewenstein in his last book ‘Profits of Doom: How vulture capitalism is swallowing the world’.
He’s a writer, photographer, blogger, doco-maker and always a provocateur. He’s in conversation here with Chip Rolley, editor of the ABC’s The Drum.
The focus of this exchange is the implications of privatising prisons, detention centres, aid and security in this country and on a global scale.
To put this conversation in context, it took place at the Perth Writers Festival right after the riot on Manus Island and the death of refugee inmate Reza Barati.