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.

Growing ties between Israel and the global far-right

My investigation, for MidEastWire publication, researched over many months:

The global sound of fury and shock heralded by the win of Donald Trump as the new U.S. President wasn’t heard in Israel. A poll, released in early December by the firm Dialog, found that 83 percent of Israelis viewed Trump as “pro-Israel” and hoped he would support their government’s position on expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank.

In February 2016, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he was planning to “surround all of Israel with a fence” to keep out Palestinians and Arab states’ citizens. “In our neighborhood, we need to protect ourselves from wild beasts,” he said.

This discriminatory attitude is not just limited to politics but is both mainstream and widely accepted in Israel.  For example, members of the far-right extremist group Lehava are strictly against any interaction between Jews and Palestinians. They roam the streets of Israel assaulting Arabs, and Israel does little to stop it. The group’s Hebrew stickers on Jerusalem streets read: “Beware the goys [a derogatory term for non-Jews]: they will defile you.”

Israeli security firms are excited about Trump’s win. They see dollar signs in the U.S., Europe and beyond as Western nations struggle to manage a huge influx of refugees and Muslims from the Middle East, Africa and Western Asia. Israel is viewed as an expert in the fields of counter-terrorism, surveillance, fences, sensors and militarization of borders.

In 2015, Israel reported $5.7 billion of defense industry exports. Arms sales especially soared to Europe, growing from $724 million in 2014 to $1.63 billion in 2015, amid growing concerns over refugees and terrorism. Equipment included aerospace, radar, drones and intelligence systems. Israel and its defense firms hope that surging interest in their products will counteract any negative economic impact from the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

When contacted for a comment, the Israeli Ministry of Defense refused to talk about its collaboration over countering possible threats related to refugees and terrorism.

“Unfortunately, as a rule, the Ministry does not comment on defense relationships with other countries,” it said.

Israel-based Magal Security Systems, the world’s biggest provider of perimeter security technology has global experience in using technology to keep out the unwanted and saw its share price soar following Trump’s victory.

The company’s chief executive, Saar Koursh, was recently quoted by the Financial Times saying he wanted to work on Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico.

“If Mr. Trump builds a fence or a wall, we believe our technology will definitely be a benefit,” he reportedly said.

Hagai Katz, Magal’s Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, explained that his firm is involved in securing all of Israel’s borders including those with Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza. The “smart fence” around Gaza, “battle-tested” is attractive to clients, works with Israeli video cameras, satellite monitoring, ground sensors and motion detectors.

The close-to two million citizens of the Gaza Strip live in a large, open-air Israeli-imposed prison, with the U.N. fearing the territory will be uninhabitable by 2020. A recent visit to Gaza showed a population with virtually no freedom of movement.

A Magal client list, confirmed by the corporation as up to date, shows hundreds of partners developed over its more than 43 years in the business. This includes security for civilian airports in China, Colombia, the U.S., U.K. and Mexico, seaports in Israel, Canada and Kenya, utilities in Australia, Chile and Morocco, oil and gas facilities in the Gulf, Italy and Nigeria and nuclear sites in the U.S. Furthermore, there are countless commercial projects across the world, prisons, militaries (including in Bahrain) and borders including India and Pakistan, Minnesota in the U.S., Bulgaria and Serbia, as well as Slovakia and Ukraine.

A new Magal promotional brochure explains to potential clients that the main challenge in stopping “infiltrators” in Europe is gathering intelligence and establishing early warning systems.

Katz said that Israel’s “smart fence” with Egypt, five metres high with barbed wire, military posts and a quick reaction force, is the “most relevant for Europe because it’s concerned with illegal immigration.” He explained that there were five “D’s” for an effective smart fence: demark the border, deterrence, detection, delay and defeat.

“In the case of illegal immigration,” Katz explained, “deterrence is the most important thing because you don’t want to cope with the problem when somebody crosses [a border].” When a Magal spokesman was asked if fences and monitoring borders were a solution to the refugee crisis or simply a profitable outcome, Katz said: “If you really want to solve it, you need to be aggressive and determined. Nobody likes to use fences. The landscape looks ugly. It’s against the idea of open borders.”

He added that Hungary, perhaps the most antagonistic nation towards refugees in Europe, had only constructed a “dumb fence,” without technology or sensors. This “doesn’t solve the problem but moves it from one country to another.”

Although Katz said that a number of European nations had contacted Magal to get quotes on border security – the cost is up to $5 million per kilometre of physical fence – “most of the European countries have not decided to do this. They believe they can cope with the problem without decisive actions.” Katz saw expansion opportunities in Africa (Magal is competing to build a wall between Kenya and Somalia, at a cost of over $15 billion), Eastern Europe and former Soviet states.

Other Israeli companies are also in the border monitoring business. Elbit Systems, one of Israel’s largest defence contractors and experts in drone manufacturing, are working on the U.S./Mexico border. The sandy terrain near Nogales, Arizona, the second-largest border-patrol station in the U.S., has an Elbit-built radar system. The company’s head, Bezhalel Machlis, told the Financial Times in July that he was excited about the worldwide trend towards increased military budgets.

The Israeli military tests Elbit equipment before they are sold to agencies worldwide, where Palestinians living under occupation are used as guinea pigs for Elbit’s technology.

It is worth noting that the global interest in Israeli strategies to control borders is more than just a desire for technological experience. Trump’s election and the growing support for far-right political parties and movements across Europe reveal an ideological alliance that connects Israel’s burgeoning militarized settler movement with the white nationalist agenda.

This was perfectly articulated in December at Texas A&M University when Richard Spencer, head of the white nationalist National Policy Institute, silenced Rabbi Matt Rosenberg by suggesting Zionism and Jewish continuity required discrimination and isolation to thrive.

“Do you really want radical inclusion into the State of Israel?” Spencer asked. “And by that I mean radical inclusion. Maybe all of the Middle East could go move in to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Would you really want that? Jews exist precisely because you did not assimilate.”

A few weeks earlier, Spencer had praised Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and questioned whether “Israeli nationalists might want to help finance the far right in Europe and North America.” In July, he told the U.S. website Mondoweiss that he admired Israel as “a homogenous ethno-state.” During the Trump inauguration in Washington DC, Spencer was punched in the head by an anti-fascist protestor. He remains a divisive figure, opposed by many Jews, who craves separation of the races.

However, Spencer perfectly understood why many white nationalists, in the U.S., Europe and globally, have become ardent Israel supporters. Demographically, maintaining a Jewish majority in Israel is only assured by treating its Arab population as second class citizens. This is what most white nationalists admire in Israel, a willingness to brutally suppress another people to keep the state racially pure. Nationalists want the U.S. and Europe to behave similarly towards Muslims and refugees, groups that, in their view, are diluting the purity of the world’s superior Christian population.

David Sheen, an Israeli-based, independent journalist focusing on racial and religious conflict in Israeli society, said that “Israel’s leaders make brazen statements about their intentions to rule all the land, from the river to the sea, and to make Jewish supremacy paramount, demoting democratic principles to secondary status. They have already forced out over a third of the country’s African refugee population, and are on track to complete the cleansing over the next decade, if not less than that…There is no serious force at present, either within Israeli society or outside of it, that is capable of halting, or even of slowing down, Israel’s descent from flawed ethnocracy into full-on folkism.”

This logic has seen neo-Nazis and far-right extremists from Europe and the U.S. welcomed to Israel with open arms. Austria’s far-right, Freedom Party leader, Heinz-Christian Strach, visited Israel’s Holocaust memorial in April and met with members of the governing Likud party. His motives, according to press reports, were to make him “kosher in Israel” and acceptable to world leaders. Strach spoke of the “the Judeo-Christian West”.

“If Israel fails, Europe fails. And if Europe fails, Israel fails,” he said. Israeli settler leaders happily overlooked his neo-Nazi past and praised his unwavering support for Israel.

Among some French and German far-right movements online there is extensive support for Israel and its posture towards Muslims and Arabs. Largely written in the local language, and ignored by the Western media, far-right websites revel in Islamophobia as a perceived state policy in Israel and urge Europe to copy it.

One German website, PI News, claims to be “news against the mainstream” and backing “America, Israel, basic and human laws and the fight against the Islamization of Europe.” German Holocaust deniers visited Israel’s Holocaust museum and travelled around Israel in 2016 talking about blowing up mosques and embracing the settler movement. The group, from popular anti-immigrant parties, believed that radical Islam was the common dominator between themselves and Israel.

Such rhetoric is now politically popular across the West and it’s not hard to see why Israel, building fences and walls around itself, is the model. Companies such as Elbit and Magal are reaping the benefits.

Many Europeans now oppose Israel’s colonization policies and advocate boycotts against the Jewish state. However, Strach and his party, founded by former Nazis in the 1950s, are leading a wave of far-right solidarity with Israel across Europe and the world. From Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France to key players in the Trump administration, backing Israel and its draconian policies against Muslims, refugees, Palestinians, Arabs and black Africans is the new litmus test for the authoritarian right. Israel’s political and business elites, largely in sync with these views, have brilliantly exploited and monetized Western fears over minorities.

Trump’s chief strategist, of course, is Steve Bannon, former executive chair of the far-right Breitbart website that has published countless derogatory articles on Muslims, woman and Jews but earned praise (along with some opposition) for its Zionist stance from some of the leading U.S. – Zionist organizations. For them, anti-Semitism is irrelevant so long as Israel is given unconditional support.

It’s a dangerous and self-defeating stance that endangers Jews worldwide though there’s a long history of Zionist groups working with fascist groups in Israel and globally. Historically, neo-Nazis and white nationalists loathed Jews but today it’s not unusual to see the Israeli flag being waved at a far-right, Pegida rally in Germany or an event organized by Britain’s U.K. Independence Party (UKIP).

Former Israeli politician, Aryeh Eldad, from the far-right National Union Party, who once advocated the shooting of anybody who crossed Israel’s border with Egypt and is friends with far-right, Dutch politician Geert Wilders, says Israel has key lessons to teach the world.

Eldad believes that it was a mistake to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as territorial with the refugee issues facing Europe since Islam is the problem.

He adds that refugee and Muslims’ high birth-rate would soon extinguish European Christians.

“If they [Europeans] want to keep their national and cultural identity…they will have to prevent further waves of immigrants because they will not be assimilated…We [Israelis] are idiots if we think it isn’t a religious war or clash of ideologies,” he said in a recent interview.

Eldad’s solution included expanding Israeli settlements, which he viewed as “legal” and “necessary,” as well as fortifying Israeli borders. Europe had to respond similarly, he argued, and repel the wave of migrants. Otherwise, it would continue being a “suicidal society,” determined to be overrun by Islam.

no comments – be the first ↪

How Western-backed Saudi fundamentalism is causing chaos

One of the great unspoken truths of the 21st century. After this week’s shocking terrorist acts in Russia, it’s possible (though impossible to know) that Saudi Arabia may be behind the carnage (they threatened as much a few months ago).

The venerable Patrick Cockburn, writing in the UK Independent, on the ominous signs of sectarian madness in the Middle East and globally. The West turns a blind eye:

Anti-Shia hate propaganda spread by Sunni religious figures sponsored by, or based in, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, is creating the ingredients for a sectarian civil war engulfing the entire Muslim world. Iraq and Syria have seen the most violence, with the majority of the 766 civilian fatalities in Iraq this month being Shia pilgrims killed by suicide bombers from the al-Qa’ida umbrella group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis). The anti-Shia hostility of this organisation, now operating from Baghdad to Beirut, is so extreme that last month it had to apologise for beheading one of its own wounded fighters in Aleppo – because he was mistakenly believed to have muttered the name of Shia saints as he lay on a stretcher.

At the beginning of December, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula killed 53 doctors and nurses and wounded 162 in an attack on a hospital in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, which had been threatened for not taking care of wounded militants by a commentator on an extreme Sunni satellite TV station. Days before the attack, he announced that armies and tribes would assault the hospital “to take revenge for our brothers. We say this and, by the grace of Allah, we will do it”.

Skilled use of the internet and access to satellite television funded by or based in Sunni states has been central to the resurgence of al-Qa’ida across the Middle East, to a degree that Western politicians have so far failed to grasp. In the last year, Isis has become the most powerful single rebel military force in Iraq and Syria, partly because of its ability to recruit suicide bombers and fanatical fighters through the social media. Western intelligence agencies, such as the NSA in the US, much criticised for spying on the internet communications of their own citizens, have paid much less attention to open and instantly accessible calls for sectarian murder that are in plain view. Critics say that this is in keeping with a tradition since 9/11 of Western governments not wishing to hold Saudi Arabia or the Gulf monarchies responsible for funding extreme Sunni jihadi groups and propagandists supporting them through private donations.

Satellite television, internet, YouTube and Twitter content, frequently emanating from or financed by oil states in the Arabian peninsula, are at the centre of a campaign to spread sectarian hatred to every corner of the Muslim world, including places where Shia are a vulnerable minority, such as Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Malaysia. In Benghazi, in effect the capital of eastern Libya, a jihadi group uploaded a video of the execution of an Iraqi professor who admitted to being a Shia, saying they had shot him in revenge for the execution of Sunni militants by the Iraqi government.

There is now a fast-expanding pool of jihadis willing to fight and die anywhere. The Saudis and the Gulf monarchies may find, as happened in Afghanistan 30 years ago, that, by funding or tolerating the dissemination of Sunni-Shia hate, they have created a sectarian Frankenstein’s monster of religious fanatics beyond their control. 

26 comments ↪

Use and abuse of the Holocaust to defend and support Israel

Interesting and necessary editorial in Haaretz:

The flyby over the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp by three Israel Air Force planes 10 years ago was a significant event for the service. The air force’s commander, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, still keeps the flight’s documentation close by in his office.

Four air force commanders at different times were involved in preparing and carrying out the flyby – Dan Halutz, Eliezer Shkedy, Ido Nehushtan and Eshel, who led it. It was no simple operation, among other things due to the Polish government’s objection to letting Israeli war planes into its airspace.

Senior air force officers, whose hands were full of planning and conducting operative missions, insisted on carrying out the flyby and planned it meticulously. They testified that it constituted a demonstration of Israeli might where a Jewish tragedy had taken place 60 years earlier, when no international aircraft came to the rescue of the massacred.

The great value that senior air force officers attribute to the Auschwitz flyby – whose photographs were distributed to every air force squadron commander and base commander – points to the Gordian knot between the Holocaust trauma and the perception of security and army in Israel. This knot has been preserved to this day. The people in charge of the attacks in Syria and Lebanon (according to foreign sources) and of preparing the air force for a future attack in Iran, see the September 2003 flyby as one of the most important flights of their lives.

This means that the awareness of the Holocaust and the dread of its recurrence are consciously and deliberately blended into the air force’s policy, and into the IDF and defense establishment’s policy in general. At the same time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu frequently compares the Iranian nuclear threat to the murderous outcome of the Nazis’ rule, and warns time and again that the Jewish people can trust no one but themselves to prevent another tragedy of the Holocaust’s proportions.

Journalist Thomas Friedman wrote years ago that “Israel is Yad Vashem with an air force.” Not only is this provocative statement not denied by Israel’s policy makers and military top brass, it is defiantly adopted by them.

Israel today is a strong, independent entity that has been accepted by the international community. The Holocaust’s memory is a historical obligation, a monument to human brutality that must not be forgotten. But it cannot constitute a strategic or security consideration that statesmen and army chiefs must deal with today. They must outline Israel’s strategy and its diplomatic and military way, while focusing on its future and on the needs of its people, who want to live not as captives of past traumas.

16 comments ↪

When Ehud Olmert again compares occupation to South Africa

In the just financed film about the Zionist lobby group J Street, there’s an interview with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert about the inability to sustain the Israeli occupation of Palestine for another 45 years. It’s been said many times before, and Olmert is a war criminal for his actions in Gaza and Lebanon, but his words are completely ignored and shunned in the mainstream Zionist community and conservative press. The occupation is welcomed:

14 comments ↪

Rise of Sunnis in the Middle East and the decline of Iran in 2013

Juan Cole offers some predictions:

2013 will see Iranian influence in the Middle East continue a decline that began with the Arab upheavals of 2011. Iran’s two major allies in the Arab world are Syria and Lebanon. In Lebanon, Iran arms the Shiite party-militia Hizbullah, and does so overland through Iraq and Syria. Since Israel controls the Mediterranean off Lebanon and can, when it wants to, control Lebanese air space, the land corridor for Iranian supplies to Hizbullah is key to the latter’s ability to confront Israeli expansionism into Lebanese territory.

Hizbullah could well have its Iranian lifeline cut. Its secretary-general, Hassan Nasrullah, has come out strongly in favor of the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, because both of them are Iranian clients. If Syria falls to the Sunni Arab revolutionaries, the latter will have a grudge toward both Iran and Hizbullah for supporting the Baath government, and will likely cut the latter off from resupply through Syrian territory. Instead, Syrian support will go to the Sunnis of Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli, Akkar and the Biqa Valley.

Between 2003 and 2012 the United States, in a fit of absent-mindedness, made Iran a regional hegemon. Washington overthrew the Taliban in Afghanistan and delivered it into the hands of the Northern Alliance, a set of strong Iran allies. A brake on Iranian influence in Afghanistan was removed. Then the Bush administration overthrew Saddam Hussein, the Sunni ruler who subjected the Shiite majority and stood as a barrier to Iranian penetration of the Middle East. Without meaning to, the US brought to power a religious Shiite government that naturally allied with Iran. Then the US Congress targeted Syria for deep sanctions and the Bush hawks drove it firmly into the arms of Iran. The Bush administration backed Israel’s attack on Lebanon in 2006, which strengthened the Shiite party-militia Hizbullah, which now is a key backer of the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Miqati. The pro-Iran capitals stretched from Kabul to Beirut (light blue in the map below), and Iran suddenly became a much bigger player in Levantine affairs than it had been in the 1990s. The Israeli security establishment, indeed, fingered Tehran as their most pressing threat. Iran was lionized in the Arab world for supporting Hizbullah against Israel in the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War.

If al-Assad falls in Syria and is replaced by a Sunni government of revolutionaries, they will be beholden to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey (and Libya), all of them Wahhabi or Sunni powers. They will likely punish Hizbullah for its support of the Baath government, and will support Sunni forces, including the Muslim Brotherhood, in Lebanese politics. If Hizbullah can’t replenish its stock of rockets, its geopolitical significance could decline, even as that of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood rises. The partitions in the following map, of Iraq and Afghanistan, are meant only to depict the regional divide over foreign policy, not to suggest an actual break-up of these countries (but who knows?)

9 comments ↪

UK Israel lobby is most powerful in the country

The power of the Zionist lobby in Britain is far too rarely discussed in the mainstream media. And yet its presence is one of the key reasons London is so blindly supportive of Israel. Here’s a rare perspective, written by Peter Obourne in the UK TelegraphNote the fear that the two-state solution is dead/dying/on life support, as if imaging a truly democratic state is beyond comprehension:

It is impossible to understand the modern Conservative Party without a grasp of the scale and profundity of its links to the state of Israel. The connection dates back at least as far the historic meeting between the great Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann and the Conservative prime minister A J Balfour in 1905, during which Weizmann convinced Balfour of the case for a Jewish national state.

The warmth forged 107 years ago is today sustained by the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI). Some 80 per cent of all Tory MPs are members, including most Cabinet ministers. No other lobbying organisation – and certainly not one that acts in the interests of a foreign country – carries as much weight at Westminster. Every year, it takes a significant number of parliamentarians to Israel. Meanwhile, its sponsors play an important role in financing both the Tories nationally, and MPs at the local level.

There is no doubt that the CFI has exercised a powerful influence over policy. The Conservative politician and historian Robert Rhodes James, writing in the Jerusalem Post in 1995, called it “the largest organisation in Western Europe dedicated to the cause of the people of Israel”. Its power has not waned since. On Tuesday, it hosted approximately 100 Tory MPs, including six Cabinet ministers, and a further 40 peers, at a lunch in central London. The speaker was David Cameron, who pronounced himself a “passionate friend” of Israel, making clear (as he has done in the past) that nothing could break that friendship.

This speech can be seen as part of a pattern. The CFI can call almost at will upon the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer or Foreign Secretary. The Palestinians enjoy no such access. They would be lucky to get a single Conservative MP in the audience for their events, and perhaps some moribund peer to make an address. There is no such organisation as the Conservative Friends of Palestinians.

This lack of even-handedness reflects itself in policy. When William Hague denounced Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon as “disproportionate”, the CFI (as I revealed in a film on the pro-Israeli lobby for Channel 4’s Dispatches) complained in person to David Cameron. It obtained a promise that the word would never be used again – one that was kept when Israel bombarded Gaza last month, even though the number of Palestinian deaths vastly exceeded those on the Israeli side.

On Monday night, one former British ambassador to Israel, the Hebrew-speaking Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, made an eloquent speech from which it is important to quote at some length: “I believe passionately that Israel on its present course is embarked on a pathway to assisted suicide. Suicide assisted by the Congress of the United States. The idea that the problem can be solved by walling up the Palestinians in the Middle Eastern equivalent of the Bantustans, which the South African government embarked on in the 1940s, is not only offensive morally, it is deeply out of keeping with everything we know of human history. It will not work, it cannot work, it should not work. And anyone who has a real affection for the Jewish people will want to help them to avoid this looming disaster.”

4 comments ↪

Memo to journalists over Gaza; it ain’t hard to avoid “balanced” reporting

Robert Fisk on the latest round of Israeli aggression against Gaza:

Terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. Here we go again. Israel is going to “root out Palestinian terror” – which it has been claiming to do, unsuccessfully, for 64 years – while Hamas, the latest in “Palestine’s” morbid militias, announces that Israel has “opened the gates of hell” by murdering its military leader, Ahmed al-Jabari.

Hezbollah several times announced that Israel had “opened the gates of hell” for attacking Lebanon. Yasser Arafat, who was a super-terrorist, then a super-statesman – after capitulating on the White House lawn – and then became a super-terrorist again when he realized he’d been conned by Camp David; he, too waffled on about the “gates of hell” in 1982.

And we journos are writing like performing bears, repeating all the clichés we’ve used for the past 40 years. The killing of Mr Jabari was a “targeted attack”, it was a “surgical air strike” – like the Israeli “surgical air strikes” which killed almost 17,000 civilians in Lebanon in 1982, the 1,200 Lebanese, most of them civilians, in 2006, or the 1,300 Palestinians, most of them civilians, in Gaza in 2008-9, or the pregnant woman and the baby who were killed by the “surgical air strikes” in Gaza last week – and the 11 civilians killed in one Gaza house yesterday. At least Hamas, with their Godzilla rockets, don’t claim anything “surgical” about them. They are meant to murder Israelis – any Israelis, man woman or child.

As, in truth, are the Israeli attacks on Gaza. But don’t say that or you’ll be an anti-Semitic Nazi; almost as evil, wicked, unspeakable, devilish and murderous as the Hamas movement with which – again, please don’t mention this – Israel happily negotiated in the Eighties when they encouraged this bunch of mobsters to take power in Gaza and thus decapitate the exiled super-terrorist Arafat. The new exchange rate in Gaza for Palestinian and Israeli deaths has reached 16:1. It will rise, of course. The exchange rate in 2008-9 was 100:1.

And we are myth-making too. The last Israeli war in Gaza was such a stunning success – “rooting out terror”, of course – that their supposedly élite units couldn’t even find their own captured soldier Gilad Shalit, eventually produced last year by Mr Jabari in person.

Mr Jabari was the “No 1 shadowy leader” of Hamas, according to the Associated Press. But how on earth can he be shadowy when we know his date of birth, family details, his years of imprisonment by Israel during which he changed allegiance from Fatah to Hamas? So while I’m on it, those years of Israeli imprisonment didn’t exactly convert Mr Jabari to pacifism, did they? Well, no tears then; he was a man who lived by the sword and died by the sword, a fate which, of course, will not afflict Israel’s warriors of the air as they kill civilians in Gaza.

Washington supports Israel’s “right to defend itself” then claims a spurious neutrality – as if Israel’s bombs on Gaza didn’t come from the United States as assuredly as the Fajr-5 rockets come from Iran.

24 comments ↪

When Israel lies to America and Washington turns the other cheek

A revealing piece in the New York Times by Seth Anziska that outlines the ways that an arrogant Israel sees no issue with lying to its benefactor, America, while Washington appears far too willing to accept the word of a notoriously venal Israeli establishment:

On the night of Sept. 16, 1982, the Israeli military allowed a right-wing Lebanese militia to enter two Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut. In the ensuing three-day rampage, the militia, linked to the Maronite Christian Phalange Party, raped, killed and dismembered at least 800 civilians, while Israeli flares illuminated the camps’ narrow and darkened alleyways. Nearly all of the dead were women, children and elderly men.

Thirty years later, the massacre at the Sabra and Shatila camps is remembered as a notorious chapter in modern Middle Eastern history, clouding the tortured relationships among Israel, the United States, Lebanon and the Palestinians. In 1983, an Israeli investigative commission concluded that Israeli leaders were “indirectly responsible” for the killings and that Ariel Sharon, then the defense minister and later prime minister, bore “personal responsibility” for failing to prevent them.

While Israel’s role in the massacre has been closely examined, America’s actions have never been fully understood. This summer, at the Israel State Archives, I found recently declassified documents that chronicle key conversations between American and Israeli officials before and during the 1982 massacre. The verbatim transcripts reveal that the Israelis misled American diplomats about events in Beirut and bullied them into accepting the spurious claim that thousands of “terrorists” were in the camps. Most troubling, when the United States was in a position to exert strong diplomatic pressure on Israel that could have ended the atrocities, it failed to do so. As a result, Phalange militiamen were able to murder Palestinian civilians, whom America had pledged to protect just weeks earlier.

no comments – be the first ↪

Remembering Sabra and Chatila

Robert Fisk on a massacre that proves Western outrage over war crimes are highly selective:

The memories remain, of course. The man who lost his family in an earlier massacre, only to watch the young men of Chatila lined up after the new killings and marched off to death. But – like the muck piled on the garbage tip amid the concrete hovels – the stench of injustice still pervades the camps where 1,700 Palestinians were butchered 30 years ago next week. No-one was tried and sentenced for a slaughter, which even an Israeli writer at the time compared to the killing of Yugoslavs by Nazi sympathisers in the Second World War. Sabra and Chatila are a memorial to criminals who evaded responsibility, who got away with it.

Khaled Abu Noor was in his teens, a would-be militiaman who had left the camp for the mountains before Israel’s Phalangist allies entered Sabra and Chatila. Did this give him a guilty conscience, that he was not there to fight the rapists and murderers? “What we all feel today is depression,” he said. “We demanded justice, international trials – but there was nothing. Not a single person was held responsible. No-one was put before justice. And so we had to suffer in the 1986 camps war (at the hands of Shia Lebanese) and so the Israelis could slaughter so many Palestinians in the 2008-9 Gaza war. If there had been trials for what happened here 30 years ago, the Gaza killings would not have happened.”

no comments – be the first ↪

Challenging MSM approved imperial enforcers

Here’s a book review I wrote a while ago published here exclusively:

The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work

Belen Fernandez

Verso, $22.95

Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil?

Derrick O’Keefe

Verso, $22.95

Antony Loewenstein

Back in May 2003, two months after the start of the American-led war in Iraq, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman appeared on the Charlie Rose TV talk show. The conflict was “unquestionably” worth doing, said the self-described liberal. He went on:

“What (Iraqis) needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying, ‘Which part of this sentence don’t you understand? You don’t think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we’re just gonna to let it grow? Well, Suck. On. This.”

Friedman, a former Middle East correspondent for the Times, has cemented himself as a key foreign affairs commentator in America and is regularly re-printed in publications across the world, including Australia.

Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Friedman has supported American or Israeli wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, the Palestinian West Bank, Lebanon, Gaza and covert American operations endorsed by both the Bush and Obama administrations. In the words of Belen Fernandez, author of this compelling book on Friedman – published in a new Counterblasts series by British publisher Verso – the Times writer “discredits himself as a journalist by championing the killing of civilians.”

Fernandez forensically dissects the career of Friedman and challenges the very basis of his currency. “Friedman’s accumulation of influence is a direct result of his service as mouthpiece for empire and capital”, she writes. “I.e. as a result apologist for US military excess and punishing economic policies.”

Friedman has championing the supposed glories of US-led globalisation – “Is this a great country or what?” and the Iraq war – “the most radical-liberal revolutionary war the US has ever launched”. He celebrated the financial insights of Goldman Sachs until finally in 2010 Friedman acknowledged the firm as “the poster boy for banks behaving for ‘situational values’ – exploiting whatever the situation…allowed”.

The Times journalist is passionate about reducing America’s reliance on oil and yet, as Fernandez pithily comments, “Friedman has managed to greenwash the institution that holds the distinction of being the top polluter in the world…The US military’s overwhelming reliance on fuel means that its presence in Iraq is not at all reconcilable with Friedman’s insistence that dependence on foreign oil reserves is one of the greatest threats to US security.”

The Imperial Messenger isn’t just arguing that Friedman is an indulgent Times spokesman and faux liberal who dresses up his desire for the US to shed foreign blood as “humanitarian”, but a broader point against the Times itself as the centre of supposedly quality journalism.

Dishonest myth-making is the key reason the paper should not be taken as gospel, argues Fernandez, and not least due to its constant defence of Israeli crimes. Witness Friedman in 1989 writing about his Zionist dreams: “I’ll always want [Israel] to be the country I imagined in my youth. But what the hell, she’s mine and for a forty-year old, she ain’t too shabby.” This was expressed during the First Intifada, a time when Israel was torturing and killing unarmed Palestinian civilians.

But Friedman isn’t the only “liberal” needing to be fought. Canadian human rights activist, writer and politician Michael Ignatieff is the subject of The Lesser Evil by journalist Derrick O’Keefe. Like Friedman, Ignatieff frames his concern for humanity by loving the smell of American fire-power in the morning.

Incendiary British historian Tony Judt opined in 2006 about “Bush’s Liberal Idiots”, and included Ignatieff in a stinging rebuke. He stated that, “intellectual supporters of the Iraq War…have focused their regrets not on the catastrophic invasion itself (which they all supported) but on its incompetent execution. They are irritated with Bush for giving ‘preventive war’ a bad name.”

O’Keefe uncovers a litany of comments from Ignatieff since September 11 that place him in the inglorious tradition of countless “liberals” desperate to unleash Washington’s war machine on “apocalyptic nihilism.” Unlike Christopher Hitchens, who continues to champion the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and encourages a military strike against Iran, Ignatieff has at least had a few moments of doubt.

The vital importance of both these small titles is to highlight that some of the worst offenders, and least accountable, in the “war on terror” decade has been the warrior-scholar-journalist desperate to prove toughness. This desired projection of F-18s and drone strikes was encapsulated by a typically callous comment by Ignatieff in 2003:

“If the consequence of intervention of a rights-respecting Iraq in a decade or so, who cares whether the intentions that led to it were mixed at best?”

The death of innocent Iraqis was clearly an irrelevance (the numbers of dead in that country now number likely over one million).

At a time of American economic, political and moral decline – and fear that the Chinese economic model may supersede the unequal and fundamentalist capitalist model pursued by Washington since World War II – it’s grimly amusing to note an infamous Friedman thought:

“Many big bad things happen in the world without America, but not a lot of big good things.”

Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist writing a book on disaster capitalism

one comment ↪

What our media don’t tell us about the Middle East

Yet more fascinating insights from the recently released Wikileaks documents of Stratfor, published by Lebanon’s Al Akhbar.

One:

US government officials requested that an American private security firm contact Syrian opposition figures in Turkey to see “how they can help in regime change,” the CEO of one of these firms told Stratfor in a company email obtained by WikiLeaks and Al-Akhbar.

James F. Smith, former director of Blackwater, is currently the Chief Executive of SCG International, a private security firm with experience in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. In what appears to be his first email to Stratfor, Smith stated that his “background is CIA” and his company is comprised of “former DOD [Department of Defense], CIA and former law enforcement personnel.”

“We provide services for those same groups in the form of training, security and information collection,” he explained to Stratfor. (doc-id5441475)

In a 13 December 2011 email to Stratfor’s VP for counter-terrorism Fred Burton, which Burton shared with Stratfor’s briefers, Smith claimed that “[he] and Walid Phares were getting air cover from Congresswoman [Sue] Myrick to engage Syrian opposition in Turkey (non-MB and non-Qatari) on a fact finding mission for Congress.”

Walid Phares, named by the source as part of the “fact finding team,” is a Lebanese-American citizen and currently co-chairs Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Middle East advisory group.

During his involvement with Stratfor, Smith provided intelligence on missing surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) (doc-id 5321612) and allegedly “took part” in the killing of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. (doc-id 3980511)

Two:

An Israeli intelligence agent claimed that contrary to common belief the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad was “not assassinating people that easy.” He would add that the Mossad embraced false accounts of its successes because they bolstered the Mossad’s reputation as “an assassins organization that terrorists should be afraid of.” These statements came in an email exchange between David Dafinoiu, president of NorAm Intelligence, and Fred Burton, Stratfor’s VP of counter-intelligence, which were part of the Global Intelligence Files released by WikiLeaks.

The “confirmed Israeli intelligence agent” who is “suspected of being an agent of influence,” as Burton attributes to the FBI (doc-id 5362917), claimed that the Mossad was never involved in the death of one of the founders of the Popular Front of the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in 1978, Wadie Haddad (known as Abu Hani). Dafinoiu added that the death of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas member killed in Dubai by the Mossad two years ago, was merely an “accident” as the Israelis intended to kidnap al-Mabhouh in order “to exchange him with the Israeli soldier in Iranian custody.”

The emails dated 15 June 2011 between Fred Burton and David Virgil Dafinoiu, who is also chairman of the Homeland Security Committee at the Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce, discuss the fates of Haddad, al-Mabhouh, and Carlos the Jackal.

The email exchanges began with Burton asking Dafinoiu if he could confirm that Haddad was assassinated by the Mossad by means of poisoned chocolates and to clarify why the Mossad had not eliminated Carlos the Jackal during that time period as well.

The assassination-by-chocolate scenario appeared in a book published in 2006 by Aharon Klein, an American journalist, and was propagated by various Western news agencies.

Later that same night, Dafinoiu sent a follow up email in which he said “contrary to what many people believe, Mossad is not assassinating people that easy. Even the most recent incident in Dubai was an accident, they tried to bring the victim [Mahmoud al-Mabhouh] to Israel and exchange him with the Israeli soldier in Iranian’s custody.” (doc-id 383433)

Al-Mabhouh’s assassination was considered a success by the Mossad despite the fact that Emirati police were able to blow the cover of 26 Israeli agents involved in the operation.

2 comments ↪

What is real agenda of Al-Jazeera in Muslim world?

If true, yet more disturbing signs that Al-Jazeera is more than happy to see itself as endorsing regime change in the Arab world and often backing Western military support to do so (via AlAkhbar):

Emails said to reveal dismay among Al-Jazeera staff over its “biased and unprofessional” coverage of Syria have been leaked by pro-Assad hackers.

Damascus – On Wednesday, the entire staff of the Al Jazeera network allegedly received an email instructing them to change their computer and email passwords.

Earlier in the week, the network’s server had been hacked by the self-styled Syrian Electronic Army, and some of its secrets were released to the media.

The major find to be made public was an email exchange between anchorwoman Rula Ibrahim and Beirut-based reporter Ali Hashem. The emails seemed to indicate widespread disaffection within the channel, especially over its coverage of the crisis in Syria.

Ibrahim wrote to her colleague saying that she had “turned against the revolution” in Syria after realizing that the protests would “destroy the country and lead to a civil war.” She went on to deride the opposition Free Syrian Army, which she described as “a branch of al-Qaeda.”

Ibrahim also complained about the attitudes of various colleagues at the channel’s Doha headquarters, saying some of them “have refused to greet me ever since the outbreak of events in Syria because they hold a grudge against my sect.”

Hashem responded sympathetically, saying he had opted to sit on the fence after sending the channel footage of armed men clashing with the army which he had witnessed while reporting from northeastern Lebanon. He said that after he submitted the video, he was told to return to Beirut on the grounds that he was exhausted.
In her response, Ibrahim once again protested that she had “been utterly humiliated. They wiped the floor with me because I embarrassed Zuheir Salem, spokesperson for Syria’s Muslim Brothers. As a result, I was prevented from doing any Syrian interviews, and threatened with [a] transfer to the night shift on the pretext that I was making the channel imbalanced.”

Ibrahim also spoke of how Syrian activists invited onto Al Jazeera use terms of sectarian incitement on air, “which Syrians understand very well.”

Hashem wondered in response where the channel’s head of news, Ibrahim Hilal, stood in all this. Ibrahim answered that he was “stuck between a rock and a hard place: the agenda and professionalism…”

2 comments ↪