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.

Israel’s growing anti-democratic tide deepens

My following essay appears in Lebanon’s Al Akhbar English:

Radical Jewish colonists in the occupied Palestinian West Bank have been attacking Arabs for decades. In the past these incidents barely rated a mention in the Israeli press, let alone the global corporate media.

It was only this month after a small group of Zionists rioted at an Israeli army base that the Israeli government expressed outrage over their behaviour. The violence “shocked” Israel, wrote the New York Times, while the torching of mosques has now become a regular event.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed his military to apply administrative detention orders to Jewish extremists, as is routinely done with Palestinians in the territories. Aside from the fact that such a change in policy highlighted the apartheid nature of Israel’s matrix of control in the West Bank – different laws apply to Jews and Arabs – even the Israeli army claimed it would make little difference.

Successive Israeli leaders since 1967, across the political spectrum, have indulged, funded, supported, defended and armed hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers in the West Bank (and Gaza until 2005). The effect of this mass colonization project, condoned by Western powers, has been the impossibility of a viable two-state solution and growth in ultra-nationalism. Acceptance in a post Arab Spring Middle East is a remote dream.

On countless occasions I’ve seen young Israeli soldiers standing idly by while settlers hit Arabs in the West Bank and destroy their fields. The main job of the army in the territories is to maintain and enlarge the Zionist hold on valuable land.

The Israeli government and the vast bulk of the Zionist Diaspora have remained silent for years when colonists attack Palestinians in “price tag” missions. Indeed, public fund-raising events in America, including those held by the Hebron Fund, openly collect tax-exempt donations for the very people the Israeli government now claims to be against.

In Australia similar fund-raisers are held for the Jewish National Fund (JNF), an organization directly complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian properties. A JNF board member in America quit this month after the organization launched eviction proceedings against a Palestinian home in East Jerusalem.

The rot has well and truly set into the Israeli political establishment. A columnist for the Israeli daily Haaretz, Yossi Sarid, argued that all the settlements were illegal and damned the horror currently felt by the Israeli army (no mention of the Arabs, of course, with violence against them seemingly less important than harming Israeli soldiers):

“So there is no need to be overly impressed by the orchestrated shouting about the Frankenstein that has gotten out of hand, because the denouncers are the ones who created him. They were warned a thousand times about creating a state within a state, an army within an army, but they didn’t want to listen. They were too scared of the settlers and their rabbis. We see them in their disgrace, dancing in front of Zionism’s coffin, and despise them.”

The depth of the problem was revealed by right-wing Zionist publication, The Jewish Voice, who proudly published tips for settlers keen to sabotage army equipment. One read:

“The engines of vehicles, especially armoured vehicles, are highly sensitive to sand or sugar. The same is even more true about the vehicles’ oil and gas tanks. Carelessness about that could do serious damage to the unit’s ability to carry out destruction, just because of a little inattention, wouldn’t it be a pity?”

It would be a mistake to presume Israel’s democratic deficit simply occurs in the occupied territories. The current Knesset has revealed the dark authoritarianism that beats inside the Jewish state.

I recently spoke to a leading independent American journalist Joseph Dana, currently living in Ramallah, who told me that it was impossible to find more than a select few Israelis who understood the depth of the problem and what was required to force an ideological change on the population.

Liberal Zionism is in crisis, pushed into silence by its cherished two-state dream disappearing and far happier to demonise boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) than propose any serious alternatives to Knesset-backed fascism. Importantly, few Israelis chose to enter the West Bank and witness the creeping apartheid against Palestinians living there; the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem bubbles are far more comforting. The vast bulk of the Israeli media class see no evil and remain on the establishment drip feed.

An increasing number of pieces of legislation aim to disenfranchise Arabs, liberal Jews, secular Jews, Palestinians and the Jewish Diaspora without which the nation would not survive.

The Financial Timesin a scathing essay in early December, highlighted the myriad issues. Hagai El-Ad, the director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, repeated the mantra that I hear amongst the real activist Left in Israel. “This is not just about anti-democratic bills, this is about anti-democratic society,” he said. “It is about the idea that human rights are somehow synonymous with treason, and about creating an atmosphere of suspicion.”

These trends caused Philip Weiss, founder of the influential American website Mondoweiss, to write, “Israel isn’t good for the Jews anymore.” He railed against mainstream Israeli opposition to multiculturalism, pluralism and tolerance.

It is something growing numbers of liberal Jews worldwide are rejecting. Even former Israeli prison guard Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in his Atlantic blog, “I think we’re only a few years away, at most, from a total South-Africanization of this issue.” The one-state solution is happening by default, whether those bleating about maintaining a Jewish majority like it or not.

Israel has always relied on unlimited Western largesse to fund its racism. When arguably America’s most influential columnist, New York Times’ Thomas Friedman – a man with a long history of defending Israeli extremism, explains a new book by Belén Fernández – starts denouncing the “Israel lobby” for buying the US Congress and blindly acquiescing with discriminatory policies towards Palestinians, the mood is shifting:

“If the 2.5 million West Bank Palestinians are not a real people entitled to their own state, that must mean Israel is entitled to permanently occupy the West Bank and that must mean — as far as Newt is concerned — that Israel’s choices are: 1) to permanently deprive the West Bank Palestinians of Israeli citizenship and put Israel on the road to apartheid; 2) to evict the West Bank Palestinians through ethnic cleansing and put Israel on the road to the International Criminal Court in the Hague; or 3) to treat the Palestinians in the West Bank as citizens, just like Israeli Arabs, and lay the foundation for Israel to become a binational state. And this is called being “pro-Israel”?”

None of these attitudes concern the pro-settler Jerusalem Post who this week editorialised in favour of a Republican front-runner, Newt Gingrich, who didn’t even acknowledge the existence of Palestinians as a legitimate people. Other measures to delegitimize any opposition to Zionism include this recent essay published by the neo-conservative haven American Enterprise Institute that argues, “How Israel’s defence industry can help save America.”

The Western liberal love for Israel ended many years ago. What remains less accepted, however, is what has been taking place instead of the myth. Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken enlightened his readers that the ideology of [settler movement] Gush Emunim has dominated Israel for decades. It is irreversible. It is Israel:

“This is a strategy of territorial seizure and apartheid,” he despaired. “It ignores judicial aspects of territorial ownership and shuns human rights and the guarantees of equality enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.”

The wilful ghettoization of communities is now endemic.Take the example of a religious school in the town of Afula that recently discovered that their children had seen a Muslim wedding during class. They were so appalled – under the influence of an NGO that aims to prevent any Arab and Jewish mingling – that a Rabbi had to be called to “purify” the facilities before they could return.

Such racism is not reserved for a few extreme communities on the fringes of society. They are views shared and enacted by leading members of the Israeli government.

It is the natural outcome of over 60 years of global Zionist indulgence.

Antony Loewenstein (http://antonyloewenstein.com/) is an Australian journalist, author of My Israel Question and co-editor of the forthcoming title After Zionism.

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Palestine statehood bid signals long struggle ahead for equal rights

My following piece is published today on ABC’s The Drum:

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas returned from New York to occupied Ramallah on the weekend as “an Arab leader of significant standing“, according to writers from the liberal Israeli paper Haaretz.

The Abbas speech in front of the United Nations, calling for the international body to formally recognise the state of Palestine, allegedly slotted well into the narrative of the Arab Spring:

“Abbas succeeded in giving the Palestinians some hope”, the Haaretz journalists stated. “Following the failure of armed struggle and the freeze in negotiations, Abbas offered them a third way: a diplomatic struggle in parallel with peaceful ‘resistance’.”

The response inside Palestine was mixed but certainly a number of people welcomed the Palestinian Authority’s supposed robust defence of their rights. President Barack Obama’s speech at the UN was the exact opposite, endorsing indefinite paralysis.

Yet it was largely ignored that Palestine’s ambassador to Lebanon said last week that the millions of Palestinian refugees in the Diaspora would not automatically become citizens in a newly created state of Palestine.

Such a position fundamentally contradicts a just resolution of the conflict.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave his own speech at the UN last week but it was a cliché-ridden mish-mash of paranoia, bigotry and Holocaust insecurities, none of which befit a man leading the fourth largest army in the world.

It was rightly seen by Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy as the clearest indication yet that the Israeli leadership had absolutely no intention of establishing a two-state solution.

In fact, Netanyahu’s obsession with maintaining the illegal colonies in the West Bank is ensuring a one-state equation and the de-facto end of the Zionist “dream”.

This is something anybody who believes in the concept of equality before the law should celebrate; Zionism inherently discriminates against non-Jews and the Abbas statehood bid indulges the dangerous fantasy that Palestinians should accept a tiny fraction of historical Palestine to appease the nation with a nuclear weapon and super-power backing.

A number of progressive voices in America found the Abbas speech moving, a rare moment where the corporate media had little choice but to listen to a moment about ethnic cleansing, occupation and human dignity. And even I can’t deny the symbolic importance of seeing an Israeli leader so isolated internationally by belligerently declaring that colonisation was a natural right, even responsibility, of the Jewish people.

Not surprisingly, Murdoch’s Australian chastised Abbas for even raising his voice and calling for justice; those uppity Arabs should know their place, serving American and Israeli interests.

The world saw two, competing visions for a future Middle East, Netanyahu and Abbas, yet only one of them resides legally in office (and that person isn’t Abbas, his term in office expiring some time ago).

Whenever “saving” the two-state solution is discussed, an air of unreality permeates the discussion. It is a dangerous fantasy that argues the problems only emerged after the 1967 war and the establishment of settlements in the occupied territories. As Palestinian writer Ghada Karmi argued in the Guardian last week:

“As things stand, the danger is that international endorsement of the current statehood proposal will make it the benchmark for all future peace negotiators, and entrench the idea that partitioning Palestine unequally means justice. True friends of the Palestinians should oppose this application and support their struggle for real justice.”

Partition would merely entrench the discrimination.

In Sydney this week I heard a key spokesperson from the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, Rafeef Ziadah, who rightly explained that the struggle for equal rights for all citizens in Palestine – Jewish, Muslim, Christian, atheist or anything else – should threaten the concept of Zionist exclusion. BDS is the legitimate move, wholly backed by international law, to end the occupation, implement the right of return of Palestinian refugees and allow full rights of Arabs inside Israel.

A two-state solution would merely codify these inequalities and the Palestinian Authority, led by Abbas, has spent two decades negotiating (un)equally with a side that has no intention of granting the indigenous population even the most basic human rights.

Too often we refuse to examine what Israel and its Zionist Diaspora colleagues have created in the West Bank. A system of apartheid actively protects the interests of the colonist over the Palestinians in their own land (this recent video shows the kind of impunity enjoyed by settlers). Fundamentalist Zionism is one of the great achievements of the Israeli state and ultra-nationalists are funded, armed and defended by the full weight of the Zionist entity. Abbas has no plan to eradicate this threat.

Moreover, foreign Jewish militants are allowed to enter the West Bank to allegedly protect settlements. The extremist Jewish Defence League is just the latest bunch of bigots that Israel now attracts within its borders.

The Zionist Diaspora is silent over these abominations in an effort to provide “support” for Israel.

The thinking was revealed once again last week when I was approached on a bus by a Zionist lobbyist who used to send me hate emails. He asked if he could sit down and talk. I agreed and we engaged politely for a few minutes. He said he believed that any public criticism of Israel would weaken Zionism and I had to remember that anti-Semitism was everywhere, so in this logic a “weak” Israel was one that couldn’t handle critical comments from a Jew in Sydney.

It turned logic on its head – Israel has most of the world’s Western politicians on a string and yet paranoia in the Jewish community runs rampant – and displayed the increasing moral panic that only knows how to repeat tired mantras about Nazis under the bed (once again seen during this country’s sordid BDS “debate”).

This is the collapse of a moral, mainstream Jewish position on Palestinian self-determination.

The Western-backed PA, a corrupt institution reliant on foreign aid to survive, compounds it. Its economy, praised by ignorant Western visitors who enjoy the relative comforts of Ramallah, is a bloated privatised enterprise assisting very few. The Palestine Papers revealed the duplicity of PA leaders who were willing to give away the most sacred aspects of the Palestinian cause, including territory in East Jerusalem. The PA even wanted to block implementation of the Goldstone Report into Israel crimes against Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.

The Netanyahu government wants American funding to the PA to continue because it knows full well that its American-trained shock troops are essential tools in the maintenance of the occupation. This is the PA “vision” for Palestine.

Instead of seeing the UN statehood bid as breathing new life into the moribund two-state solution, it should be seen as the death of it. These are the two issues of over 500,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied territories and an Israeli government that has enjoyed ever-deepening financial and military ties with Washington; Newsweek reports this week that soon after Obama came into office he sold Israel bunker-buster bombs designed to strike Iranian nuclear sites.

The only positive outcome of the statehood bid would be a global realisation that America (and its trusty lap-dog Australia) has no desire to fairly resolve the conflict. Internationalisation threatens the decades-old, cosy relationship between a crack dealer known as Washington and an addict known as Zionism.

We could do far worse than listen to the wise words of Israeli-born Miko Peled, son of a key Israeli military man, Matti Peled, who is currently in Australia explaining that his country of birth must radically reform its heart and soul. His thinking was transformed after finally meeting Palestinians under occupation.

“As an Israeli that was raised on the Zionist ideal of a Jewish state”, he says, “I know how hard it is for many Jews and Palestinians to let go of the dream of having a state that is exclusively ‘our own’.”

No US president, Zionist leader or Australian politician has come up with any coherent argument to counter the coming reality, due to Palestinian population growth and settlement expansion, of a minority Zionist leadership ruling over a majority Palestinian population in a land where just separation is incompatible with true democracy.

The PA statehood bid is the beginning of a longer struggle for recognising the rights of the Palestinian people in their entirety, a future to be secured through BDS and a local and international campaign of action that highlights the impossibility of partitioning a nation with a colonised, Zionist mindset.

Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist and the co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices.

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Thank you Washington for watching Australian public and democratic protests

The infiltration of American (non) intelligence in Australia is almost comical; it certainly hasn’t brought any more love to the fading super-power. FireDogLake reports:

Pro-Cuba, pro-Serbian, pro-Palestinian, pro and anti-Kosovo Independence, Sri Lankan, antiwar and socialist demonstrations were closely monitored by the US Embassy in Canberra, Australia in 2008 and 2009, a secret cable posted by WikiLeaks reveals. The cable also reveals the Embassy kept tabs on Greek, Malaysian, Lebanese, Serbian, Indonesian, Somalian and Sudanese communities in Sydney and Melbourne.

The secret cable is a “security environment profile questionnaire” (SEPQ) sent to the CIA, FBI, US Defense Intelligence Agency and State Department in Washington on March 2, 2009. The US diplomat, who answered the questions, describes both Sydney and Melbourne as cities with communities capable of “mounting very large scale anti-US demonstrations” if “sufficient motivations arise.” During the Israel-Lebanon conflict, 10,0000-15,000 people were brought together for a demonstration.

An itemized list of demonstrations at the US embassy or consulates is included in the cable, suggesting a US official attended each of these demonstrations and attempted to get a head count or regularly contacted police for estimates of how many protesters were present at each demonstration.

All demonstrations are described under the section heading, “Political Violence.” Yet, in only one case did a protest turn violent. In February 2008, at the US Consulate Melbourne, anti-Kosovo independence protesters allegedly threw objects and launched flares at the front window of the building. Protesters marching to the Consulate burned a Victoria State Police vehicle.

The diplomat even concludes the demonstrations are “generally peaceful.” Australian protests are found to be “generally peaceful” as well (though the diplomat notes Australian law enforcement thinks “issue motivated groups with anti-war, anti-globalization or environmental protection agendas have become more organized and more prone to engage in demonstration tactics that have led to some violence since late 2006.”)

So, why does the State Department security questionnaire appear to function on the premise that demonstrations are most likely to lead to political violence? Why is there such contempt for protest underneath the data and assumptions presented in this secret cable?

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Israel as tourist destination to meet real (Zionist) terrorists

Welcome:

In an implicit admission that Israel is so threatened by terrorism that it is not only surrounded by countries and territories that produce terrorists but also unwillingly harbors terrorists within its own territory in a way that most other nations in the world do not, the Obama administration is currently listing Israel among 36 “specially designated countries” it believes “have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members.”

Also included on the list–separately from Israel–are the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, as well as Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, the four nations bordering Israel.

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Of course Palestine needs to be part of the Arab revolutions

Robert Fisk writes:

I went to see Munib Masri in his Beirut hospital bed yesterday morning.

He is part of the Arab revolution, although he doesn’t see it that way. He looked in pain – he was in pain – with a drip in his right arm, a fever, and the fearful wounds caused by an Israeli 5.56mm bullet that hit his arm. Yes, an Israeli bullet – because Munib was one of thousands of young and unarmed Palestinians and Lebanese who stood in their thousands in front of the Israeli army’s live fire two weeks ago on the very border of the land they call “Palestine”.

“I was angry, mad – I’d just seen a small child hit by the Israelis,” Munib said to me. “I walked nearer the border fence. The Israelis were shooting so many people. When I got hit, I was paralysed. My legs gave way. Then I realised what had happened. My friends carried me away.” I asked Munib if he thought he was part of the Arab Spring. No, he said, he was just protesting at the loss of his land. “I liked what happened to Egypt and Tunisia. I am glad I went to the Lebanese border, but I also regret it.”

Which is not surprising. More than 100 unarmed protesters were wounded in the Palestinian-Lebanese demonstration to mark the 1948 expulsion and exodus of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes in Mandate Palestine – six were killed – and among the youngest of those hit by bullets were two little girls. One was six, the other eight. More targets of Israel’s “war on terror”, I suppose, although the bullet that hit Munib, a 22-year old geology student at the American University of Beirut, did awful damage. It penetrated his side, cut through his kidney, hit his spleen and then broke up in his spine. I held the bullet in my hand yesterday, three sparkling pieces of brown metal that had shattered inside Munib’s body. He is, of course, lucky to be alive.

And I guess lucky to be an American citizen, much good did it do him. The US embassy sent a female diplomat to see his parents at the hospital, Munib’s mother Mouna told me. “I am devastated, sad, angry – and I don’t wish this to happen to any Israeli mother. The American diplomats came here to the hospital and I explained the situation of Munib. I said: ‘I would like you to give a message to your government – to put pressure on them to change their policies here. If this had happened to an Israeli mother, the world would have gone upside down.’ But she said to me: ‘I’m not here to discuss politics. We’re here for social support, to evacuate you if you want, to help with payments.’ I said that I don’t need any of these things – I need you to explain the situation.”

Any US diplomat is free to pass on a citizen’s views to the American government but this woman’s response was all too familiar. Munib, though an American, had been hit by the wrong sort of bullet. Not a Syrian bullet or an Egyptian bullet but an Israeli bullet, a bad kind to discuss, certainly the wrong kind to persuade an American diplomat to do anything about it. After all, when Benjamin Netanyahu gets 55 ovations in Congress – more than the average Baath party congress in Damascus – why should Munib’s government care about him?

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Fisk on what Obama should say about the Middle East (but won’t)

Spot on:

OK, so here’s what President Barack Obama should say today about the Middle East. We will leave Afghanistan tomorrow. We will leave Iraq tomorrow. We will stop giving unconditional, craven support to Israel. Americans will force the Israelis – and the European Union – to end their siege of Gaza. We will withhold all future funding for Israel unless it ends, totally and unconditionally, its building of colonies on Arab land that does not belong to it. We will cease all co-operation and business deals with the vicious dictators of the Arab world – whether they be Saudi or Syrian or Libyan – and we will support democracy even in those countries where we have massive business interests. Oh yes, and we will talk to Hamas.

Of course, President Barack Obama will not say this. A vain and cowardly man, he will talk about the West’s “friends” in the Middle East, about the security of Israel – security not being a word he has ever devoted to Palestinians – and he will waffle on and on about the Arab Spring as if he ever supported it (until, of course, the dictators were on the run), as if – when they desperately needed his support – he had given his moral authority to the people of Egypt; and, no doubt, we will hear him say what a great religion Islam is (but not too great, or Republicans will start recalling the Barack Hussein Obama birth certificate again) and we will be asked – oh, I fear we will – to turn our backs on the Bin Laden past, to seek “closure” and “move on” (which I’m afraid the Taliban don’t quite agree with).

Mr Obama and his equally gutless Secretary of State have no idea what they are facing in the Middle East. The Arabs are no longer afraid. They are tired of our “friends” and sick of our enemies. Very soon, the Palestinians of Gaza will march to the border of Israel and demand to “go home”.

What Mr Obama doesn’t understand however – and, of course, Mrs Clinton has not the slightest idea – is that, in the new Arab world, there can be no more reliance on dictator-toadies, no more flattery. The CIA may have its cash funds to hand but I suspect few Arabs will want to touch them. The Egyptians will not tolerate the siege of Gaza. Nor, I think, will the Palestinians. Nor the Lebanese, for that matter; and nor the Syrians when they have got rid of the clansmen who rule them. The Europeans will work that out quicker than the Americans – we are, after all, rather closer to the Arab world – and we will not forever let our lives be guided by America’s fawning indifference to Israeli theft of property.

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Rumblings of a third intifada?

Perhaps:

Israeli forces fired two tank shells and several rounds from machine guns as Gazans approached the heavily fortified border with Israel on Sunday, wounding at least 15 youths, a Palestinian health official said. One of the wounded was in a critical condition.

The march near the Gaza-Israel border was part of Palestinian commemorations of their uprooting three generations ago, during the war over Israel’s establishment.

Across the West Bank and Gaza, thousands took to the streets, waving flags and holding old keys to symbolise their dreams of reclaiming property they lost when Israel was created on 15 May 1948.

In Gaza, dozens of marchers approached the border with Israel, and Israeli troops opened fire. The tank shells fell in an empty field several hundred metres from the group.

Haaretz thinks a new intifada is possible in the coming months, due to the complete lack of progress on Palestinian self-determination.

And the news just gets worse:

Violence erupted on Israel’s borders with Syria, Lebanon and Gaza on Sunday, leaving at least eight dead and dozens wounded, as Palestinians marked what they term “the catastrophe” of Israel’s founding in 1948.

Israeli troops shot at protesters in three separate locations to prevent crowds from crossing Israeli frontier lines in the deadliest such confrontation in years.

Israeli and Syrian media reports said Israeli gunfire killed four people after dozens of Palestinian refugees infiltrated the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights from Syria, along a disputed border that has been quiet for decades.

Witnesses on the nearby Lebanese frontier said four Palestinians were killed after Israeli forces fired at rock-throwing protesters to prevent them from crossing the border.

The Lebanese army had also earlier fired in the air in an attempt to hold back the crowds.

On Israel’s tense southern border with the Gaza Strip, Israeli gunfire wounded 60 Palestinians as demonstrators approached Israel’s fence with the Hamas Islamist-run enclave, medical workers said.

In Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial hub, a truck driven by an Arab Israeli slammed into vehicles and pedestrians, killing one man and injuring 17 people.

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The risk of implosion of the Syrian state

Robert Fisk paints a troubling picture of a nation that needs fundamental reform:

According to historian Farouk Mardam-Bey, for example, Syria is “a tribal regime, which by being a kind of mafia clan and by exercising the cult of personality, can be compared to the Libyan regime”, which can never reform itself because reform will bring about the collapse of the Baath party which will always ferociously defend itself. “It has placed itself – politically and juridically – upon a war footing,” Mardam-Bey says of its struggle with Israel, “without the slightest intention of actually going to war.”

Burhan Ghalioun makes the point that “the existence of the regime is like an invasion of the state, a colonisation of society” where “hundreds of intellectuals are forbidden to travel, 150,000 have gone into exile and 17,000 have either disappeared or been imprisoned for expressing their opinion… It is impossible (for President Bashar al-Assad) to say (like Mubarak and Ben Ali) ‘I will not prolong or renew my mandate’ like other presidents have pretended to do – because Syria is, for Assad, his private family property, the word ‘country’ is not part of the vocabulary.”

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Of course America killed Bin Laden in Israeli-style thuggery

Robert Fisk is right:

Bin Laden got his just deserts – those who live by the sword tend to die by the sword – but did he get the “justice” that President Obama talked about? Many Arabs – and this theme was taken up by the Arab press, which spoke of his “execution” – thought he should have been captured, taken to the international court in The Hague and tried.

Of course there will always be those who do and will believe he was a brave martyr ignominiously murdered by the proxy arm of “Zionism”. Islamist groups in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and many ulema in south-west Asia have said as much already. In reality, needless to say, he was a has-been. His promises of overthrowing the pro-American or non-Islamic Arab dictators were fulfilled by the people of Egypt and Tunisia – and perhaps soon by Libyans and Syrians – not by al-Qa’ida and its violence.

The real problem, however, is that the West, which has constantly preached to the Arab world that legality and non-violence was the way forward in the Middle East, has taught a different lesson to the people of the region: that executing your opponents is perfectly acceptable.

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Hizbollah ain’t a tumour for Arabs backing resistance

Lebanon is a fractured society partly controlled by Hizbollah. Many in the public back this reality and yet:

Lebanon’s prime minister-designate Najib Mikati describes the powerful Hezbollah, whose backing was key to his nomination, as a “tumour,” in a 2008 US diplomatic cable revealed by a Lebanese daily on Tuesday.

The billionaire businessman, who was appointed premier in January, is quoted as telling US officials that the Iranian- and Syrian-backed militant party was a “tumor that must be removed”, according to the Arabic-language Al-Jumhuriya.

The newspaper was citing a WikiLeaks cable filed by the US embassy in Lebanon on January 12, 2008.

“Mikati, speaking as a ‘statesman’, argued Lebanon could not survive with a Hezbollah mini-state,” according to the cable.

“Regardless of his personal views on the group, Mikati said he was expecting Hezbollah to bring Lebanon to a ‘sad ending,'” it added.

“He assessed that Hezbollah was just like a tumour that, whether benign or malignant, must be removed.”

Mikati’s office released a statement saying the comments did not “reflect his convictions” and had political motives, without specifying.

“The prime minister will not get involved in debates with any party, especially over … words and positions that are in part untrue, in part inaccurate and most of which go back years,” read the statement.

Mikati’s criticism of Hezbollah surfaces at a sensitive time as he struggles to form a government amid bitter rivalry between opposing camps in Lebanon.

Hezbollah toppled the Western-backed government of caretaker premier Saad Hariri in January over his refusal to disavow a UN-backed court probing the 2005 assassination of his father, ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.

The Netherlands-based tribunal is expected to indict members of the Shiite group in the case.

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John Pilger to Sydney’s Marrickville council; stand up for Palestine

John Pilger has sent the following message to Marrickville councillors:

“Sometimes, looked at from the outside, Australia is a strange place. In other ‘western democracies’ the ‘debate’ about the enduring injustice dealt the Palestinians and Israel’s  lawlessness has moved forward to the point where the cynical campaign of anti-Semitism smears is no longer effective — in the UK, much of Europe and even the United States.
If Israel’s bloody assault on Lebanon was not the turning point, the criminal attack on the imprisoned population of Gaza certainly was. The same is true of the BDS movement. This eminently reasonable, decent and necessary campaign enjoys a respectability across the world, not least in South Africa, where it’s backed by the likes of Desmond Tutu and especially those Jews who fought the apartheid regime. The University of Johannesburg, one of the biggest universities in South Africa, has just broken all ties with Israel. Justice for Palestine, said, Mandela, is ‘the greatest moral issue of our time’. That’s the company those Marrickville councillors who have stood up for this ‘greatest moral issue’, keep. And those who have wavered and walked away should think again – remembering other waverers who, long ago, walked away from speaking out against what was being done to Jews. The scale is very different; the principle is the same. Do not be intimidated by Murdoch vendettas or by anyone else. All power to you.”

John Pilger

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How on earth would Zionism thrive without brutish mates?

Wikileaks shows us more:

Mohammed Tantawi, the head of Egypt’s ruling generals, was an obstacle to Israeli efforts to stop arms smuggling within the Gaza strip, according to Israeli security forces. The assessment was privately delivered to US diplomats, alongside praise for former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman’s efforts to stop weapons trafficking, according to the WikiLeaks embassy cables.

The revelations come in a tranche of the most militarily sensitive cables from the US embassy in Tel Aviv. They have been handed over to Israeli newspapers by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The Hebrew-language paper Yediot this week announced a deal under which it will print an interview with Assange, who has recently had to defend WikiLeaks from accusations of antisemitism.

The cables show intimate co-operation between US and Israeli intelligence organisations. Israel’s preoccupation with Iranian nuclear ambitions is well known and the US cables detail the battering on the subject that diplomats repeatedly receive from Tel Aviv.

They also shed detailed and sometimes unexpected light on Israel’s military analyses of its other enemies and friends in the region.

Egypt is the primary route for weapons and munitions into the Gaza strip, and the US has been facilitating co-operation between Israel and Egypt to tackle this for several years.

On arms smuggling across the Egyptian border to Hamas in Gaza, Israeli intelligence chiefs described as “supportive” Omar Suleiman, who was Egypt’s intelligence minister, but said defence minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi was “an obstacle” in a November 2009 cable.

The cables also shed light on Israel’s assessment of Hezbollah’s mounting capability to strike directly at Tel Aviv with an arsenal of more than 20,000 missiles.

Israeli intelligence chiefs briefed their US counterparts during a regular Joint Political Military Group (JPMG) session on 18 November 2009 about the scale of potential Hezbollah attacks from Lebanon.

Washington was told: “Hezbollah possesses over 20,000 rockets … Hezbollah was preparing for a long conflict with Israel in which it hopes to launch a massive number of rockets at Israel per day. A Mossad official estimated that Hezbollah will try to launch 400-600 rockets and missiles at Israel per day – 100 of which will be aimed at Tel Aviv. He noted that Hezbollah is looking to sustain such launches for at least two months.”

Other cables detail regular secret talks between the US and Yuval Diskin, head of Israel’s internal security agency, Shin Beth, over the role of Hamas in Gaza. On 12 November 2009 the embassy reported the views of the general responsible for Gaza and southern Israel, Major General Yoav Galant, that Hamas needed to be “strong enough to enforce a ceasefire”.

He told the Americans: “Israel’s political leadership has not yet made the necessary policy choices among competing priorities: a short-term priority of wanting Hamas to be strong enough to enforce the de facto ceasefire and prevent the firing of rockets and mortars into Israel; a medium priority of preventing Hamas from consolidating its hold on Gaza; and a longer-term priority of avoiding a return of Israeli control of Gaza and full responsibility for the wellbeing of Gaza’s civilian population.”

Galant was to be made Israel’s chief of defence staff earlier this year but the appointment was cancelled due to scandal.

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