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.

Why do so many Australians embrace spying?

My weekly Guardian column:

Australians feel very comfortable with spying on our friends and enemies. During his visit to Canada this week, Tony Abbott, the prime minister, backed the Five Eyes intelligence sharing structure between America, New Zealand, Britain, Canada and Australia, saying “our intelligence gathering has got to be done in a way that is decent and fair and which doesn’t betray the fundamental values that we are doing our best to uphold”.

According to the recently released Lowy Institute 2014 poll, the majority of Australians agree: 70% of us feel it’s appropriate to monitor the activities of nations with which Canberra has poor relations. Half argue it’s acceptable even against friendly states. Australians have no issue with Indonesia, East Timor, France, Japan, America and New Zealand being spied on by their own government.

Despite there being vast evidence that Australia is arguably essentially spying for commercial purposes against a poor neighbour such as East Timor over its valuable oil and gas reserves, these facts don’t appear to concern Australians.

What the Lowy poll doesn’t ask is how Australians feel about Canberra and its US allies spying on them. One of the invaluable revelations of former NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was confirming the US government’s mass surveillance of its own citizens. Would Australians feel happy knowing faceless spy agencies are recording, collating, monitoring and storing private details about their lives? I hope not.

In Britain this week, actor Stephen Fry slammed the British government for its “squalid and rancid” response to the Snowden revelations. Yet in Australia, there has been very little dissent over them at all. With bipartisan, political backing for American influence on the Australian homeland, it’s revealing how few public condemnations have been heard (with some notable exceptions). For this reason alone, intelligence agencies, the federal government and media backers feel little pressure to be answerable for their secret business.

The Lowy Institute should have probed these issues far more, instead of rehashing tired questions about Australians’ love of the US alliance. The poll report muses on the “continuing relevance and durability of the US alliance for our nation’s security” while never allowing any questions that may challenge this notion. Does the US alliance make Australia a client state of Washington (as former prime minister Malcolm Fraser states in his new book)? Should Australia continue to buy overpriced weapons and planes from multinational US arms manufacturers?

I’m reminded of the classic Noam Chomsky quote: “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum…”

The Lowy poll adheres to this rule with mostly safe and predictable questions, and therefore receives expected answers. Elsewhere, the Lowy poll asks mundane questions about how Australians feel about world figures such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Aung San Suu Kyi and Angela Merkel. It stands to reason that since media coverage of western leaders is largely benign, showing the supposed good intent of their democratic credentials, Australians overwhelmingly like Obama and his ilk (though no questions about US drone strikes which kill many civilians). Equally, non-western leaders, such as Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Xi Jinping, are very unpopular.

This is another confected result. Since the Snowden leaks last year, Washington has ramped up the rhetoric blaming Beijing for its outrageous spying infrastructure against American businesses and government, even going so far in May of charging some in the Chinese military for hacking. Beijing is demonised as uniquely evil, unfairly gaining commercial advantage over its rivals. This is a classic smokescreen which attempts to change the conversation away from the Snowden documents, which detail extensive US spying on Chinese interests.

When the media gives Washington’s claims far more credence and coverage than Beijing’s, we shouldn’t be shocked that Australians tell the Lowy Institute that they don’t trust the Chinese leader.

Despite these deep hesitations, the Lowy results provide some instructive news about local attitudes. Asylum seekers have been so successfully demonised for so many years that sympathy for their claims and boat people in general is shamefully low. Pressure for serious action on climate change is rising at a time when president Obama is encouraging a reduction in carbon emissions while countries run by neo-conservatives, such as Canada and Australia, are moving even further towards embracing a coal future. Abbott is out of step with public opinion.

One sign of a healthy and mature nation is how it relates to the world and the most vulnerable people in it, and it’s encouraging that 70% of Lowy respondents see poverty reduction, rather than foreign policy objectives (a stated goal of the Abbott government), as central to our outward posture.

A think-tank that didn’t see its main purpose as supporting and strengthening the foreign policy status quo would have designed a far more imaginative and insightful annual poll. In the meantime, Lowy has given us an incomplete picture of Australian attitudes towards some of the most contentious issues of our time and shown the public to be conservative, caring and cautious – the inevitable result when our media is so selective in its coverage of crucial news.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Murdoch press kindly protects Israel from Nazism, fascism and Maoism

What would a day be without lies, slander and mad exaggeration from the Murdoch media about Israel and its critics? After running one article this week, by Stuart Rees, that explained how BDS isn’t the work of the devil, the paper is back to its usual hyperbolic self. The clear tactic is to charge anybody who advocates non-violent pressure on occupying Israel as a zealot. Unfortunately for them, BDS is growing and Israel is becoming an increasingly paranoid and violent state.

Here’s the page 3 story in The Australian with a massive headline:

Pro-Palestinian academic Jake Lynch has rejected accusations that the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign is anti-Semitic, describing such claims as a “cynical smear” by supporters of Israel.

Professor Lynch, who heads Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies which supports an academic boycott of Israel, laid into Coalition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop over her promise to cut funding to institutions that support BDS. He said such threats were “a straightforward violation of intellectual freedom” that would undermine a key pillar of democracy.

But last night Ms Bishop stood her ground, and for the first time described Professor Lynch’s campaign as anti-Jewish.

“Mr Lynch is free to raise funds from non-government sources if he requires money to fund his campaign against the state of Israel and Jewish people,” she told The Australian. “A Coalition government would seek to withdraw funding to any academic institution that used taxpayer funds for an anti-Semitic campaign.”

Professor Lynch yesterday addressed a discussion forum at Sydney University entitled “65 Years of Apartheid and Ethnic Cleansing: Why you should boycott Israel today”, hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine.

After Sydney University authorities forcefully rejected Professor Lynch’s calls to cut ties with Israeli academic institutions, the student representative council last month passed a resolution supporting him and BDS.

Students at the University of NSW recently rallied against the decision to grant a lease on campus to the Australian franchise of Israel-based chocolate shop chain Max Brenner.

During that protest large numbers of fiercely anti-Semitic, and anti-Islamic, posts were placed on the campaign’s Facebook page.

In his address yesterday, Professor Lynch, a British journalist turned academic, unreservedly condemned the racist posts.

He said attempts to equate BDS with anti-Semitism reflected alarm among the pro-Israel lobby that it was losing the battle of international public opinion.

“It’s a cynical smear, it’s been ramped up in desperation,” he said.

As evidence mounted from UN investigations and other sources, Professor Lynch said, it was becoming more difficult for Israel and its supporters to deny what he claimed were war crimes, apartheid-style oppression of Palestinians, and breaches of international law. He noted the UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict, known as the Goldstone Report, had in 2009 accused both the Israeli Defence Forces and Palestinian militants of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

“Nothing happens to Israel as a result of these actions,” Professor Lynch asserted. “In my view the BDS campaign is not a campaign against Israel as such, but against Israeli militarism and lawlessness,” he said.

A spokesman for the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, Tzvi Fleischer, said “we believe BDS is anti-Semitic in its implications, though not everyone in it is necessarily anti-Semitic”.

He dismissed Professor Lynch’s claims of a smear as “a traditional tactic of the BDS”.

Then an opinion piece that could have been written by the Israeli press office. Columnist Cassandra Wilkinson obviously isn’t very good at using Google because Greens MP David Shoebridge, quoted in her article, denies ever having made the comment attributed to him. He told me this personally today. For the record, it was fellow NSW Greens MP John Kaye. Then again, who fact checks the opinion page apart from a pro-settler, neo-conservative “editor”?

AS MPs prepare to sign the London Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism, it’s timely to speak more openly about the bonds of convenience growing between elements of the Left and anti-Semitism.

The clearest example was the Greens’ promotion of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign that happily saw them come to grief in the NSW state seat of Marrickville. The BDS movement seeks to shut down militant agents of Palestinian oppression such as the Max Brenner chocolate shop. No doubt the coming revolution of their imagination will provide a politburo-approved carob alternative to Mr Brenner’s treats.

The student activists who tried to prevent the University of NSW from allowing Mr Brenner to open on campus, claimed the BDS campaign was initiated in 2005.

Such sloppy referencing and fact-checking wouldn’t pass muster on their exams, I hope. As it happens, I studied history at UNSW — something the protesters could profit from before they graduate. A basic grasp of history shows us the boycotting of businesses is a longstanding tactic in the campaign of hate against the Jewish people.

Boycotts of Jewish merchants were practised in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire and later across eastern Europe, especially in Romania, Poland and Russia where anti-Jewish activism was serious enough to bequeath us the word pogrom. In 1922, the Fifth Palestine Arab Congress called for a boycott of all Jewish businesses. In 1943, the Arab League banned the purchase of “products of Jewish industry”. Note I have passed over here the not insignificant events of 1933-45 lest I fall foul of politicians such as Greens MP David Shoebridge, who accuses supporters of Israel of “using the Holocaust for political purposes”.

The BDS presents itself as a reaction to the power of the state of Israel. In reality it is the most recent name for a centuries-old economic persecution of Jews for having the temerity to become educated and entrepreneurial despite their exclusion from many occupations, geographies and institutions.

This makes it all the more ironic that the University of Sydney’s Students Representative Council would seek to ban ties with Haifa’s Technion, the world’s most successful commercialiser of university research. It isn’t a cunning reprisal, it’s an act of pointless self-harm.

Julia Gillard, to her credit, was swift to sign the London Declaration. NSW Labor leader John Robertson has followed her lead, calling the declaration “an important step in the ongoing efforts to eliminate anti-Semitism in all its forms”. But both face resistance from members of their teams who are courting the Muslim vote or flexing their ideological credentials. During a recent visit by Israeli politicians, NSW Labor MLC Shaoquett Moselmane disgraced the house by accusing Israel of running torture camps and claiming Israel is driven by a, “craving to take over other people’s lands”. His actions were rebuked by Labor MLC Walter Secord, a long-time friend of Jewish people.

Moselmane is particularly guileless in his views but others in caucus apply more subtlety to their anti-Israel positions. Several ALP members of the NSW, Victorian and federal parliaments have refused to support resolutions to condemn the BDS.

The BDS and the signing of the declaration may seem marginal with an election looming and a fresh budget to critique. It matters not as an issue of scale but as one of direction for progressive politics. It matters because, as the declaration states, there has been a “resurgence of anti-Semitism as a potent force in politics, international affairs and society”.

The student protests at UNSW and Sydney University may seem trivial or childish — hardly a “potent force in politics”. However, when a significant minority of our political leaders supports these protests it begins to be possible for them to become potent. All social change, good or bad, begins at the margin, with a campus boycott, a rally or a parliamentary debate. This is when we need to take note and nurture change that is good or discourage change that is bad.

The London Left is starting to examine the consequences of having made friends with the enemies of Israel. Seeing leading Left politicians such as Ken Livingstone posing with extremists who vilify homosexuals, women and Jews has British lefties such as Nick Cohen asking how a shared hatred of imperialism can paper over the differences between the radical Left and radical Islam.

The Left in Australia can avoid this London problem by signing the London Declaration and by sticking to its own basic principles. Stand with those who educate women, stand with those who let gays serve openly in the military, stand with those who allow free speech and political activism.

Stand, in short, with the Jewish people and their state of Israel.

Finally, in the Australian Jewish News, a newspaper that receives every Sabbath the latest press releases from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, publishes an article that is the opposite of the truth. My co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices, Peter Slezak, tells me that the story is a complete fabrication, that in fact he told the paper many times that he wasn’t going to focus on Israel at an upcoming Jewish festival and is happy to abide by the (frankly absurd) rules laid down by Limmud at its insider talk-fest. But the paper, and its Zionist lobby mates, don’t want a dissident like Slezak to be acceptable in their polite, Zionist fundamentalist world, hence the hatchet job. For the record, Slezak has been banned by Limmud for his views in 2011 and 2012.

Not to worry, friends, yet again we have the sorry sight of supposedly civilised Jews calling for censorship of views they don’t like. The Israel lobby must be so proud of itself:

The Limmud-Oz board was this week considering pulling a planned session with outspoken Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigner Dr Peter Slezak from the three-day education festival in Sydney next month.

A spokesperson for the board said that the co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices, who wasn’t permitted to address Limmud-Oz in 2011 or its Melbourne counterpart in 2012, was this year accepted for a session, “The Wicked Son – Confessions of a Self-Hating Jew”, on the condition that he would not discuss Israel.

“The Limmud board decided that, where possible, it would ‘play the ball, not the person’ and assess sessions primarily based on their proposed content rather than the presenter,” the spokesperson said.

“Limmud-Oz acknowledges that many people in the community virulently disagree with Slezak’s views and feel antagonistic towards him.”

However, Slezak told The AJN this week that Israel would be a part of his presentation.

“I never agreed not to discuss Israel,” Slezak said.

“I’m talking about self-hating Jews and the source of my problems are problems with Israel.

“They want to make sure I don’t say something scandalous. It’s no secret I want to talk about Israel.”

In the wake of Slezak’s comments, The AJN contacted the Limmud-Oz board. The spokesperson said that if the conditions reached between the two parties were breached, then they would have to discuss how to proceed.

At the time of going to press, it was unclear how the Limmud-Oz board would handle the situation. But senior members of the community confirmed the board would be meeting to consider cancelling the session.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Yair Miller said Slezak should not be provided a ­platform.

“While everyone has the right to freely express their views, that does not impose an obligation on others to provide them with an opportunity to do so.

“If Dr Slezak has given a commitment to not speak about Israel, but now insists on doing so, it would be highly offensive to the mainstream Jewish community if his session were to take place.

“It is our view that this would not be an educational session and would therefore fall outside the guidelines of Limmud, and communal policy.”

Zionist Council of NSW honorary life president Ron Weiser said that in 2011 the Limmud-Oz organisers decided not to give Slezak a platform and they should have stuck by that policy.

“I’m extremely puzzled by this development after the issue arose in 2011,” Weiser said.

“The decisive action that the Shalom Institute took in 2011, I had assumed, ended the matter then, and into the future.”

Limmud-Oz will be held from June 8-10.

UPDATE: Peter Slezak has given me an email he sent to the Australian Jewish News a few days before its publication, confirming the lie within the piece. He clearly says he has no intention of breaking Limmud rules. The email is to a “journalist” at the paper, Joshua Levi. The publication is clearly learning its ethics from the Murdoch school of thuggery:

Dear Josh,
 
Thanks again for your time and concern to clarify my views and statements. I do appreciate it very much. I am forwarding here the email from Michala Lander at Limmud and my response. As I said, I do understand their concerns (however misguided), but I have no intention of undermining or in any way subverting our explicit agreement as indicated in these emails. You’ll see that I say the following key things which were the basis for Limmud’s acceptance of my presentation – given my undertaking to accept their conditions, as I do:
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So this is how the Iraq war could have started

A fascinating insight from the British mercenary Simon Mann in Vice magazine about what the Bush administration were really like; criminals on a war mission:

Weren’t you also asked to help kick start the Iraq War in 2002?
Yes. Someone who said he was friends with the American neocons asked me to come up with ideas to get the war kicked off. The first was to pick an Iraqi city away from Baghdad, go there with a rebel force made up of 6,000 Iraqi émigrés, take the city, then say, “Yah boo” to Saddam. That would have forced him to come get us and be zapped on the road by the UK and US, or let the flag of rebellion spread.

The second was far more criminal. We wanted to buy an old rust-bucket ship, sail it to Karachi, load up secretly with some weapons-grade uranium, or whatever, then sail it into the Gulf with a motley crew, including me. We’d then leak our presence to the Saudis, get the navy to intercept us, sink their ship—hopefully without killing anyone—then sail into Basra. The world would have gone nuts and we’d have had an excuse for war in Iraq.

That’s pretty scandalous.
Well, yes. We actually got feedback saying that they liked the ideas, but not me. I believed them.

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ABCTV New24′s The Drum on Romney/Obama debate, Iran, Israel and Zionist occupation

Last night I appeared on ABC TV News24′s The Drum (video here) discussing the last Presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

The real challenge was counting how many times Israel was loved/praised/embraced/kissed during the 90 minute discussion (clue: 65432 times). I argued that it’s remarkable how little it is acknowledged that one nation, Israel, requires constant attention without any criticism. The Palestinians were essentially invisible but the “threat” from Iran was paramount. On Afghanistan, Iraq and drones, both men had very similar policies. It’s quite possible, however, that a Romney presidency will be more extreme because of the Bush era neo-cons around him, loving the smell of burning Muslim flesh in the morning. An outsider would regard both men as living in a parallel universe.

The guest was Avner Gvaryahu from Israeli group Breaking the Silence. It was fascinating hearing him talk about the reality of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the daily abuse of Palestinians. He’s here discussing a new book, Our Harsh Logic, a devastating portrait of Zionist criminality in the West Bank and Gaza.

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My #LeftTurn chapter on media complicity in war post 9/11

This appears in Crikey’s Pure Poison blog today:

Following is an extract from “Media War Junkies Unite”, an essay by Antony Loewenstein from Left Turn: Political essays for the new Left which is edited by Loewenstein and Jeff Sparrow, and which was released last week.

***


The decade since 11 September 2001 has seen a litany of western journalists, editors, writers, opinion makers and politicians, many on the progressive Left, endorse a neoconservative worldview that required massive American military might. ‘Liberal hawks’ spruiked toughness. They preached eternal vigilance after the terror attacks in New York and Washington and spent the following years hyping threat after threat. First it was Afghanistan. Then Iraq. Yemen and Pakistan were in their sights. Add Somalia, Syria, Gaza and Iran.

They opined without responsibility and reputations that should have been diminished, but because of their endless credulity towards official claims continued to be published and respected. Take Christopher Hitchens, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman or the Sydney Morning Herald’s Gerard Henderson—who praised the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ in March 2011 for creating ‘nascent democracy’ in Iraq. Three prominent commentators whose standing hasn’t been negatively affected by years of amplifying government spin over the ‘terror threat’ and downplaying civilian casualties. There are many others.

This has occurred precisely because of a journalistic and political culture that rewards loyalty to an establishment class without accountability. It allows the Australian to editorialise in late 2010 that former US president George W Bush should be respected because of the ‘achievement’ of the Iraq war. ‘It was a war for democracy’, readers were informed, though ‘the price its people paid is very high’. That’s how the death of over one million Iraqis became a mere footnote. Liberal Party senator Nick Minchin could merely muster the claim of ‘debacle’ for the war when speaking to the Senate in 2010.

Half-hearted mea culpas about being ‘wrong’ about the Iraq war were the extent of some commentators’ regret over the mess the invasion created. Laying the intellectual groundwork for the invasion and occupation contributed to an atmosphere, even years after 2003, where Baghdad remains a deeply polluted city and electricity levels lag at pre-war levels. Millions of external and internal Iraqi refugees remain displaced.

Today Tehran is in the cross-hairs of Tel Aviv and Washington; the same media courtiers are working hard to rehash suspect WMD ‘intelligence’ and unnamed US ‘officials’ are claiming Iran is on the verge of attacking American cities. It is as if the last decade never happened. Understanding the reasons behind this media reality requires an appreciation of how mainstream journalism, from the BBC in the United Kingdom to Fairfax in Australia, has historically been willing to sacrifice independence for access to power. A favourable quote from an MP here. A sanctioned leak from a ministerial adviser there. An exclusive interview with a leader or advance notice of an important policy for tomorrow’s lead story.

Perhaps the most forthright appraisal of why scepticism after September 11 disappeared was expressed by former executive editor of the New York Times, Bill Keller, who soon after stepping down to become an opinion columnist for the paper in September 2011 wrote ‘My Unfinished 9/11 Business’. He argued that the ‘exclusive boy’s club’ of which he was part—middle-aged men who ferociously championed the Bush administration’s rush to war against Iraq—were ‘drugged by testosterone. And maybe a little too pleased with ourselves for standing up to evil and defying the caricature of liberals as … brie-eating surrender monkeys.’

Reporting in the post-9/11 decade has revealed a media class that has too often not been a check on power but an enabler of it. Bringing accountability will require a fundamental rethinking of the role of language and intent. It makes independent journalism all the more important but its funding remains limited. Until an embedded mindset is excised and a critical posture adopted, we are guaranteed to see yet more wars in the name of eradicating terrorism and ‘protecting’ the homeland.

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Leading neo-con Bill Kristol has no issue with Israeli apartheid

More here.

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What Israeli attack on Iran may bring

Gideon Levy in Haaretz on the real consequences of an Israeli strike against Iran (a message to be given to the litany of neo-cons and Zionist fanatics itching for war):

Even the strongest supporters of an attack – whose numbers, scarily, are increasing – admit there is no chance that Iran will sit idly by, and that an Israeli attack will be countered by a ferocious response. Missiles from the east, the north and perhaps also the south, including against Tel Aviv, will paralyze the country. It could go on for a long time.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak promised a maximum of 500 dead. Perhaps he underestimated, perhaps not, but it is unlikely that Israel is hardened enough to take such a number of casualties in a short time. Blood, bereavement and a stalled economy, all at once. Israelis will be killed, tourists will stay away, the national mood will be one of despair and fear.

But even that is not enough. The Iranians, a people with the memory of Methuselah, will neither forgive nor forget. An Israeli success will be perceived, of course, as much more serious than all the “Satanic Verses” furor. If Salman Rushdie has been living in fear of Iran for almost 25 years, the terror of the fatwah it will issue against Israelis will be greater and persist for much longer. Once again, Hebrew will not be heard beyond the threshold of Ben-Gurion International Airport. Careful, the Iranian avengers are everywhere.

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ABCTV News24′s The Drum on Israel/US/Iran and Syria

Last night I appeared on ABCTV’s The Drum (video here) discussing both domestic and international affairs.

The key part of the show began when this week’s meeting between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu was discussed. The New York Times tells the world that, “Israel should not doubt this president’s mettle. Neither should Iran.” Netanyahu, speaking at the Zionist lobby AIPAC conference, used the Holocaust analogy to argue that, “Never again will … the Jewish people be powerless and supplicants for our fate and our very survival. Never again.”

I argued that a military strike against Iran would be illegal, counter-productive and unsuccessful. Most importantly, there’s no hard evidence that Tehran is actually building a nuclear weapon. This is the assessment of America’s intelligence agencies rather than the clueless rantings of neo-conservatives, mad Zionists and the Israelis.

Too much of the public debate around this issue involves arguing when Israel would have the right to attack a sovereign nation such as Iran. It’s vital to re-frame the discussion and question who is seriously threatening whom. Obama apparently wants to avoid direct military contact. For now, anyway. But what a sight, I said, for the mainstream Jewish community to back Israel in yet another military adventure in the Middle East. This is how us Jews are seen; constantly desperate for war.

The debate then shifted to Syria. The humanitarian situation there remains dire, to be sure, but foreign military intervention is a mistake. Too many people are keen to be seen to “do something”. Let’s not forget that Libya, the latest so-called noble war, has turned into a conflict between brutal militias.

Too much talk about foreign affairs ignores the locals directly affected. Leave the Middle East alone for a while, I stated, haven’t we caused enough mayhem over the last decades?

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Would Iraq, still under Saddam, have embraced the Arab Spring?

With over one million Iraqis dead and millions displaced since the 2003 invasion, it’s a fascinating question asked in Foreign Policy (though the idea of US military intervention is hardly an answer to anything, as history always shows):

In a tumultuous year that witnessed the fall of Arab tyrants and the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, proponents of the 2003 invasion, including former Vice President Dick Cheney and conservative academic Fouad Ajami, have sought to portray the decision to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime as the hidden driver of the Arab Spring. But rather than revisit history, why not — on this one-year anniversary of Tunisian strongman Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s downfall — try our hand at alternate history: If the United States had never invaded Iraq, would Saddam’s Baathist regime still be standing in today’s Middle East?

This question, of course, is a bedeviling one. It is difficult to imagine the region absent U.S. military intervention in Iraq. The war itself fueled regional dysfunction — particularly in reaffirming and expanding pernicious notions of sectarian identity. Clearly, the specter of enhanced Iranian influence and the spillover effects of Iraq’s brutal 2006-2007 sectarian civil war loom large over the region, most obviously with respect to Syria and Bahrain.

With festering grievances, a repressed populace, and growing destitution, it is highly likely that Iraq would have been part of this past year’s regional wave of uprisings. The wave of revolt has illuminated the manner in which transnational solidarity, buoyed by a shared media space and political links, still plays an important role in the collective imagination of Arabs — even though the grandiose promises of pan-Arab nationalism have long ago been discredited. This phenomenon would not have bypassed Iraq. Furthermore, while the pre-invasion efforts of both the external and internal Iraqi opposition ultimately failed, they did represent genuine opposition politics. And the existence of a Kurdish safe haven would have provided physical space to plan and coordinate anti-government activities. Much more so than even in Tunisia, the building blocks for an uprising would have been in place in Iraq.

Had such an uprising broken out, the surest path for Iraqi regime change would have been a U.S.-led military action in support of local actors. Without the bruising legacy of the Iraq debacle, outside intervention, even absent legal authorization, would have been, for better or worse, a serious option for the United States and its allies. As with Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya, the United States and its partners would have seen an opportunity to remove a longtime nemesis.

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Being “wrong” about war isn’t merely a mistake; it’s a deliberate decision

As the drumbeat for war against Iran grows louder by the day – cheered by the same neo-conservatives, extreme Zionists and hacks who led us into conflict with Iraq – it’s vital to hold to account the commentators who never take responsibility for their war-mongering. A fine piece in Jadaliyya:

This is not another article about Christopher Hitchens.

This may come as something of a relief, given the spilling of ink occasioned by Hitchens’ untimely death last week, with Neal Pollock’s fine parody hopefully bringing this outpouring to an end. After an initial set of hagiographies, it was encouraging to see a number of pieces reminding readers of Hitchens’ role in forcefully and bloodthirstily advocating for the war on Iraq, and for the “war on terror” more generally, as part of a deeply racist and Islamophobic current in his work over the past decade (or more).

What has struck me in the articles that have followed, both those that praise and those that condemn Hitchens’ work, is the recurring use of a phrase to describe Hitchens’ advocacy on behalf of the invasion and occupation of Iraq: he was, we are told by the most perceptive commentators on his work, “wrong on Iraq.” For Hitchens’ defenders, as Corey Robin notes, this was articulated as “Yes, he was wrong on Iraq, but…” For his detractors, there is no “but”: in Glenn Greenwald’s words, Hitchens was guilty of the crime of endorsing “the generation’s worst political crime, one for which he remained fully unrepentant and even proud.”

It seems likely that this focus on Hitchens’ support for the war would have been part of these pieces in any case, since it became one of the defining aspects of his writing over the past decade. But given that his death came in the same week as the much-reported withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, the connection was inevitable, even for Hitchens’ admirers. For those who accept the fantasy that the withdrawal of US forces marks the “end” of the war, the Iraq War, like the era of Hitchens, could now be given an end date; indeed, on the front page of its website today, the New York Times features a section entitled “Iraq War: 2003-2011.”

This brief re-entry of Iraq into public discourse in the United States—a re-entry that is intended only to clear the way for a final dismissal, since the war is now, according to this narrative of events, “over”—reminds us of the extent to which Iraq has fallen out of the collective consciousness in the US. It must not be allowed to do so, and the notion that the withdrawal of US troops (leaving behind the largest US embassy in the world in Baghdad and consulates in Basra, Erbil, and Kirkuk, along with at least 16,000 Americans employed by the US government—a large percentage of them “security contractors,” that is, armed mercenaries of the sort that have caused so much carnage in Iraq) should be understood as meaning the “end” of the Iraq War must not be allowed to stand unchallenged. It is an opportune moment, in other words, for some remembering, and, if we can make it happen, some accountability.

To have been “wrong” on Iraq, if one was a member of the political and/or military establishment that helped to perpetrate the war and occupation, is, simply put, to be a war criminal. If this is not how such figures are currently viewed, this speaks most clearly to the blighted state of international law and institutions, and their inability to hold the perpetrators of the planet’s most horrific acts of violence accountable for their actions.

To have been “wrong” on Iraq, if one was or is a member of the media or the intellectual establishment that argued for, and thus helped to lay the groundwork for, the war, is to be deeply complicit in these war crimes. Again, there has been no attempt to hold any of these individuals accountable for such complicity, although there is a precedent that dates back at least to the Nuremberg Tribunal that would allow for identifying and acting against such media and intellectual complicity in war crimes.

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What Wikileaks and Bradley Manning gave to the world; real news about our crimes

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