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.

When Arab and Muslim states get intimate with Israel

Why are growing numbers of Arab and Muslim states getting cosy with Israel? I was interviewed about this for global broadcaster TRT World:

Israel’s new policies indicate that it’s trying to isolate the Palestinians by gaining favour with nations traditionally opposed to its policies. But Antony Loewenstein, a Jerusalem-based independent journalist, author and filmmaker, argues that “Arab leaders have for decades discarded the Palestinian cause for closer ties with Washington. The effect has been rhetorical backing for Palestinians but little tangible pressure on Israel or the US to effect change. Many Palestinians know that they’re supported by the Arab people but not their despotic leaders.”

Loewenstein adds that “the growing numbers of Arab states that are now embracing Israel is because they fear Iran, want Israeli surveillance and defence equipment and hope to get some financial crumbs from the Trump administration.”

Loewenstein explains that “Israel will continue to forge closer ties with Arab and Muslim dictatorships because they believe that this is the way to gain regional acceptance, but it’s a false dawn. In every opinion poll across the Arab and Muslim worlds, Israel is viewed as brutally occupying Palestinian territory, and Arab leaders would be foolish to ignore this sentiment.”

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A day in the life of the occupied Jordan Valley

My investigation in global broadcaster TRT World:

The Palestinian shepherds in the Auja region of the Jordan Valley were scared. Living under Israeli occupation and harassed daily by both the Israeli army and Jewish settlers, they wanted to herd their sheep across the green, rolling hills.

On the day I recently visited, the Palestinians were alone and exposed to the unpredictable whims of young Jewish soldiers.

Situated next to the illegal Israeli outpost Einot Kedem, Palestinian shepherd Ahmed wore a black balaclava to keep him warm on a cold, winter morning. As soon as he appeared with his sheep near the outpost, four armed female soldiers drove up in their green jeep to tell him that he was in a “closed military zone”, a policy that’s routinely used to keep Palestinians and Israeli activists away from land illegally taken by the military or settlers. Ahmed was told by the army to move quickly to find a different path.

Israeli activist Guy Hirschfeld, one of the most prominent dissidents operating in the West Bank to defend Palestinians against Israeli aggression, swung into action. He drove his four-wheel drive towards the soldiers and verbally confronted them.

Initially, the soldiers were relatively friendly, posing for a photo and knowing it would be posted on Facebook, but the mood quickly soured.

Hirschfeld demanded to see the closed military zone order in black and white, so the women sped away back to their base and returned shortly after with the document.

Hirschfeld was told that he wasn’t allowed to be in the area and had to move or face likely arrest by the Israeli police. He insisted to the soldiers that they were doing the bidding of the nearby settlers, “terrorists” he called them, who remained invisible throughout the entire day, and since the outpost was illegal under Israeli and international law, they were obliged to allow the shepherds free passage.

Instead, over the coming hours, the soldiers drove perilously close to the sheep, nearly physically hitting them, some of whom were pregnant. Hirschfeld attempted to stop them by filming their actions, driving his car close to theirs and speaking to the Palestinians about the best ways to avoid arrest. He told me that the soldiers were operating outside the closed military zone and their actions towards the shepherds were violating the law.

Direct action is what Hirschfeld undertakes every day in the Jordan Valley. Working with the Israeli anti-occupation group Ta’ayush and others, he’s one of very few Israelis who have dedicated their lives to opposing the occupation with their bodies.

He’s been arrested at least 70 times, and his Facebook posts have brought him a large following within Israel, the settler movement and Palestine. Hirschfeld is undeniably provocative, accusing the soldiers of illegality and trying to make them feel guilty for what they’re doing in the name of the state and supposed security.

Such troubling interactions in the field were a daily dance between activists, Palestinians, settlers and soldiers, everybody knew their role and who had the power, but it existed in a legal black hole where Palestinians were systemically kicked off their lands by policies decided by the Jewish, Israeli elites.

Settler Masters

Many Palestinians have no political power or influence on the Israeli election process and can’t vote in the upcoming Israeli election in April, and yet millions of Palestinians are rendered invisible and a threat in the Israeli media and political sphere. Few Palestinians think that the election will change anything in their lives.

The landscape in the Jordan Valley is spectacular at this time of year with flowers bursting through the soil and small rocks dotting the ground. There are barely any trees or natural cover from the elements, so the Palestinians, settlers, soldiers and activists are all living under the vast, open sky.

According to a 2011 poll, most Israelis didn’t know that the Jewish state was occupying the Jordan Valley. With few settlers and sparsely populated, the Israeli government aims to increase the number of Israeli colonists from around 6,000 to 10,000 people; this has allowed some of the more ideological and extreme Jewish settlers to operate with impunity.

An estimated 622,670 Jewish settlers are living illegally across the entire West Bank.

On the day I visited the Jordan Valley, Hirschfeld told me that the Israeli army was more brutal than he usually saw, perhaps the result of four female soldiers wanting to show that they could be as tough as the men, if not more so.

During one verbal altercation between Hirschfeld and a female soldier, who said that her grandparents were Holocaust survivors, she argued that it was “leftists like you [Hirschfeld] who are the problem and causing terrorism.”

Later in the afternoon, the Israeli soldiers arrested another shepherd, Mohammed, and I saw him being held with his hands and eyes bound. He was on his knees while two, armed female soldiers watched over him. Mohammed was transferred to the nearby army base, an image of Batman was painted on the outside wall, but he was only held for a short amount of time.

Hirschfeld told me that this was because he had streamed the scene on Facebook Live of Mohammed kneeling on the ground and commanders in the Israeli army followed his feed, saw it was an illegal arrest and demanded he was released.

Although young soldiers in the field often operate with haste and blind hatred towards Palestinians, Hirschfeld said that others higher up the military hierarchy were sensitive about the army’s image in the media. His Facebook Live footage proved that the arrest of Mohammed was illegal, he was not inside a closed military zone, so the commander moved quickly to rectify the problem. Despite this, Mohammed could be arrested the following day again.

As Hirschfeld was about to head back to Jerusalem, his car was suddenly stopped on the road by at least eight Israeli soldiers and police. There was a long discussion about whether he should be arrested with the female soldiers trying to convince the policeman to do so. That day, at least, he was eventually free to go home.

Writing about this area in the Jordan Valley in 2017, Israeli journalist Amira Hass explained that, “anything goes when the IDF is obeying its settler masters and is fulfilling the sacred mission of expelling Palestinian shepherds from their pastureland.”

***

The Israeli election is in full swing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently forming a coalition with the most extreme fascists on the political map. His desperate need to join with the Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) party is a worrying indication that Netanyahu will do anything to hold onto power after ten years in the top job. He was just indicted on numerous corruption charges.

Jewish Power has its roots in the ideological obsessions of murdered Rabbi Meir Kahane: he believed in Jewish ethnic purity, forcibly expelling all Palestinians and living under religious, Jewish law.

Although such views aren’t shared by the majority of Israeli Jews today, the idea of kicking Palestinians off their lands is now expressed by growing numbers of mainstream politicians and the general public.

The dark echoes of Kahane resonate loudly in today’s Israel. The leading Israeli opposition coalition proudly talks about not forming a government with Arab parties.

Jewish Power is so extreme that even some of Israel’s biggest US supporters recently expressed opposition to the Netanyahu partnership. The group’s election manifesto includes supporting “total war” against “Israel’s enemies” and bringing more Jews to Israel to battle what it views as the evils of assimilation.

The most viable alternative to Netanyahu is the newly formed coalition between former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and former TV presenter Yair Lapid. The Blue and White Party has immediately attracted high poll numbers and is the first serious challenge to the Netanyahu era. The party released its proposal for ‘peace’ with the Palestinians, and it amounts to little more than demands for the occupied to capitulate to Israeli demands.

Israel’s Central Elections Committee banned one of the two Arab parties from running in the election, in a decision that may be overturned by the Supreme Court though it was supported by Netanyahu, while allowing a far-right candidate to stand. It spoke volumes about the endemic racism in the Jewish state.

Leading Israeli journalist Gideon Levy is sceptical that there’s much difference between the two political parties. He recently wrote:

“The election campaign is being waged between those who want to expel the Palestinians (Otzma Yehudit) and those who merely want to hide them behind a high wall (Lapid). Population transfer and race theories versus separation. Your choice.”

In lieu of representation, resistance will increase 

In the Israeli narrative, Palestinians are primarily framed as a nuisance that many Israelis hope would simply disappear. The Palestinians are also politically disenfranchised. With close to 6.5 million Palestinians living under occupation, only around 1.5 million, or less than one in four, has the legal right to vote in Israeli elections.

Palestinian citizens of Israel are surveilled and threatened. That’s the real scandal of this election, far more than whether Netanyahu is guilty of corruption, and yet it’s barely mentioned in the local or global media. Netanyahu’s Likud party and other right-wing parties recently pledged to settle two million Jews in the occupied West Bank.

Nadia Hijab, a co-founder of Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network, told TRT World that the only viable Palestinian response to this grim picture was to continue and increase resistance across the West Bank including in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA). Many Palestinians now openly complain of the PA’s complicity with the Israeli state.

“The most effective response in PA-controlled areas (where the PA prevents peaceful mobilisation and resistance on behalf of Israel) has been in small locales such as Nabi Salih & Khan al-Ahmar”, Hijab said, “and these should be upheld and replicated to the extent possible. The Great Marches of Return in Gaza have also spotlighted Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights internationally as has Palestinian resistance in Jerusalem around Al Aqsa.”

Hijab urged a more significant role for Diaspora Palestinians in working together with civil society actors to pressure foreign governments “to hold Israel to account as well through direct action tools like boycotts and legal action. All eyes should focus on Hebron now that the population is at the settler’s mercy after the withdrawal of foreign observers from The Temporary International Presence that has been in place since 1994.”

I asked Hijab if any of the leading Israeli candidates gave her hope for the future, but she was pessimistic.

“The Israeli political spectrum is agreed on maximum territory for Israel while squeezing Palestinians into the slivers that are left,” she responded.

“Any differences between them are largely ones of presentation, not substance.”

With the failure of the two-state solution to bring any suitable outcome that works for both Israelis and Palestinians, the challenge for Palestinians now is what should be the strategy moving forward.

The European Union is notoriously ineffective in pressuring Israel. The Trump administration is set to release its long-awaited ‘deal of the century’ after the April poll. Few details have leaked but it’s likely to include considerable concessions to the Israeli side, and the PA has already rejected it.

Trump advisor Jared Kushner recently said that his plan would finalise Israeli borders and Palestinian unity (whatever that means in practice). However, Washington has signalled its intentions by cutting all aid to the Palestinian territories. This is hurting vulnerable Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, especially women.

Hijab said that the Palestinians currently had little power to “achieve the solution they want, whether they aspire to one or two states. The answer is to stay on the land and continue to work for Palestinians rights to freedom from occupation, equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and justice for refugees and exiles until they and their allies are able to shift the power dynamic.”

No one in their corner

After decades of the failed and corrupt Palestinian leadership and belligerent Israeli governments, growing numbers of Palestinian youth aren’t sitting around and waiting to be liberated.

Many activists in occupied West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem have little faith in the PA or Hamas, hoping that either political entity will free them from colonisation. There’s a transition from demanding a state, asking and begging the international community to grant Palestinians what international law requires, to demanding their full civil rights. This view is surging particularly among young Palestinians.

Sources in the West Bank told TRT World that the inevitable death of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, he’s currently 83-years-old and reportedly sick, could lead to increased violence due to the massive amounts of weapons in the occupied territories. Although Israel and Washington would want to install another pliable candidate, it remains unclear if the millions of Palestinians living under PA rule would accept it.

Meanwhile, the Israeli peace movement, a relatively small yet vocal community, views the upcoming Israeli election with concern.

Roy Yellin, Director of Public Outreach at human rights group B’Tselem, questioned the entire legitimacy of the poll.

“First we’d like to reject the concept of one people deciding over another by a supposedly democratic process of elections”, he told TRT World.

“Democracy is the rule of the people not the rule of the people over another people.”

Yellin didn’t believe that any new Israeli prime minister, or the continuation of Netanyahu, would change much.

“We are not in the business of predicting the future, but sadly we don’t anticipate significant changes for the better but rather more of the same after the coming elections. Over the years, all Israeli governments enacted the same policies of building settlements and taking over Palestinian lands. There’s no reason to assume the next one is going to be different.”

When asked what politics B’Tselem thinks Israeli political candidates should adopt about the 52-year-old occupation, he simply replied: “Ending it.”

Yehuda Shaul, one of the co-founders of the Israeli group, Breaking the Silence, dedicated to collecting testimonies of Israeli soldiers who serve in the occupied territories, told TRT World that his organisation was non-partisan and didn’t back any candidates in the election. The organisation wanted any Israeli leader to be dedicated to the most crucial issue in the country: stopping the occupation.

***

Back in the Jordan Valley, Israeli activist Guy Hirschfeld was rolling a cigarette. His family was like many in the country, an uncomfortable combination of competing political forces.

He had two brothers who lived in settlements, one directly affecting the Bedouin community slated for removal, Khan al-Ahmar, where Hirschfeld sometimes worked. He still dined with them regularly at their mother’s home in Jerusalem.

“We have nothing in common,” he said. “They’re fascists”. He would continue to meet while his mother was alive. After that, the situation may change.

Hirschfeld told TRT World that he saw former IDF chief Benny Gantz as similar to former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (who was killed by a Jewish extremist in 1995 for striking a deal with the Palestinians).

Gantz wanted to “end the conflict”, he said, after saying he backed the 2005 Gaza withdrawal and that its “lessons” should be “implemented in other places.”

Hirschfeld wasn’t a fan of any candidate but said that it was vital that Netanyahu and the racist forces he’d enabled for the last decade had to be stopped or at least curtailed. He’d seen first-hand how Netanyahu’s government was little more than a state run by and for the settler movement.

Hirschfeld said that there were no more than 1000-2000 radical, extremesettlers in the entire West Bank who used weapons against Palestinians and the Israeli army (with many more supporting or indulging this tiny minority).

Hirschfeld argued that the majority of settlers didn’t want to kill Palestinians because there were still some limits of what was seen as acceptable (and legally permissible) behaviour.

Injuring Palestinian farmers, destroying their crops and even killing their animals were not uncommon acts by some settlers, but there weren’t mass killings of Palestinians by settlers (the Israeli army, on the other hand, routinely killed and injured Palestinians).

Hirschfeld imagined that any potential peace deal with the Palestinians would involve Israel removing around 100,000 Jewish settlers and keeping the more established West Bank settlements of Ariel, Gush Etzion and Ma’aleh Adumim. That would still leave hundreds of thousands of settlers illegally living on occupied territory. This wasn’t Hirschfeld’s ideal vision but what he thought was most politically likely in the foreseeable future.

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How Washington has created chaos in Honduras

Honduras is a key nation in the US-backed “war on drugs”. I visited there to report on what this meant for civilians, many of whom flee in fear to the US.

Here’s my story in the new US outlet, Filter, covering drugs domestically and globally, on the grin reality in Honduras and why so many of its citizens are leaving in despair:

Trump Should Know How US Drug Policy Drives Migration From Honduras

 

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The Nation interview on Afghan resources and peace prospects

US magazine The Nation recently published my investigation into the Afghan mining industry. I was interviewed about the story, and the ongoing peace talks between the US and Taliban, on the popular Nation podcast, Start Making Sense:

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What will happen to the vast resources in Afghanistan?

My 4000-word investigation in US magazine The Nation is on Afghanistan and the rush to exploit its natural resources. Based on explosive, leaked documents, the story uncovers how the Trump administration is pressuring the Kabul government to issue contracts to the highest bidder. Increased violence against civilians is assured. Foreign companies, Blackwater founder Erik Prince and others are all in the mix. Within hours of this report being published, I was reliably told that it was being read at the highest levels of the US embassy in Kabul and Afghanistan’s National Security Council.

This story is part of my ongoing series on Afghanistan and its minerals (more background here). In late 2018, I revealed details about Erik Prince and his plans to target Afghan resources.

Here’s my latest story in PDF form: Peace in Afghanistan? Maybe—but a Minerals Rush Is Already Underway | The Nation

 

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US radio interview, By Any Means Necessary, on Israel selling occupation knowledge

My interview with the US radio program, By Any Means Necessary, based on my recent investigation in the New York Review of Books on Israel exporting knowledge and equipment gained from years of occupying Palestine:

Listen to “Israeli Surveillance Tools Used in Palestine and Beyond” on Spreaker.

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The one word missing from the Israeli election: occupation

My report and analysis for global broadcaster TRT World on the upcoming Israeli election:

Jerusalem—During a recent conference organised by Women in Green, a Zionist, pro-settler group dedicated to applying Israeli sovereignty across the entire, occupied West Bank, Likud politician and Minister of Aliyah and Integration, Yoav Galant, explained what his country had to achieve.

“From the hills of Samaria, I say clearly, ‘No to a Palestinian state’,” he argued. “It’s impossible to establish more than one state west of the Jordan. This is the place of the Jewish, Zionist and democratic State of Israel.”

Other senior politicians at the event agreed including Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, Deputy Minister for Diplomacy (and former Israeli ambassador to the United States) Michael Oren and Welfare Minister Chaim Katz.

Israel’s general election in April sets the scene for ferocious months of campaigning and yet all the major Israeli political parties agree on one thing; no end to the more than 50 years of occupying Palestinian territory in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

The ruling Likud party, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, voted in a non-binding resolution in late 2017 to apply sovereignty over the West Bank, rendering millions of Palestinians second-class citizens in perpetuity.

The resolution barely caused a ripple because it’s become an increasingly mainstream view across the Israeli, Jewish public.

Netanyahu is embroiled in countless corruption scandals, mainly revolving around the alleged receiving of favours and gifts from wealthy patrons and friends. The Times of Israel asked in late 2018: “Is Israel about to re-elect a corrupt prime minister?”

Netanyahu remains a popular leader despite the controversies and could win the April poll (if he hasn’t resigned before due to a possible indictment in February).

How to make an occupation disappear 

The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, Israel’s leading organisation working on refugee rights, migrant workers and human trafficking victims, tells TRT World that the most vulnerable people in Israeli society are completely ignored during the election campaign.

Although an Israeli court recently froze the imminent deportation of 312 Congolese asylum seekers back to the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the founders of Hotline, Public Policy Director, Sigal Rozen, says that “the media shows no interest in the issue and nor do the politicians.”

Rozen says, “we always have hope yet we are not satisfied with only hoping, so we also strive to make sure that all decision makers are aware of the reasonsthat brought the asylum seekers to Israel and their situation here.”

Many Israeli politicians are committed to removing all African refugees from the country.

To the outside world, regularly bombarded with stories about unarmed Palestinians in Gaza being shot dead by Israel or never-ending expansion of illegal, West Bank settlements, understanding the Israeli mindset can be challenging and yet certain facts are clear.

Racist incitement against Arabs and Palestinians is rife in public spaces, the press and social media. A study conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute in 2018 found that the majority of Israeli citizens agreed with the sentiment that, “most Jews are better than most non-Jews because they were born Jews”. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they were “somewhat disturbed” or “very disturbed” that half the pharmacists in Israel are Arabs.

The study was initiated after a concerning CNN poll that discovered anti-Semitic attitudes across Europe.

The Israeli occupation of Palestine is virtually invisible in the Israeli media except when Arabs are reported as a security threat. There’s only one Israeli journalist based permanently in the West Bank, Amira Hass with Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, and her readers are regularly exposed to the grim realities of life under occupation.

What’s mostly ignored in the international press, at least in the corporate media, is what Israel has allowed festering in Israel and the West Bank for decades; Jewish fanaticism that advocates the ethnic cleansing and murder of Palestinians. This isn’t just a few hundred Zionist settlers but a sizeable movement with strong political support. Leading Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard recently explained the phenomenon:

“We have to face reality. We are witnessing the flourishing of a Jewish Ku Klux Klan movement. Like its American counterpart, the Jewish version also drinks from the polluted springs of religious fanaticism and separatism, only replacing the Christian iconography with its Jewish equivalent. Like white racism’s modus operandi, this Jewish racism is also based on fearmongering and violence against its equivalent of Blacks — the Palestinians.”

How is this connected to the April election? It explains the social and political milieu in which the Israeli public lives on a daily basis. Settlers are routinely treated respectfully in the Israeli media instead of as illegal occupiers. It’s therefore unsurprising that no major political party has any interest or desire to end the occupation. Over decades, this perspective has found innumerable advocates to defend, ignore or support Israeli, settler actions.

Yes, there are many Israeli Jews who are appalled by the violence, but they have little or no political power. Instead, the international community has largely turned a blind eye to Israel’s descent into a proud ethnostate.

Remember that only a small minority of the millions of Palestinians living under Israeli rule, in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, are even allowed to vote in the upcoming poll.

Now, with Donald Trump as US President, the European Union mostly toothless when facing the Israeli state and the Arab world increasingly turning towards Israel to form an anti-Iran alliance, the Jewish state has no limits on what it can achieve in its territory.

Netanyahu has expanded the defence, and intelligence industries and the country now sells equipment and weapons to some of the most brutal regimes on the planet.

The elephant in the room

Consider the leading Israeli political candidates in the April poll. Yair Lapid is a former journalist who proudly talks about building a high wall between Israelis and Palestinians to “get them [Palestinians] out of our sight.”

Former IDF chief of staff, Benny Gantz, wants to keep some illegal settlements in any peace agreement. Labour leader Avi Gabbay has told supporters that the “Arabs have to be afraid of us”. Pro-settler politician Naftali Bennett has spent years explaining his satisfaction in killing Palestinians.

Any Israeli politician expressing a desire for a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank has no chance of electoral success (and the party popular with Arabs, the Joint List, has an uncertain future).

This leaves the forthcoming election dealing with many other issues except the one that arguably affects Israelis and Palestinians more than any other; the occupation.

The Jerusalem-based, Israeli writer and activist Jeff Halper, head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), tells TRT World that, “what people abroad associate with the big issue here, occupation and the peace process, is a non-issue to the Israeli electorate, who feel no need, urgency or pressure from any quarter to do anything. ‘Security’ remains an issue but it is boiled down to Hamas, and Iran and there is no real difference among parties – Labour leader Avi Gabbay says Netanyahu isn’t strong enough on Gaza – or public interest that would make that an electoral issue.”

The only alternative, Halper argues, is an “extra-parliamentary one, to work on establishing a single democratic state between the River and the Sea to replace the single apartheid regime we have today.”

Halper is involved in building a coalition with Palestinians and critical, Israeli Jews to establish a Palestinian-Israeli movement called The One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC).

This plan, Halper tells TRT World, would lead to a “democracy offering equal rights to everyone, in which the country becomes genuinely whole – people live wherever they want, one common citizenship and parliament, the return of the [Palestinian] refugees, individual, equal rights, collective rights protecting all the country’s groups and peoples and the building of a new, shared civil society.”

This vision is necessary, but it’s still a long way off. In the meantime, the April election will feature a cast of Israeli characters who will try to outdo each other in expressing contempt for the Palestinians.

The Palestinians are mostly invisible in the Israeli election campaign coverage, their plight and future deemed unimportant by the Israeli mainstream media.

Nonetheless, Palestinian voices are speaking out, some calling for a massive civil rights movement and demand for the right of return, but the Israeli elites don’t want to hear it.

The Trump administration’s long-delayed “deal of the century” between Israel and the Palestinians is destined to continue Washington’s role as Israel’s lawyerrather than an honest broker between the two sides.

What the Israeli election reveals most of all is what decades of occupation can achieve with global acquiesce, rendering powerless the invisible millions of Palestinians over whom you have complete control.

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Talking to Poland on aid, disaster capitalism and giving with purpose

I was recently interviewed by Poland’s biggest media organisation about my work around disaster capitalism (both the book and film). The conversation covered Afghanistan, Haiti, aid, US foreign policy, Trump and what journalism should be (hint: challenging those in power).

It was great to engage with an audience that in the West is increasingly viewed as conservative and intolerant. The Polish journalist told me that this view is inaccurate and public opinion is far more diverse on matters of immigration and refugees.

Here’s the story (readers will have to use Google Translate): polishinterviewdisastercapitalism

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Strong review of the documentary, Disaster Capitalism

My film Disaster Capitalism, with director Thor Neureiter and co-producers Media Stockade, has screened around the world this year (with more to come including an invitation to a major human rights film festival in the US in early 2019). 

After one of the recent screenings in Sydney, this review by Jim Mcllroy appeared in Green Left Weekly:

Disaster Capitalism is a groundbreaking documentary film about Bougainville, Haiti and Afghanistan, revealing the dark underbelly of the global aid and investment industry. The film offers important insights into a secret multi-billion dollar world by investigating how aid money is actually spent — or misspent.

Prominent journalist and author Antony Loewenstein joins award-winning filmmaker Thor Neureiter on a four-year journey through the world of shady mining companies, corrupt and failing governments and resilient local communities.

Narrated by Loewenstein, the film takes us to war-torn Afghanistan to interview leading community figures struggling to defend local village residents against the depredations of overseas mining companies. He reveals the startling fact that the US has spent more on so-called “development aid” in Afghanistan over the past 15 years than it did on the entire post-World War II Marshall Plan to reconstruct a devastated Europe.

Despite this huge sum, Afghanistan remains a failed, corrupt state, riven by an endless war with the reactionary Taliban. The great majority of its people live in dire poverty and insecurity.

Speaking at a showing of the film at the Edmund Rice Centre on November 14, refugee rights activist Phil Glendenning noted the Afghan government still spends half of its national budget on defence and security. Yet the ongoing violence still leaves people desperate for peace.

In Haiti, the film shows the terrible aftermath of the 2010 earthquake and the failure of UN and other foreign aid to significantly improve the conditions for the poor majority. Thousands died because of dysentery introduced to the country by UN personnel.

Instead of using aid to re-develop destroyed public infrastructure, the US and other rich countries focused on setting up free-trade zones to further exploit local workers with encouragement from corrupt Haitian politicians.

Loewenstein also visits Bougainville, currently a province of Papua New Guinea, which was ravaged by a long civil war in which a reported 20,000 people were killed. The war was launched by the PNG government, with the full backing of Australia, when local people rose up against the destruction of their island by mining giant Rio Tinto in the 1980s.

We hear the voices of independence leaders and local women villagers, who express a desire to control their own affairs as a precondition to any new resource projects being initiated.

The film is partly based on Loewenstein’s 2015 book Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing Out of Catastrophe. For the book, Loewenstein travels across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the US, Britain, Greece and Australia to witness the reality of rampant capitalism. He discovers how companies cash in on organised misery in the hidden world of privatised detention centres, militarised private security, aid profiteering and destructive mining.

Loewenstein concludes the film by stating: “In the end, the solution lies with the people and communities.”

Disaster Capitalism starkly exposes the reality of big business and its agents in utilising natural and human-made calamities for greed and profit. It ends on a hopeful note that communities which suffer this exploitation are beginning to rise up and demand their right to democracy and real development in the future.

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Interview on US radio station Loud and Clear on climate change

I was interviewed late last week by the US radio program, Loud and Clear, from Washington DC:

In today’s episode of Loud & Clear, Brian Becker and John Kiriakou are joined by Fred Magdoff, professor emeritus of plant and soil science at the University of Vermont, and Antony Loewenstein, an independent journalist and author of “Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing Out of Catastrophe.”

Last week, just before Thanksgiving, the White House did everything it could to bury its own report on climate change, which Donald Trump says he doesn’t believe. But the science is in andclimate change is here and is already affecting our health, with extreme heat having an effect on productivity, the food supply, and disease transmission. And the last four years have been the hottest in recorded history.

My segment starts at 16:30:

Listen to “Climate Change: The Fight of Our Lives” on Spreaker.

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TRT World interview on Erik Prince aiming to exploit Afghan minerals

Interview on TRT World’s The Newsmakers program, the global news network’s flagship current affairs show on a channel that reaches 260 million people in 190 countries, about my recent investigation into Blackwater founder Erik Prince and his attempts to exploit Afghan resources:

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Exclusive investigation on Blackwater founder Erik Prince wanting to exploit Afghan resources

My year-long investigation in TRT World, the global news network that reaches 260 million people in 190 countries, about Blackwater founder Erik Prince and his attempts to exploit Afghan minerals (plus here’s background to the making of this story that continues to reverberate around the world):

The founder of the notorious, and now defunct, Blackwater, has been making headlines for trying to privatise the Afghan war. What has gone unreported are his plans as “Trump’s advisor” to extract the country’s immensely rich mineral wealth.

Erik Prince, the founder of the private military company Blackwater, now known as Academi, has trained his sights on mining natural resources in war-torn Afghanistan, according to multiple sources and Afghan officials.

Details from Afghan officials and conversations with two sources knowledgeable about Prince’s movements in Kabul say he is looking into opportunities to mine Afghan minerals and visited the country in early 2018 and September to explore these possibilities.

Prince, who is the chairman of logistics firm Frontier Services Group, had pitched a plan to privatise the Afghan war and mine the country’s minerals to the White House last year.

His proposal included finding rare earth minerals in some of Afghanistan’s most volatile regions, allowing the United States to source valuable lithium for batteries, along with other deposits, and provide jobs to Afghans.

Prince and his associates met key figures in the Afghan mining ministry in January 2018, an Afghan government official with knowledge of Prince’s schedule told TRT World.

Team4RMC—an Afghan security company that was assisting Prince—requested a meeting for him with Afghan Mining Minister Nargis Nehan to discuss his plans to invest in the country, and described him as a “current advisor” to President Trump.

Prince and his associates, including Frontier Services Group head in Afghanistan, Shahin Mayan, met officials at the Afghan Ministry of Mines on 13 January.

Mining Minister Nargis Nehan was out of the country, so they met a deputy minister and other officials.

Team4RMC claimed Prince was also meeting President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and other high-level officials.

In late 2017, according to a Kabul-based source and Afghan mining expert, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of safety and losing his jobofficials from the Department of Commerce and United States Geological Survey working with the United States embassy in Kabul, visited the country to investigate ways in which minerals could be found and mined.

The Afghan mining expert tells TRT World that the Trump administration officials sought access to the resources map archive, researched by Soviet geologists in the late 1970s and 1980s and by American geologists after 2001, to determine the quality of the minerals and see samples of them.

The Soviet mineral data charts are far more extensive than the US efforts, according to an Afghan mining expert who has been researching the issue for over a decade and has documented the various local and foreign attempts to exploit the country’s resources.

This, the expert says, could be because the Soviets progressed further with their mining plans; they extracted uranium samples from Khwaja Rawash mountain in Kabul, exploited oil and gas from the country’s north in Amu Darya and coal in Baghlan province.

Building trust 

There’s no evidence that Prince met Ghani or Abdullah, but if he did it would be significant: the New York Times reported in March that Ghani was angry with Prince for meeting his rival Atta Mohammad Nur in Dubai in December 2017.

When I contacted Prince in June, his spokesman said that he “currently had no mining interest in Afghanistan” and denied having any company presence in Kabul.

However, the Kabul-based mining expert—with direct knowledge of the company’s operations— confirms that Frontier Services Group had established an office in the Wazir Akbar Khan area of Kabul, with Mayan leading the company in Afghanistan.

According to TRT World’s source in Kabul, Prince has so far adopted a three-pronged strategy to build trust with Afghans and convince them to work with him.

First, he is attempting to work with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and his political party.

Second, he is trying to collaborate and gain the trust of tribal elders and political leaders including Atta Mohammad Nur, and make connections with ethnic groups and influential Pashtun leaders, as well as supporting political candidates in the 2019 presidential election.

Finally, he wants to introduce himself to the Afghan people through the Afghan media including a major TV interview with Kabul-based, Tolo News, in September.

Hot water

Prince’s private security record shows that he thrives financially in places of insecurity.

In Afghanistan, his ability to extract resources will depend on paying off the right warlords and government officials as well as building the most brutal militias to wrestle control of minerals from insurgent groups such as the Taliban and the Islamic State (Daesh) which make huge amounts of money from illicit mining.

The US State Department, when asked for a statement on Prince’s involvement in Afghanistan, declined to comment directly about it, saying that, “Afghan mineral rights are an Afghan issue,” and suggested I speak to the Afghan Ministry of Mines with any questions.

An Afghan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum spokesperson, Abdul Qadeer Mutfi, tells TRT World, “We are currently in the process of amending our minerals law and will be open to receiving proposals that meet our needs and fit the legal framework.” He also says the Afghan government is committed to keeping an “open and accountable extractives sector”.

Another spokesperson, Bhavana Mahajan, told me that the Afghan government hadn’t yet “received anything official” from Prince about his mining plans though the Ghani government was “open to doing business and exploring partnerships.”

The Pentagon has expressed opposition to Prince’s plan to privatise the Afghan war but has made no official comment about his desire to exploit its resources.

A United States Geological Survey study in 2010 estimated that untapped Afghan minerals—including copper, iron ore, rare earth elements, aluminium, gold, silver, zinc, mercury and lithium—are worth between $1 trillion and $3 trillion. Prince’s priorities according to mining experts are lithium, gas and gold.

It is a tantalising but dangerous prospect that could ease Afghanistan’s over-reliance on foreign aid provided Afghans get to reap the benefits.

In February 2018, USAID hosted 80 private business interests in Kabul to explore Afghan resources but USAID refused to disclose who attended the event despite my repeated requests.

President Donald Trump had expressed interest in exploiting Afghanistan’s vast, largely untapped mineral wealth to offset the expenses of the long war, the longest in US history, which has cost the United States over one trillion dollars.

Trump’s interest in Afghan mining and potential economic gains increased after separate meetings last year with Ghani and Michael Silver, the CEO of American Elements, an advanced metals and chemicals production company.

Trump and Ghani agreed in September 2017 to allow US companies access to Afghanistan’s rare earth minerals. Three senior aides of Trump met Stephen A. Feinberg, the billionaire owner of the mega military contractor DynCorp International, last July to explore mining options, the New York Times reported.

Trump is now pushing for direct peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government while encouraging US-backed, Afghan troops to withdraw from vast parts of the country.

Afghans are suspicious of any foreign companies aiming to exploit theirresources. The arrival of Prince on the scene could further raise tempers in Afghanistan.

Prince is infamous in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Muslim world because of Blackwater’s atrocious record in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. His contractors killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007 and Prince has been involved in building a mercenary army for the UAE.

Strong networks, weak alliances

Trump’s White House reportedly considered in 2017 establishing a global network of privatised spies organised by Prince and the Blackwater founder is working with the Chinese government to secure its resources in African and Asian nations.

Prince and his family have a long connection to the Republican Party, they’ve been big donors for years, and he considered a US Senate run in 2017, while his sister, Betsy DeVos, is Trump’s Education Secretary.

Prince is under scrutiny for meeting a senior Russian fund manager allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Seychelles in January 2016 and is accused of lying to Congress about it.

President Trump rejected Prince’s plan to privatise the Afghan war, but he has continued advocating this year for the privatisation of the Afghan conflict.

The Taliban announced that they also opposed Prince’s plans, as has the Ghani government.

The New York Times recently reported that Prince visited Kabul in September to discuss his plans to privatise the war and exploit the nation’s minerals. The story stated that Ghani had repeatedly refused to meet Prince despite repeated requests to do so. Prince was said to be building political alliances with Ghani’s opponents to secure access in Afghanistan.

Prince has urged Washington to appoint an American “viceroy” to run the war and argued that “until those plans are enacted there will not be any economic improvements for the people of Afghanistan.”

Will Afghans benefit?

The Afghan mining industry has remained relatively small for decades due to ongoing violence, insecurity and corruption. The Taliban earns large amounts of money from illicit mining, along with the drug trade, but it benefits very few civilians.

The Kabul mining source says that the mining industry is currently valued at $1 billion annually with 25-30 commodities being extracted. Countless more commodities are in the country but exploration and extraction are minimal.

Prince and his associates are attempting to enter the Afghan resources market at a time of intense insecurity in the country. The Afghan Ministry of Mines is a notoriously corrupt government body where there is no transparency around its decisions to appoint contracts to favoured bidders.

Prince’s company is unwilling to reveal its plans publicly because mining resources in a war zone is controversial, always occurs without community consent, and inevitably worsens violence in the areas targeted for exploitation.

The Ghani government recently signed large contracts with Afghan and foreign companies in a veil of secrecy to exploit resources in some areas controlled by insurgents.

Opponents of privatising Afghanistan’s resources, such as Integrity Watch Afghanistan and international NGO Global Witness, have expressed concern that without major governance changes these contracts will only worsen violence and entrench the power of warlords.

In a joint opinion piece by the two groups in January, they wrote that the Trump administration and Ghani government risked echoing a colonial past.

“For Afghans, whose ancestors fought against imperialism just as Americans did, that is a recipe for outrage,” they said.

During my two trips to the country to investigate the resources industry, in 2012 and 2015, it was nearly impossible to find any civilians in Kabul or in the countryside who supported its growth. They all feared worsening violence if anything was extracted because of corruption, looting and the formation of militias around the mines. Ordinary Afghans are rarely consulted about mining plans in their areas and mining contracts are never transparent.

An hour from Kabul, the people living near the Aynak mine – one of the largest copper deposits in the world, which has been leased to a Chinese company – have poor education and little access to water.

During a 2015 visit, the residents of Davo village near the mine told me that they had been promised primary and high schools, new roads, electricity, and a large mosque.

“Our expectations went up, but in the end, nothing was delivered,” Mullah Mirjan, a community leader told me at the time. 

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