A.Loewenstein Online Newsletter



Posted by: Sammi IbrahemChair of West Midland PSC

A message Obama is unlikely to heed

Posted: 11 Apr 2011

Thinking very carefully before visiting Sri Lanka

Posted: 11 Apr 2011

Travelling isn’t an ethics-free zone. The places we visit are imbued with political and social meaning. Tourism in repressive states should be carefully navigated to avoid giving support to the regime (as much as possible).
Sri Lanka, still in the grip of a political culture that refuses to acknowledge its massacre of Tamils and ongoing oppression of the minority, is a perfect example. I’ve covered here the countless stories in the New York Times travel section that simply ignores any human rights issues on the island and encourages Americans to visit post-war.
Now yet another piece in the Times, this time by Paul Theroux, continues this inglorious tradition:

Just a few years ago Sri Lanka emerged from a civil war, but even as the Tamil north was embattled and fighting a rear-guard action, there were tourists sunning themselves on the southern coast and touring the Buddhist stupas in Kandy. Now the war is over, and Sri Lanka can claim to be peaceful, except for the crowing of its government over the vanquishing of the Tamils. Tourists have returned in even greater numbers for the serenity and the small population. (Amazingly enough, almost the same number of people live in the Indian city of greater Mumbai than occupy the whole of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.)
At one point Sri Lanka was on the Could Be Your Last Trip list of the traveler Robert Young Pelton.

This is what Australia is doing to refugees in its care

Posted: 10 Apr 2011

The reality of life in Australia for asylum seekers is too rarely heard.
So when Perth-based refugee activist Victoria Martin-Iverson wrote to me yesterday with the story below I asked if I could publish it here exclusively. This is the reality of privatised refugees, mostly ignored in a country that doesn’t seem too interested in the human rights of those it fears.
Our job is to humanise everybody:

As a long time refugee advocate and visitor to the concentration camps where asylum seekers are warehoused, I regularly struggle with the tension between disclosure, and protecting peoples privacy. After all, one of my criticisms of the government is the way they use asylum seekers & their suffering as a method of deterrence. I do not want to be guilty of the same offence and use someone’s suffering for my political agenda, however honourable my intentions. Yet it is clear that if all I am doing is bearing witness, or comforting an individual, then I am missing the opportunity to involve others and explain the human cost of the regimen people endure, the arbitrariness of decisions, the incompetency of [British multinational] Serco, the regular petty indignities of a system that is indifferent to even extremes of suffering. But there are times when something so dramatic occurs that I feel I must try to disclose some element of a situation, while at the same time respecting the dignity of the people whose lives are damaged by their experience in immigration detention.
I was presented with just such a circumstance last week. We have made a great many links at the refugee Rights Action Network, and asylum seekers as well as concerned Serco officers will let us know about events in the centres.
On Friday morning I received a frantic call that yet another tormented soul had harmed himself up at Curtin detention centre and had to be rushed to hospital. Self harm is a near daily occurrence up at Curtin. As rising levels of despair infect the entire community, people resort to cutting or burning themselves, hunger striking, medication overdoses, attempted hangings. These are regular and now unremarkable events. They are also predictable. A study done a few year’s ago by O’Neil et al found a direct relationship between time in detention, mental disorders, suicide attempts and self harm. The suicide rate for detainees over the last 15 years is ten times that of the general population. So initially the news that yet another person had injured themselves and required medical treatment was nothing that stuck me as particularly extraordinary. I indicated I would attend hospital to see if I could visit and ensure there was a friendly face and a kind word for what I assumed would be a distressed and fragile person.
I successfully blustered my way into the ward he was on, having filled in the appropriate paperwork before leaving home. He lay heavily sedated, battered and clearly injured in his hospital bed.
I learned that this man had spent the early part of that morning forlornly calling out one of the few English words he knew, “help, help, help.”
He lay shaking & bleeding in his bed with 3 Serco officers looming over him. I asked one to get another blanket for him. “No English” he whispered to me, and I told him that is ok & gently took his hand so he could feel some human contact and comfort. I do not know the details of this Hazara man’s story or what he may have endured in his country of origin. I only know the tell tale signs of previous attempts at self harm marking his arms, and the dull glaze of hopelessness in his eyes that even heavy sedation could not mask. I know that whatever else may have happened to him he has been poorly served by a capricious and arbitrary detention system that has used him and his imprisonment to try and discourage others from attempting the voyage, and worse. A system that is dismissive of his suffering because that is what it takes to win government.
As I sat holding his hand I struggled with my own emotions. My God, how damaged are we making people in our remote detention centers? ? I learned that this person had become so very despondent and mentally unwell and had made several attempts on his life and thus had ended up in a management cell. If his case is anything like the countless others I hear about regularly, the actual level of compassion and support was minimal, the security maximal. Self harm and suicide attempts result in serious fines for Serco. I wonder what sort of treatment or care he received in the time he was in the “management cell”? Whatever they did or didn’t do his mental health deteriorated and he ended up resorting to one of the most tragic acts of despair I can imagine.
In an attempt to take his life this man ran across the room and threw himself through a plate glass window. We need to know what we are doing to people in these mental illness factories we call detention centres that drives them to increasingly extreme acts of despair. This man’s despondency is an indictment of a morally bankrupt government and a polity that is devoid of compassion. We need to begin to change the public discourse around this issue and connect with the human costs.
But all I could do was hold his hand.

“Liberal” Zionist refuses to condemn occupation (and Murdoch provides platform)

Posted: 10 Apr 2011

It’s a new week and that can only mean more articles in Murdoch’s Australian on Israel/Palestine, BDS and damning anybody who dares speak up for Palestinians. The last weeks have seen a barrage of increasingly hysterical pieces attacking the NSW Greens for endorsing BDS and not uncritically loving Israel without thought or care.
Today sees celebrity, Jewish, Zionist lawyer George Newhouse accuse the Greens of backing genocide and making sure he places himself on the side of defending Israel; wonderful for his career, no doubt. Newhouse displays the usual ignorance about the Middle East – no mention of occupation or settlements or Gaza – just the kind of press release offered by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. No mention that the Palestinians themselves back BDS because Israel refuses to abide by international law (something that clearly doesn’t bother this lawyer).
This is what Zionism has done to my people; unthinking rhetoric in the service of being popular with other Jews:

So newly elected Greens MP Jamie Parker considers that “progressive” Jews provide cover for extremists because they don’t agree with the Greens’ policy of boycotting Israel.
Like most progressive people, I strongly support a two state solution for the Israel-Palestine problem and Parker has no right to disparage me, and single me out on the basis of my faith, simply because I believe that there are more constructive ways of achieving peace in the Middle-East than by demonising one side.
For the past 15 years I have worked closely and constructively with the Greens, as a local mayor, through my legal work assisting vulnerable refugees, in attacking the racist elements of the Northern Territory intervention laws and, more recently, in the battle against the decision to dump nuclear waste at Muckaty Station near Tenant Creek against the wishes of the traditional owners; and I will continue to do so.
But if New Matilda blogger Antony Loewenstein has quoted Jamie Parker correctly, Parker’s patronising and insulting comments about “progressive” Jews covering for extremists take the Greens into uncharted territory. There are plenty of progressive people who disagree with the Greens’ boycott of Israel so why does Parker feel it necessary to lash out at progressive Jews?
Since 586BC, when they were forced into exile from Israel, the Jewish people have been the canaries in the coalmine for extremism. Their treatment is a measure of the society in which they live. Modern history demonstrates that the persecution of Jews is not limited to fascists and the Right. Stalin and the Left perpetrated murderous campaigns against Soviet and other Jewish communities. Most people understand that Jews can expect another genocide under the “single state solution” proposed for Israel by the “watermelon” Greens.
People are entitled to criticise Israeli government policy but the campaign to delegitimise Israel’s existence and pillory any Jews who defend Israel’s right to exist is deeply offensive.
If the new Green MP for Balmain wants to be part of a team that promotes a far-left foreign policy agenda then he needs to be able to shoulder the criticisms that naturally follow, without blaming the Jews for his embarrassment.
George Newhouse was the former ALP mayor of Waverley Council

Woodward gives exact lessons in how not to be a decent journalist

Posted: 10 Apr 2011

Real reporters challenge power, not indulge it.
Watergate man Bob Woodward lost long ago that belief, becoming far too keen to amplify the views of those in power.
Here’s his lessons on American TV for how to get the powerful to give answers that he can just publish verbatim:

WOODWARD: I think the survival of the so-called mainstream media has to do with quality. And if you assemble a bunch of questions and go to a candidate and say, “Look, I’m serious. I really want to ask about this,” and you take them as seriously as they take themselves–and believe me, they all take themselves seriously.
WOODWARD: And you’ve done your homework, they–and you’re fair minded and neutral, they are going to engage.When I’ve done these books on Bush and Obama, I send in–I hate to disclose trade craft here–20-page memos saying this is what I want to ask about.
WOODWARD: People say, well, you’re telling them–you’re tipping them off. And I say, yes. I want them to do some homework themselves. I want them to be fully engaged. And I think you can do that with lots of work. And–but if it’s just we like to come in and chat about the news of the day, we’ll get stiffed.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, they don’t need–it’s too wild, it’s too crazy.


BDS hits leading Canadian university (because Palestine isn’t forgotten)

Posted: 10 Apr 2011

As Israel continues to bomb Gaza and build more illegal settlements in the West Bank, global citizens are rising up. Inspiring stuff:

On 29 March 2011, students at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, shut down the scheduled Board of Governors (BoG) meeting after the body refused to consider a motion calling for divestment of pension stock from four companies implicated in Israel’s occupation of Palestine:


Sydney’s 2SER Radio on Israel/Palestine, BDS and global justice

Posted: 10 Apr 2011

I was interviewed for Sydney’s 2SER Radio late last week on the current public “debate” over the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement in Australia. Since the Murdoch press refuses to publish any substantial perspectives that challenge its blind Zionist position – a sign of true insecurity – it’s vital that indy media fills the gap:

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

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