—Samuel Adler-Bell focuses on labor, mass incarceration and literature.
"Does the term 'apartheid' fit Israel? Of course it does," by Saree Makdisi. Los Angeles Times. May 17, 2014.
Secretary of State John Kerry's warning last month that Israel risks becoming "an apartheid state" in the absence of a peace deal has predictably launched an uproar in the halls of American political power—where an avowed "commitment to Israel" remains more or less a prerequisite to entry. Republicans have called for his resignation. California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer said, "Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and any linkage between Israel and apartheid is nonsensical and ridiculous." Inevitably, Kerry was forced to backpedal ("if I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word…") and the "apartheid" label was shunted back to the radical fringe, where it was surely devised by closeted anti-semites to undermine "Israel's brand." In all this noise, it's easy to forget—and I'm thankful to Saree Makdisi for reminding—that "apartheid" is more than a mere insult to be hurled back and forth by political foes. In 1973, the UN General Assembly adopted the "International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid," which explicitly defines the crime and lists those practices falling within its ambit. Makdisi, like many others before, makes a compelling case that Israel's policies toward Palestinians fall within the scope of the UN definition. "The question," he says, "is not whether 'apartheid' applies here. It is why it should cause such an outcry when it is used."
To be entirely fair, however, the United States has never formally endorsed the UN definition. Back in '73, we were among an intrepid group of four members of the UN general assembly who voted to reject the Apartheid Convention. The others opposed were Portugal, the United Kingdom and apartheid South Africa.
—Dustin Christensen focuses on Latin American politics and sports.
"Tight polls and blossoming scandals agitate a once dull Colombian presidential race," by Jim Wyss. Miami Herald, May 21, 2014.
Colombians go to the polls on Tuesday in what is turning out to be highly contested election. Incumbent Juan Manuel Santos was expected to coast to victory on the successes of peace talks aimed at ending the country's sixty-year civil war with the leftist FARC rebels. Just this week, the two sides came to a long-elusive agreement on drugs and drug trafficking. However, former Finance Minister Óscar Iván Zuluaga has skyrocketed in the polls, undoubtedly ensuring a mid-June runoff election. Zuluaga's ascent highlights an issue that isn't being widely discussed in the English-language media: the incredible influence that former President Álvaro Uribe has on this election. Zuluaga is Uribe's hand-picked candidate in this race, and has pledged to end the peace talks if elected. Uribe is himself famous for his refusal to negotiate with the rebels, preferring aggressive military policies like recruiting brutal rightwing paramilitaries. He left the presidency in the hands of his national defense minister Santos four years ago, and his influence continues to permeate Colombian politics. This tweet really says all there is to say about the his role in the upcoming elections, where every candidate is in some way connected to him: "I don't know whether to vote for Uribe's candidate [Zuluaga], Uribe's ex-candidate [Santos], Uribe's ex-minister [Marta Lucía Ramírez], Uribe's ex-mayor [Enrique Peñalosa] or Uribe's ex-girlfriend [Clara López]. Damn Uribe!"