—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.