If there's one thing you can say that is guaranteed to rattle the Israeli regime it is the A-word; yes, Apartheid. Tel Aviv has never forgiven former US President Jimmy Carter for not only using the word when referring to Israeli policies, but also including it in the title of his best-selling book "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid."
Since then the Zionist spin doctors have gone into overdrive to try to diminish, undermine and ridicule Carter's achievements, including his ongoing efforts as a peace broker. One can only imagine, therefore, the reaction of the Israeli government to the unfolding drama as US President-elect Donald Trump picks his team.
Trump will have caused an apoplectic frenzy when he announced that he was considering 66-year-old retired Marine Corps General James Mattis as his Defence Secretary. Known in some circles as "Mad Dog Mattis" he once said that the proliferation of the illegal settlements in Palestine's occupied West Bank is turning "Israel into an apartheid state". He has also said that America pays a price for its support of the Zionist state.
Despite his anti-Zionist CV, Mattis and Trump met over the weekend and US journalists were told, off-the-record, that the former marine can be considered as a leading candidate for America's top defence job. When Trump was asked by reporters for further details, he answered, "All I can say is he is the real deal. He is the real deal."
Mattis was at the head of US Central Command from August 2010 to March 2013 and much of his work involved the Middle East. After stepping down he said in a speech to the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado: "I paid a military security price every day as the commander of CentCom because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel, and that moderates all the moderate Arabs who want to be with us, because they can't come out publicly in support of people who don't show respect for the Arab Palestinians."
His views raised eyebrows among supporters of Israel at the conference as well as media commentators. He went on to criticise the Zionist state for its out-of-control settlement building and illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, pointing out that it was "going to make it impossible to maintain the two-state option."
The illegal settlements, he explained, undermined Israel as both a Jewish and a democratic state. Then he used the A-word: "If I'm in Jerusalem and I put 500 Jewish settlers out here to the east and there's 10,000 Arab settlers in here, if we draw the border to include them, either it ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don't get to vote — apartheid."
In the rollercoaster world that is now occupied by Donald Trump, political analysts on both sides will be scrutinising every word ever uttered by Mattis. Mad dog or not, it looks as though the Middle East is about to be shaken out of its current destructive inertia, although who the main beneficiaries will be remains to be seen.
In the meantime, there's none as confused as the sycophantic Friends of Israel, of which there are many in Westminster and on Capitol Hill. They can be identified easily as they race to the podium to condemn the A-word whenever and wherever it is used. For example, the obsequious Michael Gove spoke out when he was Britain's justice minister before being hoisted by his own petard over Brexit. He launched a blistering attack on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement at a leading pro-Israel rally in New York earlier this year for having "the temerity to compare Israel with apartheid South Africa, even though Israel is a country which gives all its citizens — whatever their background, whatever their ethnicity — a vote and a say. A country with Arab politicians in the Knesset and an Arab lawyer on the Supreme Court."
Greasy, grovelling politicians like him who are in the sway of Tel Aviv must be in a lather over some of the Trump appointments. Do they risk falling out with the most powerful (and, it is said, equally vindictive) man in the world and his mad dog to stand by the Zionist state, or do they nod in agreement if the A-word is used in political circles and just hope that the junkets and free trips to Israel continue unabated?
Haaretz columnist Bradley Burston is hugely respected in the Israeli media; he has no such qualms. Having served as a Gaza and military correspondent for the right-wing Jerusalem Post and then for Reuters, he wrote that it was time to admit that Israeli policy is apartheid. "I used to be one of those people who took issue with the label of apartheid as applied to Israel," wrote Burston in 2015. "I was one of those people who could be counted on to argue that, while the country's settlement and occupation policies were anti-democratic and brutal and slow-dose suicidal, the word apartheid did not apply. I'm not one of those people any more."
What changed for this leading journalist? The firebombing by "terrorists" — Israeli settlers — of a "West Bank Palestinian home, annihilating a family, murdering an 18-month-old boy and his father, burning his mother over 90 per cent of her body – only to have Israel's government rule the family ineligible for the financial support and compensation automatically granted [to] Israeli victims of terrorism, settlers included." He was referring to the attack on the home of the Dawabsheh family in Duma on 31 July 2015.
Burston added that he can't "pretend" any more. "Not after Israel's Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, explicitly declaring stone-throwing to be terrorism, drove the passage of a bill holding stone-throwers liable to up to 20 years in prison. The law did not specify that it targeted only Palestinian stone-throwers. It didn't have to. Just one week later, pro-settlement Jews hurled rocks, furniture and bottles of urine at Israeli soldiers and police at a West Bank settlement, and in response, Benjamin Netanyahu immediately rewarded the Jewish stone-throwers with a pledge to build hundreds of new settlement homes. This is what has become of the rule of law. Two sets of books. One for Us, and one to throw at Them. Apartheid."
Donald Trump is the US president-elect because he tapped into the disenfranchised, working classes by "telling it as it is". Millions of us are waiting with baited breath for the next instalment to come out of Trump Tower, but if there's panic among the pro-Israel, cheer-leading settler lobby then that can be no bad thing.
Israel has a regime that imposes apartheid policies on the Palestinians; it is, clearly, an Apartheid state. Trump prides himself on "telling it as it is" but he needs to go one step further. He can obviously talk the talk, but can he — will he — walk the walk and make real change? Let's see.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.