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How long can the costume ball go on? How long can we pretend the spit in our faces is rain? There are now signs that it can't go on forever - it is not the beginning of the end, but it looks like the beginning of the start of the end of the occupation.

Some of the criticism we are absorbing is beginning to have an impact. It may not happen tomorrow, but it is possible to notice a flicker of hope. First cracks have started to appear in the mask of self-righteousness we have worn for 37 years.

The bad news is that the cracks are only the result of international pressure; the good news is that this pressure is mounting. After hope ran out that we would manage to come to our senses on our own, now we need to hope the world doesn't give up until we return to being a just state. Those anxious for the future of Israel must hope the world will move from vehement words to no less vehement action.

The apartheid regime was finally brought to an end through sanctions and by excommunication from the family of nations. That, regrettably, is apparently the only way to ending the Israeli occupation.

After long years of ignoring international criticism, apparently the fear of the world taking action - sometime between the festivities of A Star is Born to the festivities over the medals at Athens - has started to take root in Israeli society.

It began with the disengagement plan and the prime minister's comments on the impossibility of permanent occupation - no matter how hollow they sounded. It continued with the High Court ruling against the separation fence - no matter how partial. And now, it ended with the recommendation by the attorney general to "thoroughly reexamine" applying the Fourth Geneva Convention to the territories - no matter how belatedly.

All these developments show that the occupied land is beginning to burn beneath our feet. For all the years of the occupation, Israel brutally trampled over the Fourth Geneva Convention, one of the most important and enlightened international documents that the world, including Israel, adopted.

But Israel made a mockery of the spirit of the treaty on the baseless argument that the territories were not captured from a sovereign power - as if that would change the act of occupation and its ramifications for the occupied population and its rights.

Israel violated and continues to violate Article 27 of the treaty that says: "Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honor, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity."

It violates this by controlling the Palestinians with military orders, imposing collective punishments, damages their property and puts severe limits on their freedom of movement, with all that implies for their lives.

Article 32, prohibiting causing physical suffering to the residents of the territories is not applied, nor is Article 47, which prohibits moving prisoners from the occupied territories to the state of the occupation power, and it certainly does not abide by the Article that prohibits moving civilian population from the occupying country to the occupied territories.

By the way, it's not only the Palestinians who are taught that the Geneva Conventions don't apply to them, Israeli children are also taught that. Civilized countries world-wide, though not our country, have long since become fed up with all of these.

But there's U.S. support and Europe hesitation about taking more aggressive steps. Now there is a bit of hope that the rope has been stretched too far. There are no more international bodies, from the World Health Organization and the World Bank through the European Union and the Organization of Non-Aligned countries, let alone UN agencies, which have not recently laid harsh accusations against Israel.

It's very easy to ask Menachem Mazuz, what happened? What's different from one more day of occupation to two more days? It is depressing to think that his eyes only began to open when UN sanctions are at the door, as he lately warned. And the Supreme Court's eyes opened only when the ruling at The Hague was at the door.

It is tempting to condemn the awful tardiness of adopting what should have been applied from the start of the occupation. But it is certainly better late than never. The worries that have hit Mazuz about the world are indeed good tidings.

We have no Israeli leader capable of acting, we have an army that has been corrupted beyond all recognition, we have a Supreme Court that stays away from occupation issues like they were fire. So, who knows - maybe it will be an attorney general whom nobody suspected of greatness, who will be the one who brings the good tidings home from out there.