LAST week, we witnessed another act in the ongoing pantomime of elected members of parliament trying to hold the UK Government to account for its policy on the Middle East.

The man in charge, David – now Lord – Cameron isn’t there, of course, not having been elected by anyone himself. The rest of us are supposed to dutifully accept this grotesque contempt of democratic norms and make do with his platitudinous deputy Andrew Mitchell.

Mitchell, for those not too scunnered to listen, delivered a restatement of the UK’s belief in a two-state solution with Israel staying within its 1967 borders and the Palestinian territories it currently occupies transformed into a viable new state.

This mantra is now so divorced from reality on the ground, and so at odds with the Government’s actions, that you don’t have to be a cynic to question whether the FCDO officials who write this stuff even believe it anymore.

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This matters. The horror of the last four months in Gaza has forced everyone to confront what happens when it stops. Talks about a ceasefire are under way as I write and might possibly have produced a halt in the war by now.

As well as getting humanitarian aid into Gaza, this could create the space for the world to intervene and assist in constructing a political solution which will remove the cause of the violence.

And if that happens, Britain’s intentions are of consequence. Yet never has there been a government policy which has been pursued with such a lack of effort or sincerity. Worse, the actions of the UK Government seem designed to actively undermine its own stated objectives.

To be clear, the political leadership of Israel does not want a two-state solution. Has not wanted it for some time. Has done everything it possibly could to prevent it. Has one state control of all the land in question and is deepening its foundations with every brick laid on every new illegal settlement.

And for decades, Israel has exercised coercive control of the occupied Palestinian communities designed to break their ability to exercise political agency. For decades.

Throughout it all, successive UK governments have stood by and allowed this to happen. Worse, they have aided and abetted. Weasel words are uttered about the settlements being illegal but never a sanction has been considered. Trade agreements get signed, weapons and technology get sent, diplomats are instructed to frustrate international agencies in their criticism.

For many years, the Israeli government has been allowed to pursue a policy of expansion and suppression of the Palestinians without challenge or consequence. This has to change for the simple reason that no lasting peace is possible until it does.

We can start by recognising the State of Palestine. Some 139 counties have done so. Why not this one? A lot of confusion surrounds this. Recognition is not to say that Palestine exists and functions as a normal state should. It clearly doesn’t – indeed, it is actively prevented by Israel from so doing.

Recognition is about agreeing in law that the Palestinian people have the right to statehood, about enabling for them the same agency that the Israelis already have. Recognition is about giving Palestinians the right to a voice, a seat at the negotiating table. It is a logical nonsense to claim that you support a two-state solution, but then refuse to recognise one of the states.

Mitchell parroted the usual nonsense again last Tuesday, that Britain would recognise Palestine when “it best serves the interests of peace”. It is a meaningless statement, designed to be so. Worse, it suggests to many that a Palestinian state is not a right, but a reward to be granted in return for some undefined action, the promise used as leverage. That is what gives the UK a bad name.

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If Scotland had the ability to speak for itself on the world stage, I have no doubt that we would join an increasing number of European countries in recognising Palestine. In the meantime, it is a case we will prosecute with vigour in the UK parliament.

Of course, the UK can apparently move with speed and purpose when it wants to on the other side of this debate. Last week, Israel alleged that 12 employees of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) were involved in the October 7 Hamas attacks.

UNRWA has 13,000 workers in Gaza and provides a vast range of essential services. Within hours of the allegations, the UK had announced that it would suspend funding for the whole organisation. It’s akin to closing down funding for the whole NHS because Harold Shipman was found guilty of murder.

Now, of course, UNRWA employees should be held to account if they were involved in the horrific attacks in early October, and these allegations must be investigated. But by any measure, the response of the UK and other Western funders was an overreaction. Once again, the entire civilian population of Gaza are set to be punished for the actions of a few.

It is, as the SNP spokesperson Brendan O’Hara (below) rightly observed, another round of collective punishment on a people already teetering on the brink of survival.

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Britain’s speed of response is highly selective. They were not so quick off the mark when it came to dealing with the recent judgments of the International Court of Justice in respect of South Africa’s charge of genocide against Israel.

While it will take a year or more for the ICJ to determine the case, they announced a series of interim measures insisting that action be taken now to prevent genocide from occurring in Gaza.

Had the UK Government really been concerned about the rule of international law, they would have immediately reviewed policy to ensure compliance with the court. Instead – and to the alarm of much of the rest of the world – they claimed the case should not have been brought and acted to undermine the authority and judgment of the court.

UK ministers are less than convincing when they claim that they encourage Israel to uphold international law.

To prove genocide is a high bar but there can surely be no question that Israel is in obvious breach of international humanitarian law.

Too many people are letting this pass. It’s not okay to shoot and kill unarmed civilians approaching under cover of a white flag. It is not okay to send special forces into hospitals and execute people in hospital beds whilst they are getting treatment. When did we dispense with arrest and trial?

Most of all, the massive and continuing attacks on civilian infrastructure and the mass deaths of unarmed non-combatants are not okay. I had an argument with a senior Tory last week who thought it was. He argued international law justified civilian casualties if the overall military objective was being met. He is wrong. Legally and morally.

To demonstrate compliance, the UK Government ought to have made sure that it could not be accused of complicity in genocide.

Given that this country is one of the biggest arms exporters to Israel and that those armaments and systems are now being used against the civilian population, an obvious and logical response would be to immediately suspend arms exports until there can be certainty about their deployment.

Components for this weaponry are being made here. The Italian firm Leonardo employs 1800 people in Edinburgh making guidance systems for F35 fighters being used against Gazans by the IDF. It has multiple other licenses to supply armaments to Israel.

I believe that the Government should halt these licenses right now. And while the UK reviews licenses, I have written to the company suggesting that it would help their own reputation and protect them legally if they were to voluntarily stop supplying the IDF whilst genocide is being investigated.

In the midst of the terrors and chaos unfolding in the Middle East, the only response of democrats can be to insist on the universal application of international law. It’s difficult. It’s not trendy. But it is the only way to get through.