THE Conservative government and Labour shadow cabinet are increasingly out of step with the rest of Britain in their support for Israel at a time when it stands accused of war crimes and genocide.

The front benches on both sides of the Commons appear uniquely united in ignoring public opinion to support an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and to stop selling UK weapons to Israel.

Media reports of thousands of citizens regularly demonstrating across the UK since October 7 have not yet convinced these Westminster elites to change their policies towards Israel and Palestine. Neither have resignations from their own parties or disquiet from backbench MPs.

This week, at the International Court of Justice, Germany stands accused by Nicaragua of violating the Genocide Convention by providing aid and weapons to Israel and for suspending its funding to the Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA.

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I hope the UK – which has also suspended aid to UNRWA and is continuing to sell weapons to Israel – will also soon end up in dock in The Hague. That looks like the only thing that might force a shift in policy is the threat that the UK may be complicit in Israel’s war crimes.

Last week, civil servants in the Department for Business and Trade requested that they be allowed to cease any work related to export licences for weapons bound for Israel. While the role of the civil service is to provide impartial, objective advice to ministers, they also have obligations under the civil service code to uphold the rule of law. If Israel is found to have broken international law and the Genocide Convention, these civil servants could individually be held liable. “Following orders” is not a defence against war crimes.

As a signatory to the convention, the UK is obligated to do all it can to prevent acts of genocide. The crime of complicity exists to punish those who contribute in a material way to the commission of genocide.

Selling weapons to Israel and freezing funding for UNRWA when the International Court of Justice has imposed “special measures” on Israel to prevent genocide and to enable humanitarian assistance into Gaza could make the UK complicit. Believing this to be the case, the civil servants’ trade union, the Public and Commercial Services Union, has threatened to take the Government to court to defend its members from being forced to carry out unlawful acts.

Last week, a letter signed by more than 600 prominent lawyers, including three former Supreme Court judges, warned that by continuing to arm Israel, the UK is breaching international law.

The Government seems determined to brush aside the serious concerns of civil servants, its own legal experts, and judges in the same way as it has dealt with public opinion. But the more people who voice their concerns and demand a change in UK policy, the less convincing it is to smear them all with shameful and wrong allegations that they are motivated by “hate”, “antisemitism” and “support for terrorism”.

Is Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar motivated by “hate” and “antisemitism”? Is London mayor Sadiq Khan “controlled by Islamists”? Are the governments of Scotland and Wales “supporting terrorism”? Doesn’t this all sound patently absurd?

Support for Israel or Palestine has become one of the issues in the so-called “culture wars” that have consumed the UK in recent years, provoked largely by the Conservatives and right-wing media. Calling for an end to Israeli apartheid and equal rights for Palestinians is bizarrely dismissed as “woke”.

As part of its policy to criminalise dissent, the Government has made it very difficult to criticise Israel. It has helped to weaponise antisemitism to censor and smear critics of Israel, which is undermining freedom of speech and academic freedom.

In November, Amnesty International reported that the UK’s counter-terrorism programme has led to restrictions and monitoring of activism in support of Palestinian rights, although not to the same extent in Scotland.

If you knew how many letters and reports I, and other experts on Israel and Palestine, are being asked to write for people being wrongfully investigated, suspended, sacked or prosecuted, you would be appalled.

Unsatisfied with policing thought and criminalising criticism, the UK Government sponsored a bill to ban all publicly funded institutions – such as local councils, universities, and the NHS – from divestment or boycott actions against Israel.

It was passed in January, one day before South Africa’s genocide case against Israel opened at The Hague. Here, history is repeating itself. In 1988, the Thatcher government banned local councils from boycotts and divestments against apartheid South Africa. That racist supremacist regime ended just two years later.

But don’t expect any united opposition to the Government’s stance from Labour. Chris Doyle, director of the cross-party advocacy organisation Caabu[Council for Arab-British Understanding], argues Keir Starmer wants to prove he has completely purged the party of any taint of suspected antisemitism. Doyle says: “If Sunak had called for a ceasefire at the end of October, Starmer would have backed it. If Sunak calls for an arms embargo tomorrow, Starmer would back it.”

Senior Labour figures have confirmed to Doyle that: “Starmer is nervous about being portrayed by his opponents as being Corbyn mark two.”

Despite a 20-point lead in the opinion polls, Starmer still acts as if he cannot afford moral principles in an election year. But the longer he continues along this path, the more fissures will appear that will eventually tear Labour apart. There are many pro-Palestinian voices in Labour – in fact, they are the majority. Another internal battle inside Labour is exactly what the Conservatives want.

What a sad indictment of Westminster politics that are driven more by party politics and petty point-scoring than by saving Palestinian lives and sending a clear message to Israel. Clearly, sucking up to voters in the Home Counties has become more important than helping to bring about a just solution to a crisis that has its origins in British colonial history.

Foreign policy issues rarely determine an election outcome unless a country is at war, so the situation in Israel and Palestine will not be what motivates voters later this year. But the UK Government could soon be facing a legal case like the one Nicaragua has filed against Germany: for aiding a genocide by providing weapons and suspending funding for humanitarian aid.

Dr Mandy Turner is a senior researcher at Security in Context and a visiting fellow at the International State Crime Initiative-Queen Mary University of London.