WHEN you read the histories of past atrocities, there is a recurring phenomenon which should never stop disturbing us. How did so many people who otherwise regarded themselves as normal, decent, humane and “moderate” so willingly make themselves complicit in mass murder?

That isn’t just those who actually committed hideous violence, though that’s an important point to consider, too. It’s comforting to believe unspeakable horrors are perpetrated by sociopaths. The chilling truth is that, in times of warfare, most of those responsible for such crimes are those who, in other circumstances, would cry at a sad film, fall hopelessly in love, help a pensioner across the road.

No, the point here is much broader than about combatants. Since the October 7 atrocities, I’ve been in awe of Israeli peace activists who have courageously mobilised behind the only possible way out of this nightmare – a recognition that the land must be shared by Israelis and Palestinians on the basis of equality and justice.

READ MORE: Keir Starmer met by pro-Palestine protesters at Labour fundraiser in Scotland

They are so courageous because they are so isolated. According to polls, 60% of Jewish Israelis oppose allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza. Some 43.4% think too little force is being used by the Israeli army; and 83% support the mass removal of the entire Palestinian population of Gaza.

This is genocidal mania, but it is contagious, and spreading far beyond Israel’s borders.

Last week, Israel was placed on trial for alleged genocide by the International Court of Justice. The court issued a series of provisional orders aimed at ensuring Israel would prevent genocide. One of them was “the State of Israel shall take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of humanitarian assistance”. This was unanimously endorsed – even Israel’s ad hoc judge voted for it.

Yet almost immediately the ICJ order was driven off the headlines by claims that 12 members of the UN’s agency for the welfare of Palestinians, UNRWA, were implicated in the October 7 attack. That represented 0.04% of the agency’s overall staff.

The allegations partly rested on interrogations by the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic military intelligence service with a track record of using torture. UNRWA immediately dismissed the employees, even though there has been no independent investigation, and the specific crimes are not clear.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared that the US administration hasn’t “had the ability to investigate” the allegations themselves, yet still felt confident to declare they were “highly, highly credible”.

Sky News was handed Israel’s intelligence documents. Several claims were made that “Sky News had not seen proof of and many of the claims, even if true, do not directly implicate UNRWA.”

That did not stop multiple Western countries pulling the plug on funding for UNRWA, including the US and the Westminster government. Just absorb the hideous logic here. Western governments cancelled funding for Gaza’s most important agency at a time when the Strip faces a humanitarian catastrophe.

It has 80% of the world’s hungriest people, the healthcare system has been destroyed and its surviving citizens lack fresh water, food and shelter.

READ MORE: 'Assisting genocide' fears raised as Prestwick Airport hosts Israeli plane

The basis for this? Unproven allegations by a state with a track record of deceit. It would be like pulling the plug on the entire NHS across the UK because of Harold Shipman and Lucy Letby. Actually, no – in those cases there were trials and convictions.

This is collective punishment of the worst kind. The UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, Michael Fakhri, tweeted before the decision, “Famine was imminent. Famine is now inevitable.”

Here is the contagion of genocidal mania in action. There is no way that such a hideous decision would have been made if the humanity of Palestinians was respected. Western states are fully aware of the calamity facing Gaza’s population and they must know the consequences of defunding its main humanitarian agency in that context.

They must also know it makes it impossible to implement the ICJ’s order to ensure access to humanitarian aid in order to avoid genocide.

If this sounds hyperbolic, listen to a man who knows – US lawyer Francis Boyle, legal counsel to Bosnia and Herzegovina, who successfully lodged that state’s genocide claim at the ICJ.

He declared the decision meant Western states were directly violating the article of the 1948 Genocide Convention which proscribes: “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

READ MORE: Pro-Palestine activists stage 'die-in' at war memorial in Edinburgh Castle

This is why the decision of the Scottish Government, and its First Minister Humza Yousaf, not to suspend UNRWA funding was so important. That it should be courageous to defy genocidal logic underlines the bleakness of the current moment.

But this is a matter of life and death on a grand scale. Scotland has offered moral leadership throughout this horror – and historians should note that.

But if you have ever wondered how so many who regard themselves as “moderate”, “humane”, or “normal’ line up behind inflicting unspeakable horrors on innocent people? Well, now you know.

Now you know.