Think about it for a moment. At Labour conference this September there will be, as every year, a huge queue lining up outside the Labour Friends of Palestine meeting. If you go from there to the Labour Friends of Israel gathering, it will be as easily packed. It's worth noting as well that respective memberships do not divide along "tradtional" left/right lines. Likewise, if it's only a matter of lefty identity politics, why are some 80% of Tory MPs members of Conservative Friends of Israel? Like Labour, the LibDems have friendly societies that support either side. The conflict is an issue that goes right to the heart of politics. Why?
Peter Oborne (linked above) is right to mention the deep and abiding links between the Tories and early 20th century proponents of Zionism, but these are as rooted in the Labour Party too. There is a legacy of war guilt hanging over mainstream politics too. Allied governments closed their borders to Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. They also knew about the death camps, but chose not to say anything until they were liberated. And they had the capacity to disrupt Hitler's murder factories, but for whatever reason decided not to. There is a historical debt, and supporting the Jewish state is, for some, the contemporary equivalent of 'never again'. The moral case for Israel, drawing as it does from the historical experience of systematic genocide is the wellspring for moral opposition to it as well. Being walled off, subsisting in open air prisons, having land and water resources stolen, demolishing Palestinian property and launching military assaults as collective punishment, if these were the policies of any other state - particularly perceived enemies - its actions would be thoroughly criticised and condemned. As a state founded by victims of industrialised killing, to see successive Israeli governments dole out ethnic cleansing is as awful an irony that can be conceived.
On no other foreign policy issue does historical debt and double standards feature so prominently. Yet it is far from all. The eternal place Israel/Palestine occupies in the political imagination is all about geopolitical interests. The Middle East's oil reserves are the key lynchpin of the global order organised around the international hegemony of a (declining) US, and for Europe the Suez Canal remains an arterial shipping route. The great game of maintaining regimes friendly to perpetuating the status quo is the core concern for the State Department and Whitehall. It's so ingrained in political common sense that few, if anyone, finds the official concern for what happens there and the West's right to intervene diplomatically or militarily, strange. For instance, few would bat an eyelid if Britain proposed to sponsor talks aiming at ending the current round of violence in Israel/Palestine, Syria or Iraq. But if Brazil or China were to, that's weird if not vaguely threatening. Similarly, geopolitically Israel is an ally of US and British interests. The very existence of Israel has presented a destabilising face to the Arab dictatorships and absolutist monarchies. In foreign policy terms, Israel has proven itself to be a convenient meat shield behind which American interests can hide. The wars against Israel, the deep antipathy felt toward it across the region, often times Israel has proven a useful scapegoat by authoritarian rulers who, if anything, are greater supplicants of US interests. Is it also worth noting Israel is a ready market for armaments?
There are good reasons, and there are real reasons. The third axis of interest lies with the political effects supporters of Israel and Palestine have here in Britain. On the one hand, Israel spends big money promoting its right to existence, of making allies and friendships, of organising tours and establishing relationships between organisations here and organisations there (Labour Friends of Israel, for instance, is directly linked with the Labor Party of Israel). Politicians of all parties cultivate wealthy, Jewish backers for funds - a cultivation helped by their membership of the appropriate friendship organisation. And so on. Just so there is no misunderstanding, there is nothing especially "shadowy" or sinister about this, as anti-semitic conspiracy-mongers maintain. All states use whatever means they can to lobby for their interests. Consider the numerous Anglo-Soviet friendship committees of the Cold War, or the gaggle of transatlantic societies promoting America's bountiful virtues. Guess what, Britain does exactly the same thing overseas too. Israel have a finely-tuned PR and lobbying machine that has served successive governments well. It has helped create a political-material advantage in being seen to be a friend.
No such advantage accrues to Palestinians. Except the antipathy toward Israel transfers from Arab lands to Muslim populations here. Accounts of life under siege, land-grabbing, casual brutality, humiliation, and murder have long travelled from mainstream mosque to mainstream mosque as Palestinian speakers work the circuit. The tragedy of the Palestinians cleaves deep into British Muslim identities, whether Arabian or not. The oppression suffered by co-religionists is something all Muslims can rally around. It underwrites the experience of racism and Islamophobia in the West, is an in-your-face reminder that as far as the powers-that-be are concerned, the lives of Palestinians count for less than Israelis. This too impacts on our politics, consistently assisting the politicisation of Muslim kids (if not Islam as a religion), and integrates Muslim communities into the pro-Palestinian sections of the labour and/or anti-war movements. How many British Muslim supporters of Israel have you met?
So no. The centrality of the Israel/Palestinian conflict is not a quirk of political culture, or an indifference to horrible things happening elsewhere. It has deep cultural and material roots spanning across communities, politics, government departments, and perceived geopolitical interests. That is why it is well-covered, written on, and furiously argued over. It has a unique place because it has a unique place. What-abouting will not do. To make the situation mundane is to work toward a positive, peaceful solution.