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Why students care so much about Gaza

University campuses around the world have become the site of tiny tent cities in recent weeks, with student activists protesting the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

Though the protests on Australian campuses have been largely peaceful, tensions are starting to rise. There have been allegations of hate speech and clashes between student groups in recent days. And in the US, there have been disturbing scenes of police interventions to break up similar protests nationwide.

The students, and many others, are protesting the loss of life and worsening conditions in the current Gaza conflict.

Many Israeli hostages taken in last year’s assault by Hamas have yet to be returned, while the Palestinian death toll from the Israel Defence Forces’ response is believed to have exceeded 34,000. Many Palestinians are also experiencing what the United Nations has termed a “full-blown famine.”

The situation in Gaza is undoubtedly severe and requires urgent international attention and a peaceful resolution. Yet it is not the only armed conflict or humanitarian crisis in the world – far from it.

Why, then, has the Gaza war generated such passionate and sustained interest, particularly among young people? Why are people motivated to protest on this specific issue, but not others?

Strong, shocking narrative

There are many factors that explain why people choose to protest. Personal, family or community impacts are strong motivations to become an activist. But even for those without an obvious connection to a cause, news coverage and stories shared to social media can be enough to catalyze action.

Researchers have found some stories or narratives are more effective than others at mobilizing political activism. In the case of the Gaza war, I believe