There’s a quote that’s often attributed to Josef Stalin, but is actually thought to have originated in an essay by the German pacifist and satirist Kurt Tucholsky. It states “the death of one man: this is a catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of deaths: that is a statistic!

This quote has been on my mind a lot recently as we watch Gaza burn through the warped lens of a phone screen. Every hour the death toll rises higher, while we watch interviews, debates and discussions from politicians and spokespeople so far removed from the suffering that many of them are able to act with casual indifference to its continuation.

Watching innocent people unable to impact negotiations or escape conflict of which they play no part, is demoralising and maddening in equal measure. There are many people for whom this is too much, people who feel so helpless that they avert their gaze and refuse to even acknowledge what's going on, what part we may play, what our taxes are helping to fund.

As ever, though, amid the chaos there are those organising and working tirelessly to ensure the voices of those who need help do not go unheard. There are a great many groups arranging protests, boycotts, petitions and donations, many of whom are doing so at great risk to their livelihoods and reputations.

Operation Olive Branch, one such organisation, has created a list of fundraisers for individual families seeking to escape to safety. The Pass the Hat Project, an initiative from OOB, partners with influencers, celebrities, people with pre-existing platforms and the attention of the public, with the families listed on the OOB spreadsheet. In this way, influencers can “adopt” a family, focussing fundraising effort and harnessing the power of their community, bringing attention and funding to people whose situations may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Reading through the spreadsheet of families is both heartbreaking and infuriating; line after line speaks of people displaced and lives irrevocably changed. Many are pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding, doing everything in their power to offer protection and love to babies who have known nothing but conflict and instability.

There are elderly people, denied basic dignity and care, many of whom are survivors of previous conflicts and mass displacements.

Then there are the WCNSF, an acronym nobody should have to know, which stands for wounded child, no surviving family. To have spent so little time on earth and yet to know such loss is unthinkable, or rather, it is unthinkable to us.

Every family, every innocent person deserves to escape the unimaginable horror facing them, nobody should be forced to endure this level of suffering. There are very few people in the world who wouldn’t move mountains and give their last breath to save their family. How is it that we are so callous with the families of others?

The Herald:

Politicians with the requisite safety to ignore their solemn moral duty take their time, engaging in semantic gymnastics, tiptoeing around weighted terms like war crime, and genocide, as though it matters what’s written on the bomb that rips apart flesh and family alike.

However politicians want to describe the indiscriminate killing of civilians, the mass displacement, wounding, starvation, and traumatisation of innocent people, every day it is facilitated and perpetuated by our government and funded by our taxes, we are complicit. We cannot ignore such callous disregard for human life, it is happening right now and it will continue to happen unless the global community comes together to oppose this inhumanity.

As with many social and humanitarian causes, we can see a great many students, risking their education and future livelihoods to have their voices heard. As so often happens, those with very little political power are risking the most to show support, while those with the most power try to silence them.

In a staggering display of solidarity and organisation, entire encampments have been set up, and articulate mission statements have been released across the country and beyond, outlining the stated goals of demonstrations. One, taking place in Edinburgh University, speaks of keeping the encampment free of litter, drugs, alcohol, conflict, and any form of bigotry including islamophobia and anti-semitism.

In many of the encampments across American campuses, in the midst of congressional resolutions inextricably linking criticism of Zionism to anti-semitism, Jewish students have bravely remained active participants in the protests, and many have even been arrested while engaging in pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

I read an account from one woman describing her joy in attending a Passover Seder taking place in the middle of the encampment, then later having her hands zip-tied, as she was held in police custody for eight hours.

Another student made reference to one of the largest activist groups mobilising to advocate for the Palestinian people, Jewish Voice for Peace, who currently have nearly 750,000 members speaking up and demonstrating. As part of their work for Palestinian liberation, they actively oppose and work to highlight the problematic nature of the conflation of anti-semitism, which should have no place in advocacy for Palestinian freedom, with those criticising the actions of the Israeli government.

Read more:  Why won't our politicians give us straight answers?

Read more: The perils and pitfalls of adapting Roald Dahl

They remain in direct contact with families of those killed and taken hostage on October 7th – yet another preventable tragedy causing the death, wounding and trauma of many – saying, “we also are listening to the grieving families of those taken hostage by Hamas, families who have advocated for a permanent ceasefire and diplomatic negotiations to bring their loved ones home. Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Gaza puts Israeli hostages at life-threatening risk. And the Israeli government has made it clear that they are prioritising their genocidal campaign over the release of hostages.”

They speak about the unique role their voice has in cultural discourse, stating, “JVP has a specific, critical role to play in the movement for Palestinian liberation. As Jews, we work to answer the call of our Palestinian partners to build a Jewish movement that can effectively form a counterweight to Jewish Zionist support for Israeli apartheid.”

No matter how strongly governments across the world try to stamp out protest and dissidence, people are risking their education, jobs, and in some cases lives to have their voices heard and their solidarity shown.

In perhaps the most egregiously ironic turn of events hundreds of protestors were blocked from this year’s Met Gala, the theme of which was The Garden of Time, by JG Ballard. This story speaks of the grotesquely wealthy turning back time to prevent an angry mob from breaching the walls of their opulent palace. Needless to say the protesters were denied access, and many were arrested.

It can be easy to turn away, to shut our eyes to tragedy. We are, after all, so very far away from Gaza. There are so many problems to deal with, so much going on, so little it feels we can do. It’s easy to compartmentalise, to ignore, to avert our gaze. Someone else will step in, someone else will help, someone else will hold to account those who facilitate this destruction and trauma, but not us.

It is this preoccupation, when the masses sit silently at a comfortable distance, upon which those perpetuating this human misery rely. In truth, we are not that far away from Gaza at all, we just have the privilege of looking away.