European climate activists have staged protests and posted messages in support of Palestinians, prompting an online backlash and raising internal questions within the environmental movement.
Long-running tension in the Middle East exploded on 7 October when Hamas militants killed 1,400 people in southern Israel. Since then, Israeli strikes have killed at least 5,087 Palestinians, 2,055 of them children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.
Dutch authorities detained 19 activists from Extinction Rebellion on Monday after they occupied the entrance to the international criminal court and claimed Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had committed “war crimes” and presided over an “apartheid regime” – charges that the Israeli government denies.
The protesters demanded the Dutch government stop military cooperation with Israel. The group said they also speak out “against the rising antisemitism we are now seeing worldwide”.
Three days earlier, the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg drew criticism from Israel for a social media post in support of Palestine.
Thunberg, whose weekly school strikes sparked a global climate movement, posted photos to Instagram and X, formerly known as Twitter, holding a sign that called for “solidarity with Palestine and Gaza”.
The official X account of Israel posted in response: “Hamas doesn’t use sustainable materials for their rockets which have butchered innocent Israelis. The victims of the Hamas massacre could have been your friends. Speak up.”
A spokesperson for the Israel Defence Forces told Politico on Saturday: “Whoever identifies with Greta in any way in the future, in my view, is a terror supporter.” He later retracted his comments.
European climate movements widely condemned Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year and saw little backlash for doing so. But the mass killing of civilians on both sides in Israel and Palestine has exposed divisions.
The German branch of Fridays for Future, which has previously clashed with the global organisation over its positions on Israel, said it stood in solidarity with the victims of Hamas’s violence, condemned the terror and hoped that all hostages would be brought back safely.
Luisa Neubauer, a Fridays for Future activist who encouraged people to attend a solidarity demonstration with Israel in front of Berlin’s Brandenburger Tor on Sunday, posted a statement on behalf of the German branch that said the group had “unlimited solidarity” with Jewish people, was also worried about rising anti-Muslim racism and saw the suffering of civilians in Gaza. “All of those are not contradictions. Our hearts are big enough to feel all of that at the same time.”