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Don't Listen To Forbes, Greta Thunberg's Gaza Stance Is Needed
Climate action and Palestine have far more in common than you think.
This is a sensitive topic that can be easily misunderstood or misconstrued. So, I feel it is imperative to explain my position first. I am ferociously against antisemitism, islamophobia, terrorism, killing of innocent citizens, genocide, nationalism and fascism of any kind. I also want to state that you can be supportive of Jews while being against Zionism. There is actually a growing body of Jews who stand against Israel and its zionist ideology, as to them, the Torah prohibits Jews from having their own state, and as such, the actions of Israel against Palestine fly in the face of Judaism. In other words, not all Jews support Israel, and Israel does not represent the Jewish people as a whole. Many are conflating the two, leading to dangerous and manipulative rhetoric. Why am I saying all of this? Well, I have been seeing a worrying trend in the Israel-Palestine debate that needs addressing, which I first noticed in a Forbes article criticising Greta Thunberg. I am going to explain why Greta’s stance with Gaza not only makes complete sense, but is necessary for both the Israel-Palestine situation and the climate disaster. What’s more, I will do it without mentioning ethnic cleansing once, as I know that is a touchy subject for quite a few of you. So strap in; this is a long one.
A week ago, Greta Thunberg posted the picture above on her Instagram with the caption, “Today we are striking in solidarity with Palestine and Gaza. The world needs to speak up and call for an immediate ceasefire, justice and freedom for Palestinians and all civilians affected.” This drew both a massive amount of support as well as a vast amount of hate.
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Many told her to stick to climate activism and avoid Middle East politics. This is a derivative comment that has been thrown at all activists who expand their activities past their original scope. But one of these critics stood above the rest. Jon McGowan, an attorney who writes about ESG policy, laws, and regulations for Forbes, wrote an article entitled “Greta Thunberg’s Stand With Gaza Is A Problem For The Climate Change Movement” and insinuated that her stance with Gaza threatens to undermine her climate activism.
Unlike the rest of the inane abuse thrown at Thunberg, this article carried weight. Not only was it published by a leading publisher, but this was someone who deals with climate law daily.
His criticism of her is important. In the article, McGowan says, “The [Instagram] post shows a continued deviation from her environmental activism, and could adversely impact her ability to successfully advocate in the future.” He justifies this view by saying, “Thunberg’s tactics and demeanor, that would typically be frowned upon, were not only tolerated, but encouraged because they aligned with the environmentalist movement. However, that is a limited role. While mostly associated with the general environmental movement, Thunberg has been focused on climate justice, a type of environmentalism that ties climate change with social and racial issues. Some say they are the hardliners of the environmental movement, absolutists who often run afoul of the mainstream by forcing climate change into unrelated political debates. Others will argue they take a wholistic approach to climate change, looking at the overall impacts of climate policy. It is under the climate justice umbrella that she has continued to stray beyond environmental concerns into the geopolitical, some with no clear environmental ties, with mixed results.” He continued this line of thought, pointing out that Thunberg has been removed from the Israeli school curriculum, as evidence that this stance is Greta shooting herself in the foot. McGown concluded the article by saying, “She owes a duty to no one and is free to express her opinions as she wishes. However, her sharing controversial political opinions that only serve to alienate entire demographics, while not advancing an environmental cause, only weakens her ability to advocate and harms the overall climate change movement.”
Before I address McGown’s claims, I must address what is missing from the picture. The picture above has been cropped to remove a blue octopus plushy, the type which can be turned inside out to reveal a different facial expression. McGown and many others have pointed out that some obscure 1930s antisemitic propaganda used a blue octopus as an antisemitic symbol, and inferred that Thunberg might have been doing the same. Again, I must reiterate that I am entirely against antisemitism. However, claiming this plushy is an antisemitic symbol doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Firstly, Greta has never shown any antisemitic tendencies in the past; what’s more, these plushies are very popular with teenagers and the autistic community alike as a way to communicate emotions. Once Greta found out about this link, she cropped the photo and added to the caption, “It has come to my knowledge that the stuffed animal shown in my earlier post can be interpreted by some as a symbol for antisemitism, which I was completely unaware of. The toy in the picture is a tool often used by autistic people as a way to communicate feelings.”
In this post, Greta hasn’t supported Hamas or directly criticised Israel. In fact, she has publicly stated that she is firmly against the Hamas attacks. As such, her stance and this post are not antisemitic.
Now that this is all cleared up, I can get to the meat of this article. You see, I think McGowan is entirely and unequivocally wrong. Greta Thunberg’s stance on Gaza and her protest of the treatment of the Palestinian people perfectly align with her climate activism, as the same forces which caused the Israel-Palestine situation also caused, and is perpetuating, the climate crisis. By protesting in this way, she is helping to highlight the core problems within our global society. Let me explain.
Israel’s approach to Palestine and those who aim to quell climate action use the same five pillars to reach their goals. Namely, corruption, misinformation, undermining critical people or bodies, fascism and/or nationalism, international influence and government misrepresentation. What’s more, Israel is actually weaponising the climate disaster against Palestine.
Let’s start with corruption. The fossil fuel industry is known for corruption. From lobbying, bribery and grand corruption (the abuse of high-level power that benefits the few at the expense of the many), the oil and gas industry isn’t a bastion of morals. This corruption is one of the many ways fossil fuel companies undermine and derail climate action and climate policies that threaten their business models. Well, it turns out that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also profoundly corrupt. He has been charged with fraud, breach of trust, and bribery. Most of these charges revolve around him strong-arming Israeli media to be more favourable towards himself and ensuring he keeps power. Once he was charged, he had to resign as Prime Minister, but somehow, he has gained back power yet again.
Why does he need to ensure he has positive coverage? Well, Netanyahu is one of the spearheads whose zionist and ultranationalist policies have not only helped create the humanitarian crisis in Palestine but also weakened Israeli’s international relations and undermined Israeli civil rights. Needless to say, he needs to ensure his reputation is cleaner than it actually is if he wants to stay in power. Again, this mirrors the motives behind the oil industry’s corruption.
Misinformation is another one of these pillars. Fossil fuel misinformation can be seen everywhere. It is rife through politics; just look at the last GOP debate, and it is even getting into our education system through media bodies like PargerU. These bodies and people are paid and funded by the oil companies to undermine rigorous scientific evidence, which paints the fossil fuel industry in a bad light and threatens their business models. Well, Israel does the same. From fake images of Hamas victims to denying they bombed hospitals and instead blaming Hamas (despite a plethora of evidence against this claim) and even denying they targeted and killed a Palestinian journalist’s family to silence him (despite Israeli military leaders claiming the opposite on national TV). Israel and Netanyahu have a strong misinformation campaign to try and steer national and international opinion of what is going on in Palestine to their benefit, with a plethora of support from people who can benefit from this narrative, such as India. After all, support for Israel would diminish if people knew of the war crimes Netanyahu and the Israeli state were committing against Palestine.
The third pillar is undermining critical people. Social cohesion relies on a person to act as a nucleus. For example, American civil rights had Martin Luther King, and without him, the civil rights movement would have struggled, as he was a lynchpin on which they operated. In fact, there is a lot of evidence to support the idea that this is why Luther was assassinated.
The same thing is true for the fossil fuel industry and Israel. Those within the fossil fuel sphere actively try to discredit climate activists like Thunberg and even try to undermine climate research and watchdog bodies like the IEA. This way, the climate action movement is more fractured, less cohesive, and easier to overwhelm. Israel did a similar thing to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who stated in a speech that the Hamas attack “did not happen in a vacuum” as “The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation.” Despite the fact that, in the same speech, Guterres vehemently condemned the Hamas attack by saying, “The grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people”, the Israeli UN ambassador was not happy. Taking to Twitter, he said, “The Secretary-General is completely disconnected from the reality in our region” and “There is no justification or point in talking to those who show compassion for the most terrible atrocities committed against the citizens of Israel and the Jewish people” and later called for Guterres’s resignation. This is an example of Israeli officials using conflating criticism of their state to criticism of the entire Jewish people to try and guilt trip and undermine a person (Guterres) and an entire body (the UN) that is opposed to the actions they are taking against Palestine.
The fourth pillar is fascism and or nationalism. I will not go as far as to call Netanyahu a fascist, but he certainly has fascistic tendencies and has created an ultranationalist government. This means that he and the Israeli government aren’t liberal. It is an us vs them world, according to their rhetoric. This collectivism undermines and eradicates many checks and balances on the government, undermines criticism and can control the thoughts of an entire nation by undermining individualist thought, ideas and movements. Hitler used ultranationalism to sway the entire German population and get them to support the unforgivable atrocities of the holocaust, despite the fact that pre-Hilter Germany wasn’t very antisemitic at all, and there were many outspoken German critics of Hitler’s antisemitic views. The fossil fuel industry is actively supporting nationalist and ultranationalist politicians and governments around the world (you can see this clearly in the US) to utilise this same power, control the narrative, undermine the climate movement, and keep their profits high. This is one of the reasons why right-wing nationalist politics are on the rise in the West.
Israel uses the same ultranationalist stance to compromise the narrative on Palestine. The Israel Defence Minister recently called Palestinians “human animals.” This fascistic degenerate branding of an entire people is what led to the holocaust, as it dehumanises the enemy and emphasises an us vs them mentality. Meirav Ben-Ari from Yair Lapid’s opposition party (which is in opposition to Netanyahu’s government) recently said, “The children of Gaza have brought this upon themselves” when it was brought up that Palestinian children are being massacred by the hundreds. How can a child understand, let alone consent, to the actions of Hamas? Again, this dehumanises the enemy, throws rational thought out the window, and reinforces the collectivist us vs them notion. Possibly, the peak of the nationalist rhetoric is the idea that Hamas uses Palestinian citizens as human shields. Terrorists tend to be woven into the fabric of a nation; just look at the IRA. This is because this is the only land they can operate from, and standing out in the open is not a good tactic. For the same reasons, the Israeli forces are interwoven within Israeli communities. So, if Hamas use Palestinians as human shields, so does the Israeli state. This Hamas human shield idea is just Israeli nationalist propaganda.
The final pillar is international influence. You see, fossil fuels and Israel are inexorably linked. Israel only exists in the guise that it does because of US support. The US has poured billions into the nation and has supplied them with military equipment and training. Make no mistake, without US support, Israel would be minuscule compared to what it is Today, and it could not have occupied Palestine the way it has. So why has the US supported Israel the way it has? Well, oil. You see, during the Cold War, the US had no way of influencing the Middle East and ensuring it had access to its vast oil reserves. But by supporting Israel and helping to create a US-allied state, they can ensure oil from this region would keep flowing westward, propping up the US economy with affordable energy. This was explained as the US ‘helping to stabilise the Middle East’, though in true US style, this was done through arming Israel with atom bombs, military pressure and flat-out threats.
That’s right, the fossil fuel industry’s influence is one of the leading factors which drive the crisis between Israel and Palestine.
But there are two other worrying correlations between climate change and Israel.
Israel is weaponising climate change against Palestine. You see, by 2030, over 2 billion people from the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Central America will be exposed to annual average temperatures above 29 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, humans really struggle to survive, as peak wet-bulb temperatures can exceed human survivability, and base resources like water, crops and livestock disappear. Israel knows this, but despite that, it is shutting off water supplies to Palestine whilst ensuring no Palestinians can leave. Over the coming years, this threatens millions of lives as it stops Palestinians from becoming climate refugees and migrating to better climates. Instead, they have to sit and be starved out by the Israeli state. The use of climate change in such a way is deeply worrying and adds to the vast list of reasons we should fight to halt this global crisis.
Governments are also misrepresenting their citizens on both climate change and Israel. I am from the UK, so I will use us as an example. Over 80% of the UK is concerned about climate change and believes we are not doing enough to stop it. Despite that, Rishi Sunak (our Prime Minister) has dramatically rolled back net-zero policies and allowed the fossil fuel industry to expand within the UK. Needless to say, this is unacceptable. In a similar vein, the UK population, on average, supports a two-state solution, wants to recognise Palestine as an independent state, and overwhelmingly sympathises with Palestine (87%), not Israel (around 2%). Note, the UK public does not condone Hamas or terrorism, but it does overwhelmingly condone Israel’s handling of Hamas and Palestine. Despite this, Sunak recently said the UK’s support for Israel is “unequivocal” and “not just today, not just tomorrow, but always.” But, according to the data, he isn’t talking for the vast majority of British people. Again, this is deeply concerning. You can find similar trends in many nations around the world for both climate change and Israel.
This is why Thunberg’s stance on Gaza and Palestine not only makes sense, but is vital. The same forces and tactics she is fighting to save the planet are also at play with Palestine and Israel. You cannot be a climate activist and support the Israeli government in its current guise, as it is profoundly hypocritical or ignorant of the situation. Thunberg’s stance on Palestine highlights these larger issues, not just of Israel but of the broader political world. It means more people will learn about this and be able to fight it.
In other words, McGown and many others are inappropriately conflating Thunberg’s climate activism with her humanitarian activism. They think one undermines the other. The complete opposite is true. This shows immense consistency and integrity from Thunberg, and as such, her stance on Palestine only supports her climate activism and makes her a far stronger activist for both. That is why Thunberg might be the perfect person to call to light the issues in this deeply troubled region.
Before I go, I have to make one thing clear. In this article, I am explicitly criticising Israel’s government, not Israelis as a whole, and not Jews as a whole. The three are completely separate, Russian-dolled entities. Just as much as Hamas, Palestinians and Muslims are three separate, yet Russian-dolled entities. What’s more, the situation in Israel and Palestine is incredibly complex, and no single article can contextualise its history or offer a rounded solution in one go. As such, there has to be a constructive and non-tribal discussion around this topic. So, I implore you to be kind and understanding in the comments. I also implore you to do research out of your typical bubble on this topic, as we have all been fed misinformation about it in some way or another from many sides. A great starting point is Louis Theroux’s documentary The Ultra Zionists. I will end by saying I hope a resolution can be found, one in which no more killing has to happen on either side. Israelis and Palestinians are part of the children of Abraham, after all, so there is more common ground than you might think.
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Sources: Forbes, Politico, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, The Guardian, Politico, NY Times, MWN, Al Jazeera, New Arab, RIE, Whistleblowers.org, The Guardian, Vox, Vox, Antisemitism.org, Al Jazeera, Will Lockett, Truthout.org, You Gov, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Reuters, Ctech, Statista, The Guardian