Climate activists must be called to account for the growing anti-Semitism within their movement

A Jewish bride receives a glass of blessed wine under her Chuppah during a marriage ceremony for two Jewish Ukrainian refugees from Odessa in Berlin, Germany, 28 June 2022. (Photo by Omer Messinger/Getty Images)


Anti-Semitism is becoming en vogue again in Europe, and once again the far Left and the far Right found their common ground: Hatred towards Israel and everything that would allow the self-determination of the Jewish people.

It is a sad truth that opposition to Israel often seems to be the only unifying issue in an otherwise politically and culturally increasingly fractured continent.

There are some exceptions, no doubt, and particularly central European politicians like Hungary’s Viktor Orban are staunch supporters of Israel. But this often happens against a back drop of widespread traditional anti-Semitism that still exists in central European society.

In Western Europe Jew-hatred has evolved and appears now regularly in the disguise of Israel-criticism, which is often a more insidious form of anti-Semitism.

Germany’s former Social Democratic minister of Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas, still maintains that the horrors of Auschwitz were the reason why he entered politics. This did not stop Germany’s representative at the UN from supporting numerous anti-Israel resolutions and at one point even claim moral equivalence between the Jewish state and Hamas. 

In recent years, however, an additional form of anti-Semitism has evolved. It broke into the open for the first time this month.

The world’s most famous climate activist and founder of the “Friday’s for Future” movement founder Greta Thunberg retweeted approvingly the BDS supporter and Israel critic Naomi Klein, who never gets tired of accusing Israel of war crimes and being an apartheid state.

Simultaneously, the official Instagram page of Fridays for Future was sharing pro-Palestinian Propaganda and called for a boycott of Israel.

Although the posts have disappeared after significant international blowback and also Ms. Thunberg distanced herself from her previous tweet, stating that she is neither “against Israel or Palestine,” one needs to wonder why climate activists should feel the need do comment on the Middle East in the first place.

The reasons for the sudden Israel obsession of climate activists can be found in something that – for lack of a better word – might be described as “Holocaust Envy.” It is no coincidence that much of the language within the movement is actively trying to evoke the memory of the Shoah. Jonathan Safran Foer argues that the “climate catastrophe is ungraspable just like the holocaust,” and Extinction Rebellion (another Fridays for Future like organization) founder Roger Hallam has downplayed the Holocaust altogether as a “regular event” in human history.

Even the use of the term Climate Denier for those who disagree with the activism of Thunberg or Hallam is an active attempt to create a moral equivalence between net zero sceptics and Holocaust deniers. 

The next step in this evolution is to end the singularity of the Holocaust in European memory, something that was said openly in the renowned weekly newspaper “Die Zeit in Germany. There an article called for the end of the “fetishisation” of the industrial mass murder of Europe’s Jews.

The underlying argument that is being made ever more regularly is that once the Holocaust becomes normalised as just another historical event, it will free up the necessary emotional energy to address the true crisis of climate change.

Israel remains a constant reminder that Jewish life around the globe is still under threat and that the prejudice and hatred that once enabled the gas chambers of Auschwitz are still alive and well. It becomes therefore necessary to turn reality upside down and make Israel the main culprit of all conflicts in the Middle East and, consequently, responsible for any existing antisemitism. If only Israel would behave differently, the argument goes, the world would be at peace and could finally focus all its energy on the problems identified by the more radical climate activists. 

It is a little bit ironic that the leader of the “Free Voters” in Bavaria, Hubert Aiwanger, almost lost his position as deputy prime minister due to an anti-Semitic pamphlet that he did not even write, while anti-Semitic tendencies in the climate movement should get a pass.

None of this means that climate change is not an important issue, but if the main spokespeople of a global movement are engaging in increasingly open forms of anti-Semitism they need to be called out and held accountable.