Up until now, Greta Thunberg has been a young, feisty, Swedish activist, primarily concerned with climate change. But over the weekend she earned a new title: pro-Palestinian. When Thunberg announced on her Instagram account that she “stands by Gaza,” and called for an immediate cease-fire and Palestinian liberation – after maintaining radio silence about the deadly terrorist attacks of October 7th – she didn’t only recklessly adopt the wrong side of the ongoing war, but she also inflicted environmental harm.
- Survivor of atrocities in open letter to Hamas supporter Gretta Thunberg/ Shaked Shefy Cohen
Thunberg connected left-wing, borderline antisemitic views with the very same environmental issues she’s dedicated her life to combat – a connection that is simply incorrect. The environment does not belong to the right or left wing; it belongs to all of us. Oh, Greta, in your own words: How dare you?
The atrocious massacre that took place along the Gaza Strip rattled the nation and the world, and shocked both environmental activists and climate change deniers alike. The civilian and communal unity Israel has found itself in over the last couple of weeks has undoubtedly crossed sectors, with right- and left-wing affiliates working tirelessly side by side, both in military bases and in volunteer home fronts. Even without an official poll, it’s easy to see that the overwhelming majority of Israel’s population is hurt, wounded, scared, angry or all of the above. We all know someone who has been murdered, kidnapped, injured, or called for reserves. And statements like Thunberg’s are a spit in the face of each and every one of these people.
The near-automatic support Thunberg shows for Gaza stems from a woke ideology that implies that if a person supports any political ideology, they must support all of them. If you support the LGBTQ movement, you must also be vegan, and a feminist, and an environmentalist – and blindly support minority rights, without reservation.
The problem is that we are human, not stencils. We can support the environment but eat meat. Support LGBTQ rights yet fly abroad every now and again, despite the detrimental ecological impact that stems from burning fossil fuels. And as it pertains to the Gaza Strip, the fact that Palestinians are a minority in a geographical region that includes us and them does not automatically justify their cause, classifying us as the “bad guys.” This complexity is difficult for identity politicians to digest – it is far easier to pose for Instagram holding a sign that says “Stand with Gaza.”
The environment does not differentiate between left and right
The environmental issue impacts nearly every aspect of our lives. If our water is contaminated; if we suffer from excessive wildfires, heat waves, storms, earthquakes and tsunamis; if our food is contaminated with toxins; if our green pastures and city streets are filthy; if our nature is being depleted of fruitful animals and plants and is being replaced by invasive species; it impacts all of us—whether we are for a Palestinian state or for the flattening of Gaza into a parking lot.
It is important to note that environmentalists act across the political spectrum. Obviously, there are climate combat organizations that are affiliated with the political left. But there are also organizations such as “Teva Ivri,” for instance, which promotes Jewish climate responsibility. Or the "Haredim Lasviva" society, which acts to promote sustainability within the Haredi sector. Many environmental organizations don’t belong to any sector, do not represent any group, and do not identify with any political stance as it pertains to the national right or left – their only wish is to aid the environment.
When I toured the United States during the time of Donald Trump’s presidency, I saw the full scope and severity of the damages that ensue when politics and the environment are conflated. The existence of the climate crisis, at that time in the US, was transformed from being an agreed-upon scientific fact to an issue concerned with “right” and “left” – if you were Republican, you were expected to deny the climate crisis, or at least undermine it.
The climate crisis became a controversial dinner conversation subject. This sparked fear among the scientists who worked for the Trump administration, who didn’t dare utter the phrase “climate crisis” – the same people whose responsibility was to prevent the crisis, prepare for it, or shed light on it. We cannot let this happen to us. We must not let this happen anywhere.
During times of war, the environmental cause gets placed on the back burner – as is appropriate when guns are blazing. But in the future, hopefully the not-so-distant one, we will return to fight for our ecological future. And then, we can only hope that statements like Thunberg made didn’t leave any everlasting damages. In the meantime, all I have to offer Greta (or any other environmentalists and influencers) is the old adage that remains eternally true: If you don’t have anything smart to say, be quiet.
- Racheli Wacks is the editor-in-chief of ZAVIT – The News Agency of the Israel Society of Ecology and Environmental Sciences