Opinions differ about a statement by Greta Thunberg about the war in the Middle East. The climate movement Fridays for Future appears to be in the greatest crisis since its founding. Can the organization still be saved?
They once brought millions of people onto the streets, but now they are facing their biggest test yet: The Gaza war threatens to split the international climate movement Fridays for Future (FFF) – and is forcing the German section to make a drastic decision. “This is a big step that has never happened before,” Fridays for Future Germany told the German Press Agency on Monday. Because the German group is distancing itself from the global network, joint campaigns would have to be paused.
The storm of outrage was previously sparked by a post on the movement’s international Instagram account. “How Western media brainwashes you into siding with Israel,” the post began. Among other things, the media hides the fact that the Islamist Hamas and its attacks on Israel are rooted “in 75 years of oppression and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.” The post is no longer viewable online.
Thunberg, the most prominent face of the movement, had previously expressed solidarity with the Palestinians several times. “Justice for Palestine,” read a sign she held during her recent Friday climate protest in front of Parliament in Stockholm.
Neubauer: “Full solidarity with the Jews”
The German Fridays for Future group distanced itself from the international channel’s controversial statements: “No, the international account – as previously emphasized – does not speak for us,” the organization wrote on the X network (formerly Twitter). “No, we do not agree with the content.” Luisa Neubauer, the best-known German activist in the group, told the German Press Agency: “Our full solidarity goes out to Jews worldwide, and we strongly condemn Hamas’ terror.”
“The unspeakable statements by Greta Thunberg and Fridays For Future International about the terrorist attack on Israel destroy the great trust that many people, especially young people, have in the integrity of the movement,” said Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) to the Germany editorial network ( RND/Monday).
Fridays for Future (FFF) was initiated by Thunberg in Stockholm in 2018. It quickly became a global movement that found many comrades-in-arms, especially in Germany. The movement sees itself as more than just a climate protection movement. “We fight for justice and have a self-image in which we stand against all discrimination. It is important that we stand up where injustice happens and oppose it,” said the German Fridays for Future section. The group also expressed clear solidarity with Ukraine in the Russian war of aggression.
Central Council of Jews calls for name change
Fridays for Future is neither a political party nor an organization, but a network of independent grassroots groups around the world. This also means that no central person can be held responsible – even if Greta Thunberg, who also condemned anti-Semitism after criticism, is usually seen as the central voice of the movement.
“No one can speak as an individual for a global movement,” said FFF Germany. Neubauer had previously said that the movement’s international networks were loose and structureless and that few people were behind individual posts.
The Central Council of Jews in Germany called for action regarding the anti-Israel post. “I expect a real decoupling from Luisa Neubauer and Fridays for Future Germany, a change of name of the organization and the breaking off of all contacts with Fridays for Future International,” said Council President Josef Schuster to “Bild” a few days ago.
Fridays for Future in the biggest crisis since it was founded
Is the Gaza war causing a rift in the movement? In any case, Fridays for Future is currently going through what is probably the biggest internal crisis since Thunberg launched the movement with her “School Strike for the Climate” more than five years ago. The last generation has been dominating the German headlines with their roadblocks for some time now. Shortly after the Hamas attack, they expressed their deep dismay at the calls to carry out attacks on Jews around the world tomorrow and canceled a protest. Since then, she has refrained from making any statements about the Gaza war.
The World Climate Conference will begin in Dubai in a few weeks, which activists from all over the world usually accompany with joint protests. For FFF Germany, this means a balancing act in these times – on the one hand, distancing yourself, but on the other hand, you lose a lot of effectiveness without an international network.
Given all this, however, a split-off of the German group, as Schuster and several politicians have called for, is unlikely. The German branch in particular has advanced climate protection with political pressure from the street. Fridays for Future has so far been of the opinion that the climate crisis can only be combated through international solidarity. Splitting internationally as a climate movement would completely dilute this message – and possibly mean the end of the group.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.