Prominent XR supporters withdraw after Gaza speeches at Amsterdam climate rally
Prominent supporters of Extinction Rebellion distanced themselves from the organization after speeches about the war in Gaza were made on the stage of the climate march on Sunday on Museumplein in Amsterdam, AD reported on Monday.
Several speakers at the event delivered speeches related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One speaker uttered the controversial slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who was invited to give a speech, also gave the floor to Palestinian and Afghan women who then called for a ceasefire in Gaza, prompting a local politician from the water board Water Natuurlijk to climb onto the stage and declare he came “for a climate demonstration, not a political view.”
Prominent lawyer Bénédicte Ficq wrote on Monday that she decided to “disconnect” from Extinction Rebellion following the speeches held during Sunday's demonstration. She is one of the driving forces behind the lawsuit against Tata Steel.
“The subject of climate was fully seized on the stage at the Museumplein yesterday to express political positions on the Palestinian issue in Gaza in a polarizing and grim way,' she wrote on LinkedIn. “The choice to link climate to such extremely complex political topics does not feel right to me. XR seems to share the view that the two topics should be linked,” she added.
Ficq wrote that she wants the subject of climate to be depoliticized. “Because I do not want to conform to positions taken without my control, I have decided to disassociate myself from XR. This does not mean that I am distancing myself from the XR climate objectives, quite the contrary.”
Jan Rotmans, professor of sustainability and transitions and advisor to XR, spoke out publicly against XR on Sunday. “Very unwise if the climate movement takes the pro-Palestinian path. Climate and the Israel-Palestine issue are fundamentally different. In any case, I will openly and publicly distance myself from it,” he wrote on X.
Zeer onverstandig als de klimaatbeweging de pro-Palestijnse weg inslaat. Klimaat en de kwestie Israël-Palestina zijn wezenlijk verschillend. Ik zal me er in elk geval openlijk en publiekelijk van distantiëren.— Jan Rotmans (@janrotmans) November 12, 2023
Martijn Katan, emeritus professor of nutrition at Vrije Universiteit, expressed deep sadness following the speeches. “I have committed myself wholeheartedly to the climate movement, but it has now become a platform for the Palestinian side of the Israel-Hamas conflict. I don't participate in that. Adieu, XR,” he wrote on X.
Diep treurig. Ik heb mij uit volle overtuiging ingezet voor de klimaatbeweging, maar die is nu een platform geworden voor de Palestijnse kant van het conflict Israël-Hamas. Daar doe ik niet aan mee. Adieu, XR.https://t.co/lTCa7hBxs5— Martijn Katan (@martijnkatan) November 12, 2023
Professor Rien van IJzendoorn, who participated in several XR blockades on the A12 motorway, previously protested in Trouw against the organization’s stance on the issue. “The fact that XR argues that ‘everything is connected to everything else’ means the 'objectives are being diluted,” Van IJzendoorn said. “XR threatens to shrink into yet another powerless splinter group, projecting its own views onto complex reality.”
Arco Timmermans, a public affairs expert at Leiden University, told AD on Monday he sees this as a strategy. “Protest groups want to be visible, and for that, you need masses of people. The principle then is: if I scratch your back, you scratch mine. This leads to interesting coalitions. It's like a kind of activist exchange where a shared story is sought.'
Timmermans noted that this can lead to internal problems. “By forging a coalition, you gain more reach and support. But you also run the risk of losing some of your supporters,” he said.