Climate activist Greta Thunberg faced accusations of spreading anti-Semitic messages after expressing support for the Palestinians on social media platform X (formerly Twitter). Thunberg shared a photo of herself and three other women holding signs with pro-Palestinian slogans, calling for a ceasefire in the Middle East and justice for Palestinians. However, some users noticed that one of the women had a small blue stuffed octopus on her knee, which they believed resembled anti-Semitic caricatures of Jews. These images, often used to promote conspiracy theories about Jewish people, have a long history, including in Nazi Germany.
Upon realizing the potential interpretation of the stuffed octopus, Thunberg promptly deleted the original post and shared the same photo with the offending item cropped out. In her explanation, she stated that she had been unaware of the symbol’s association with anti-Semitism, and clarified that the octopus was a tool used by autistic individuals to communicate their feelings. Thunberg made it clear that she and her team are against all forms of discrimination and condemn anti-Semitism in any shape or form.
Despite her explanation, criticism of Thunberg’s stance continued. Israel’s official X account responded by criticizing her support for Palestinians, pointing out that Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, does not use sustainable materials for their rockets, which have caused the deaths of innocent Israelis. Former Israel Defense Forces spokesman Arye Sharuz Shalicar went even further, calling anyone who supports or identifies with Thunberg a “terror supporter.” He argued that she was showing solidarity with Gaza while ignoring the “massacres” of Israelis. However, Shalicar later retracted his comments, claiming he had spoken out of deep pain and stating that his words did not reflect his or the IDF’s views.
Amidst the controversy, some individuals came to Thunberg’s defense, noting that the octopus has been a well-known motif in satirical and political cartoons throughout history. Nevertheless, the accusations of anti-Semitism and the ensuing debate highlight the sensitivity and complexity surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It is essential to remember that Thunberg initially rose to prominence in 2018 for her solo climate change protest outside the Swedish parliament. Since then, she has become a prominent voice on the issue, addressing global platforms like the United Nations and engaging in activism that has led to her being detained multiple times.
In conclusion, Greta Thunberg faced accusations of spreading anti-Semitic messages after expressing support for the Palestinians on X. Although the controversy stemmed from a perceived connection between a small blue stuffed octopus and anti-Semitic caricatures, Thunberg swiftly addressed the issue by deleting the original post and explaining her ignorance of the symbol’s association. The incident sparked a larger conversation surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, illustrating the complexity and sensitivity of the issue. Regardless of the controversy, Thunberg’s activism and advocacy for climate action have made her an influential figure on the global stage.