This past Saturday we witnessed the biggest Climate demonstration ever to be held in the Netherlands. More than 40,000 people took to the streets of Amsterdam to protest against the inaction of world leaders in general and the Dutch politicians in particular who have repeatedly failed to take the climate crisis seriously. Besides the high numbers that showed up, the demonstration was especially impressive for the way it was an intersectional effort that brought together activists across the progressive spectrum.
It almost seemed like a perfect harmonious effort to form allyships and alignment in fighting for climate justice together. I say almost. Because shortly after the demonstration the presence of Jews at the rally was discredited online. A video of the MC’s speech during the demonstration was shared in a progressive online space, accompanied by a comment that discredits Oy Vey Acts, a Dutch Jewish social justice organisation which is part of the progressive spectrum. I just say this in a rather neutral voice; actually the comment simply reads ‘fuck oy vey tho’. At a first glance the connection perhaps seems random – why celebrate a climate action demo prominent, while condemning a Jewish social justice group that participated in the demonstration – but truth be told, this whole thing is far from random, and rather disconcerting.
The MC of the climate demonstration is a singer/songwriter and poet/performer who has earned his stripes with his societal commentary. He is also Jewish. Although he did not reference his Jewish identity in his speech, he did share an instagram story by this Dutch Jewish social justice organisation of his speech, with the text ‘Jewish and Proud’. And here things go amiss. This artist was welcome to be present within the activist sphere, but the moment his Jewishness became visible, his presence became complicated.
(My reading is this.) He became complicit by association. But with what exactly? By publicly interacting with a Jewish organisation, the artist and the organisation were seemingly put on par with something else. The successive commentary makes it all clear: Yes but Palestine should be free (my translation). The MC and Oy Vey Acts are squeezed into a conflationary frame in which Jews (in The Netherlands, but anywhere in the world by extension) automatically belong to the other side, and cannot be part of a progressive movement.
But actually, something else is happening here as well. A person is negatively singled out because of their Jewishness, which is immediately transformed into a political position. Jew = wrong. This is outright antisemitic. The fact that this behaviour is not only accepted and approved but also echoed in further comments by others, who feel somehow justified by the artists’ assumed connection to a Jewish organization, is simply baffling. This incident might seem like a small thing in a sea of intersectional climate justice accomplishments. But in fact, it points to the cracks in our intersectional spaces, who are too often too comfortable with acts of antisemitism. This cannot be the right climate.