November 12, 2019

ADL Condemns D.C. Dyke March’s Decision to Ban Israeli Symbols

The flag in question looked like this. Via WikiCommons

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) condemned the D.C. Dyke March for banning Israeli symbols at its June 7 event at McPherson Square in Washington, D.C., including a multicolored pride flag with the Jewish Star of David centered on it.

According to The Washington Post, D.C. Dyke organizer Yael Horowitz told former Nice Jewish Girls Director A.J. Campbell in a Facebook message, “Jewish stars and other identifications and celebrations of Jewishness (yarmulkes, talit, other expressions of Judaism or Jewishness) are welcome and encouraged.” However, Horowitz wrote that attendees should “not bring pro-Israel paraphernalia in solidarity with our queer Palestinian friends.”

Horowitz and fellow D.C. Dyke March organizer Rae Gaines expounded on their position in a June 6 Op-ed in the Washington Blade, an LGBT publication.

“We are asking people to not bring nationalist symbols because violent nationalism does not fit with our vision of queer liberation,” Horowitz and Gaines wrote. “And because we need the march to be a space that is as welcoming to Palestinian Dykes as it is to Jewish Dykes. “

They added that they don’t consider the “Jewish Pride Flag” to be representative of Jews because it “is almost entirely reminiscent of the Israeli flag, swapping out the blue and white for a rainbow. The star of David itself only became publicly popular as a symbol of Judaism in the 19th century — it coincided with the First Zionist Congress choosing the six-sided star for the flag of the future Israeli nation state in 1897.”

Horowitz and Gaines acknowledged that the Star of David has other meanings for the Jewish people when it’s not on a flag, meaning that attendees can bring paraphernalia featuring a Star of David so long as it’s not centered on a flag.

“We understand the pain and the hurt,” they wrote. “We believe that the responsibility of that pain and hurt lies with Zionism. We are angry that Israel has taken Jewish symbols and converted them into symbols of nationalism and xenophobia. We are angry that it has created a hierarchy in which Jewish voices are more valid than others, where Jewish comfort is seen as more important than Palestinian lives. We are angry that it exploits Queers and Pride to pinkwash the occupation and settler colonial violence. We are sad that Zionism has stolen vibrant Diasporic and diverse Jewish identities from us, but slowly, and through tough conversations like these ones, we are taking it back.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt denounced the D.C. Dyke March’s actions in a statement.

“It is outrageous that in preparing to celebrate LGBTQ pride, the D.C. Dyke March is forbidding Jewish participants from carrying any flag or sign that includes the Star of David, which is universally recognized as a symbol of the Jewish people,” Greenblatt said. “Banning the Star of David in their parade is anti-Semitic, plain and simple. The LGBTQ community and its supporters are diverse, and that is part of its tremendous strength. We call on the organizers to immediately reverse this policy.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper similarly said in a statement, “Today, on Thursday June 6th, there will be a similar march in the heart of Jerusalem, an event impossible to conceive of in an Arab country or in Iran, where they publicly execute gays. For decades, gay activists have insisted that there needs to be one standard in pursuit of human rights and human dignity. Such hypocrisy by some leaders to treat Jews differently is classic anti-Semitism, will damage the campaigns for equality for all, and should be denounced by LGBTQ activists everywhere.”

Campbell, along with A Wider Bridge, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, and Zioness, condemned the D.C. Dyke March for singling out Israel in a signed statement.

 

“The DC Dyke March should know better than to stoke the flames of division and pain by driving a wedge between Queer Arabs and Jews at a time we must stand united against homo- and transphobia, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia,” they wrote. “We hope that they will do better — for the sake and advancement of all of our communities.”

The American Jewish Committee tweeted, “How is the @dcdykemarch inclusive when it excludes Israeli or Jewish Pride flags? By banning the Jewish star from their event, they are sending a divisive message to members of the LGBTQ community.”

StandWithUs also weighed in on Twitter, writing, “Singling out the #Jewish community from a protest encouraging inclusiveness & acceptance is insane!”

The Progressive Zionists of California (PZC) said in a statement to the Journal, “PZC unequivocally condemns this action from DC Dyke March.  It is hard to feel pride when your leaders denounce the human rights of the Jewish people in a time of rising anti-Semitism. It is clear bigotry to force queer Jews to choose between being openly queer or openly Jewish — neither is an acceptable option.”

Peter Fox, who writes about Jewish LGBT issues, wrote in a Forward Op-ed, “What the march has done is ban all queer Jews who feel any connection to Israel — which is itself anti-Semitic given that Jews are not collectively responsible for the actions of other Jews or for the Israeli government, any more than Muslims, blacks, Asians or any other group of people are.” He also pointed out that the Star of David’s significance to the Jewish people “dates back many centuries before the founding of Israel.”

The D.C. Dyke March said in a statement sent to the Journal, “The DC Dyke March is explicitly pro-Jewish and not restricting anything that celebrates Jewishness. This includes the Star of David, which is embraced and welcome at the DC Dyke March. Our mission says that we are enacting a vision of queer liberation for all. That vision does not include nationalist symbols, including symbols of the state of Israel, which are different from symbols of Judaism. Flags that resemble Israeli flags are not welcome. We came to this decision collectively, with specific input from Jewish Dykes, in order to honor and uplift Dykes with marginalized identities and ensure that everyone feels as safe as possible.”

In 2017, the Chicago Dyke March similarly banned flags adorned with the Star of David, saying that it would cause participants to “feel unsafe” since such flags resemble the Israeli flag.