Updated 2:50 p.m.
A gay pride parade in Washington, D.C. has been criticized by Jewish and LGBTQ groups for banning Jewish and Israeli symbols from its Friday event.
The D.C. Dyke March is designed to include people of diverse races, religions and gender identities who feel excluded from the more mainstream Pride parade, organizers told The Washington Post.
The march will also ban “nationalist symbols,” including flags that represent what event organizer Yael Horowitz called “nations that have specific oppressive tendencies.”
“This includes Israeli flags, as well as flags that resemble Israeli flags, such as a pride flag with a Star of David in the middle,” march organizer Rae Gaines — who is herself Jewish and a member of the left-wing Jewish group IfNotNow — wrote via Facebook Messenger to would-be participant A.J. Campbell, the former director of the lesbian Jewish group Nice Jewish Girls.
American flags aren’t welcome either, but a Palestinian flag would be accepted, Gaines told the Forward.
“The issue [with the Jewish Pride flag] is where the Star of David is positioned in a way that looks like an Israeli flag, it creates an unsafe space,” she said. “It really is a shame that Israel took this symbol of Judaism and turned it into this nationalist symbol….I understand the Jewish pride flag is a symbol that a lot of Jews have come to embrace, but there are so many other Jewish symbols that we can use to express our Judaism, like a Star of David [on a necklace], like a yarmulke, a tallit.”
Along with IfNotNow, an independent minyan called the New Synagogue Project was listed on the Dyke March’s website as a “community partner,” which Gaines described as just showing solidarity and not necessarily being involved in planning the event. The New Synagogue Project did not respond to a request for comment.
The move is reminiscent of a controversy from 2017 when the Chicago Dyke March kicked out marchers waving pride flags with Stars of David on them, claiming that they were too reminiscent of the Israeli flag and thus “made people feel unsafe.”
D.C. Dyke March organizers said they took the Chicago experience into account when crafting their policies.
“I just thought, the Chicago Dyke March is happening all over again — here,” Campbell told the Post, adding, “I’ve been a Jewish lesbian for a long time, and it’s never been a problem. . . . They seem to have very specific ideas about what kind of Jew I’m supposed to be, and I don’t feel like they get to say that.”
A joint statement from Campbell, the Jewish LGBTQ group A Wider Bridge, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, and the Jewish feminist group Zioness called on the Dyke March to apologize and change its policy.
“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,” the statement read. “We hope that they will do better––for the sake and advancement of all of our communities.”
Correction, June 7: An earlier version of this article stated that A.J. Campbell was the founder of Nice Jewish Girls. In fact, she was a former director, but not the founder.