A Jewish group that has raised the profile of the movement protesting the Israeli occupation of land Palestinians claim for their own is tied to the decision by a gay pride march to not allow the star of David flag at its event on Friday.
Members of the D.C. chapter of IfNotNow — which has attracted attention for protests at which members get arrested, and for protesting the Birthright program by getting members kicked off the trip — were involved in their personal capacities in planning the Dyke March. IfNotNow DC was listed as a largely-symbolic Dyke March “community partner.” It remains unclear whether the idea for the policy banning Jewish stars originated with IfNotNow members or other Dyke March organizers. IfNotNow members did play a role as the deputies who explained the march’s anti-Jewish-Pride-flag policy in interviews and op-eds.
“It’s not like IfNotNow as a national organization played a role in this,” said Yonah Lieberman, a staff member of the national IfNotNow organization. “The D.C. chapter played a role in this, based on their understanding [of their community].”
In the end, marchers bearing Stars of David flags were allowed to participate after a standoff with a march organizer.
That organizer, Jill Raney, is a member of the local chapter of IfNotNow. Another member, Rae Gaines, was the first person to tell a local Jewish lesbian activist that the flags were not welcome.
The Dyke March, Raney, Gaines and the IfNotNow DC Facebook page did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
Local IfNotNow chapters largely operate autonomously based on shared principles, said Lieberman.
“Our members have diverse opinions, and we promoted diverse opinions about it,” he said.
National IfNotNow promoted on its Facebook page the DC chapters’ Medium post explaining their reasoning, but Lieberman pointed out that its Twitter account also retweeted a divergent view from a member in Boston (that member’s account has since been put in protected mode, making it unreadable for people who don’t already follow her.)
Dyke Marches are more radical alternatives to Pride parades, which some in the LGBTQ community think have become too mainstream and capitalist. Some marches, like the one in Chicago, are explicitly anti-Zionist and ban the Jewish Pride flag for its resemblance to the Israeli one. But others, like the upcoming ones in Portland and Seattle, told the Forward on Monday that they have no such policy.
A contingent from the feminist-Zionist group Zioness and the American-Israeli LGBTQ group A Wider Bridge, who felt the ban on the Star of David flag excluded many LGBTQ Jews, converged on the march on Friday afternoon with Jewish Pride flags and placards. They were met by Raney, one of the march’s trained conflict deescalators.
“We feel it’s very important in this shared space that we are here to be proud as Jewish dykes in ways that are respectful of Palestinian dykes,” Raney said, according to Moment. After a short conversation, the Zionist group was allowed to enter the march.
These Jewish women are my new heroes. Thanks @CampbellWriter and @ZionessMovement for paving the way—and @AWiderBridge for opening a conversation that needed to be had. #Pride #DCDykeMarch
pic.twitter.com/TvFJJFOcqV— Peter Fox (@thatpeterfox) June 8, 2019
Both the national IfNotNow organization and its D.C. chapter caught flack on social media for their role in the brouhaha, even from people sympathetic to its aims. “Completely disagree with the analysis. And I have admired some of the work of If Not Now to push the organized Jewish community to see the occupation,” one person wrote in a Facebook comment under IfNotNow DC’s Washington Blade op-ed explaining its reasoning.
IfNotNow, which does not take an official stance on BDS or whether an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal should have one or two states, received similar criticism in 2017 after the Chicago chapter backed that city’s Dyke March kicking out women with Star of David flags.
In both cases, some IfNotNow members stood by the Dyke Marches and others disagreed internally, Lieberman said. “One of the biggest lessons from that is the diversity of opinions in our movement…There isn’t one unified way that we say the occupation is a moral crisis and a daily nightmare for Palestinians.”
Correction: A Previous version of this article stated that IfNotNow was a “community partner” of the DC Dyke March. In fact, it was IfNotNow DC that was the partner.