The Dyke March Banned Jewish Symbols. Again.
It’s back, this time for a march in Washington D.C. this Friday. And though the march bills itself as radically inclusive for lesbians of all stripes, it has already made clear that it means all lesbians but the Jewish ones.
In a Washington Post article, organizers of the DC Dyke March said they are explicitly forbidding any flags with “national symbols,” including “flags that resemble Israeli flags, such as a pride flag with a Star of David in the middle.” The Palestinian flag, however, will be allowed, in case there was any confusion on that front. For anyone who might show up proud of their Jewish nationality, “We have trained marshals and deescalators ready to intervene in instances of conflict,” as one of the organizers told AJ Campbell, the founder of the lesbian group Nice Jewish Girls, via Facebook Messenger.
This is not progressive. It’s anti-Semitic. And it’s disgusting.
The organizers have insisted that their ban is on Zionist symbols, not Jewish ones. This ignores the fact that, as Yair Rosenberg pointed out in his 2017 article about the march in Tablet, the star of David predates the modern state of Israel by several centuries and is one of Judaism’s most enduring and essential symbols.
And what kind of a march bans rainbow Jewish flags while allowing Palestinian flags? LGBTQ people have no rights under the Palestinian Authority and are even killed in Gaza for being open with their identity.
What the march has done is ban all queer Jews who feel any connection to Israel — which is itself anti-Semitic. As Rosenberg wrote in Tablet, “Jews are not collectively accountable for the actions of all other Jews, any more than Muslims, African-Americans, or immigrants are.”
If this isn’t clear, think about what it would mean if you asked a Chinese American to condemn China’s internment of Muslims or its occupation of Tibet; it would be obvious that you are racially profiling. If you asked every Muslim what they think of ISIS, it would be clear that you were engaging in Islamophobic behavior. And if you think every public display of Jewish life is connected to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel, you’re an anti-Semite.
It’s not complicated when we see bigotry waged against other groups. But when Jews call out our own oppression, it’s dismissed as being less important, or not real at all.
It’s bewildering how the same people who devote their lives to social justice can justify a ban that plays into the worst anti-Semitic tropes that have plagued Jews throughout history. One of the lead organizers, Mary Quintero-Wright, has defended the ban on Jewish flags on the grounds that “displacement is a queer issue. Everything is intersectional.”
Well, if banning Jews is considered intersectional, that’s not pride — it’s prejudice. They can call it what they want, but it’s bigotry, plain and simple.
Every LGBTQ person knows what it’s like to conceal our identity in public. It’s painful and humiliating. It’s still legal in most of the country to fire someone for being LGBTQ! That’s the point of pride parades: to express that openly and proudly.
Now, Jews wishing to march in DC’s Dyke March have to hide their expression of Jewish identity.
There’s a horrific irony to it. Marriage equality was won by two Jewish women, Edie Windsor and Roberta Kaplan. If we’re celebrating the achievements of LGBTQ history, how can we exclude the very people and communities that made it possible?
I am a lesbian who has spent much of my career fighting for the equal dignity of LGBTQ people. I am also Jewish. My client Edie Windsor, who helped to win marriage equality nationwide, was also Jewish. So was her spouse, Thea Spyer. This ban is so wrong. https://t.co/BuShzLxOPx
— Robbie Kaplan (@kaplanrobbie) June 6, 2019
If you want to erase Jews from your pride parade, you’re going to have to erase the contributions Jews have made to history, and that would mean turning back the clock. LGBTQ trailblazers like Martha Shelley, Renee Richards, and Jazz Jennings would be banned if they waved a flag reflecting their two identities. Degrading Jews means degrading LGBTQ heroes like Harvey Milk, Frank Kameny, Larry Kramer, and Evan Wolfson. Expelling Jews is a slap in the face to Magnus Hirschfeld, who fled Nazis because he was a queer Jew, and the first known person to advocate for LGBT rights. If you stand for trans rights, you have him to thank; he pioneered the first gender reassignment surgery.
The first openly gay member of congress, Barney Frank? Jewish.
The first openly gay elected governor, Jared Polis? Jewish.
The congressman leading the passage of the Equality Act, David Ciciline? Jewish.
If a rainbow flag with a crescent were banned we would all rightfully condemn that as Islamophobic. Why is it different when the flag has a Star of David on it?
I refuse to go back in the closet. And I refuse to conceal my Jewish identity to make others feel comfortable.
Editor’s note: In June 2021, after being alerted by this article’s author that he had inadvertently copied some phrases from a 2017 Tablet article by Yair Rosenberg, we added attributions to that article in two places. Several other similar phrases had been cut from the article shortly after publication, when the author had first realized his mistake. The author said that this happened because he had copied parts of Rosenberg’s article into a notes file long before writing the piece, and then confused some of Rosenberg’s phrases for his own. He expressed regret for doing so.
Peter Fox is a writer who focuses on the intersection of LGBT identity and Jewish world politics. His writing has been featured in the Times of Israel and New Voices Magazine. Follow him on twitter @thatpeterfox.