A Washington “Dyke March” is under attack by Zionist groups for its ban on Israel pride flags, which they say represents Israeli nationalism – not Judaism.
A “Dyke March” scheduled for Friday in Washington is under attack by Zionist groups for its ban on Israeli pride flags at the event.
Dyke marches are a tradition in the U.S. that typically precede regular pride marches: they are distinguishable because they tend to engage in direct action, such as dropping banners and blocking traffic, and the participants typically hold more radical politics.
In 2017, a group of activists with a pro-Israel lobbying group called A Wider Bridge instigated a massive scandal in the media after they went to the explicitly anti-Zionist Chicago Dyke March and unfurled Israeli flags with rainbows on them. After screaming at activists participating in the march, they were asked by organizers to ditch the flags.
What followed was a media firestorm and denunciations of the Chicago Dyke March by online influencers and journalists, claiming it was an example of anti-Semitism on the left. Their argument was that because the flags had Stars of David on them, they were symbols of queer Jewish identity.
At the time, the media told the story as though the women who disrupted the march were just regular participants, erasing their membership in A Wider Bridge. The lobbying group’s primary funders also bankroll anti-gay, anti-Muslim, and pro-settlement activists.
At the time, I argued in an opinion piece that the flags were not Jewish symbols; that there is no universal conception of the meaning of symbols — including the Star of David — nor are they dissociable from their material contexts. Thus, in that sense, a Star of David around a person’s neck is not a Zionist symbol but a Jewish one, whereas a Star of David painted on a boulder at a checkpoint in the illegally occupied West Bank is a Zionist symbol.
Zionism refers to the idea of Israel belonging to Jews as their exclusive, God-given right. Once a more religious movement, the creation of the Israeli state and its repeated land grabs, ethnic cleansings, and violations of human rights have rendered the movement one of far-right ethnonationalism.
Facing relentless charges of anti-Semitism over my view of the flag as a Zionist symbol, I wrote at the time: “My earliest experience with [the Star of David] was probably as a charm around my mother’s neck. In adulthood, it was on the tag of the yarmulke I would wear when I’d help make a minyan.” It was a distinction that I think was and still is important.
The context of the Star of David on a rainbow flag is one of Israel’s most vital symbols in its international Hasbara (a term for Israeli propaganda) campaign: that being Israel’s supposed friendliness to gay rights. Armed with talking points like that, apartheid Israel is able to get away with claiming that it is the only democracy in the Middle East, even though Palestinians don’t have equal rights and Benjamin Netanyahu currently occupies the positions of prime minister, defense minister, health minister, education minister and, for a brief period earlier this week, justice minister.
On Thursday, private messages between the DC Dyke March and a Jewish woman named AJ Campbell started making the rounds to journalists, likely having been forwarded to them by the woman. She asked the DC Dyke March whether she would be allowed to bring the Israeli pride flag. Following the lead of the Dyke March in Chicago, DC organizers deliberated internally and told her no.
Alleged anti-Semitic group stacked with Jews
MintPress News has confirmed that at least five organizers working with the DC Dyke March are Jewish, and some of them are central figures in the organizing process. Two have written an op-ed explaining their position. They note that symbols of Judaism are allowed, but symbols of “oppressive nationalism” are not. They write:
The Star of David represents more than just Israel when not on a flag and can be brought to the march in many other forms without question. It is not the only symbol available to us. We welcome yarmulkes, tallitot, tefillin, rainbow pomegranates, Lions of Judah, Hamsas, chai, a menorah and anything that doesn’t directly replicate nationalist images and symbols.”
One Jewish anti-Zionist organizer, Bethany Zaiman, spoke to MintPress News yesterday after reports started emerging of the ban. Zaiman elaborated on the reasons for the ban:
It’s a symbol of the Israeli state, not of all Jews everywhere but the Israeli state in particular, and the Israeli state is involved in military apartheid and occupying Palestinian land.
Pinkwashing is something that Israel has been famously a part of, which is where they embrace symbols of queer identity and queer liberation to prove they are a democratic state; that they’re welcoming and open. But it erases the existence of violent state regimes that they are also a part of and actually isn’t for queer liberation. Queer liberation has to involve all queers, including and especially Palestinian queers or it’s not really liberation.
The DC Dyke March has taken an anti-Zionist stance, which means we have asked that people not bring Israeli flags with rainbows on them. We’re asking people to not bring any signs of nationalist identity that overtly oppresses other people who may also be at the DC Dyke March.
It’s important to us that our identity as Jews is celebrated in a way that makes space for others, especially Palestinian dykes who will also be there tomorrow.”
“We stand on a long history of Jewish lesbian feminists who have done this sort of organizing work,” Zaiman added.
Bethany Zaiman @bzaiman says Zionist groups are painting the DC Dyke March as not inclusive of Jews & even anti-Semitic even though many Jews are involved. She says Israel uses queer symbols to try to prove they are open & democratic & distract from their military apartheid pic.twitter.com/zRLE4szTJA
— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) June 6, 2019
Despite the careful messaging, the DC Dyke March has been condemned as anti-Semitic. As can be seen with Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K., painting leftist critics of Israel as anti-Semites is a top priority of the super-powerful Hasbarist groups around the world
A well-coordinated opposition
A number of articles have already been published criticizing the DC Dyke March, including from major Jewish publications like The Forward, the Jerusalem Post and more. One op-ed from Julie Tagen, who does not disclose that she is Rep. Jamie Raskin’s (D-MD) chief of staff, states that she had worked with A Wider Bridge previously. She was also Deputy National Finance Director for the Democratic National Committee for a few years:
Several years ago, I had the privilege of going on one of A Wider Bridge’s LGBTQ Leadership Missions to Israel. A Wider Bridge is a North American organization that is building support for Israel and LGBTQ Israelis. I was able to build a personal rather than political relationship with Israel through my experience with A Wider Bridge.”
But her relationship isn’t entirely personal, it seems. She has shared articles claiming “I’m done apologizing for Israel,” “If you love Israel, don’t boycott it,” and “I stand with Israel.”
Meanwhile, A Wider Bridge has put out a statement attacking the DC Dyke March. The organization’s slogan: “Equality IN Israel and Equality FOR Israel.”
Signed on to the statement is AJ Campbell, the woman who initially corresponded with the march, learning that she could not bring the Israeli pride flags.
Campbell is the former director of Nice Jewish Girls and founder of the Jacob’s Tent Project, both of which are Jewish LGBTQ organizations with apparent Zionist leanings. Also signed on to the statement is Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and the Zioness Movement.
A Wider Bridge, the Zioness Movement, and the Jewish Democratic Council of America are planning a counter-protest to the DC Dyke March, encouraging people to bring banned flags and noting “We will have Zioness posters.”
The counter-protest planners say they will “show up proudly to fight” anti-Semitism.
Bethany Zaiman, one of the Jewish organizers working with the DC Dyke March, told MintPress News that they suspected they would face opposition. She says that the counter-protesters will find no anti-Semitism.
MintPress News will cover the march on Facebook Live and with videos on Twitter after 5:00pm EST.
Feature photo | Israelis attend a gay pride parade in Jerusalem, Sept. 18, 2014. Tsafrir Abayov | AP
Alexander Rubinstein is a staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He reports on police, prisons and protests in the United States and the United States’ policing of the world. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News