Participant with Jewish Pride flag walking in the 2017 Tel Aviv Pride Parade.
(photo credit: BECKY BROTHMAN)
As a Jewish Dyke, founder of The Jacob’s Tent Project and former director of Nice Jewish Girls, a 12-year-old group of Jewish queer women here in Washington, DC, I watched the reporting at the Chicago Dyke March with shame. Laurie Grauer, Midwest Manager of A Wider Bridge, and her friends were “dismissed” from the Dyke March, she said, for carrying a pride flag with a Jewish star on it.
The Dyke March is an annual event created for to raise visibility for the female queer community by taking to the streets. The first march was in Vancouver in 1981, with other cities following with the first official March taking place in Washington, DC. Unlike pride parades and pride festivals, the Dyke March has always been a people focused event. There are no floats or big corporate sponsors, just women taking to the streets. The founding had nothing to do with Israel. I don’t think the women at the Chicago march knew or approved of the anti-Israel stance that the organizers took. Most of the marchers just should up as they always do probably unaware of the change in the organization.
I was shocked when I explored the incident further, including how the Twitter feed of the Dyke March organizers (twitter.com/dykemarchchi) had retweeted anti-zionist rhetoric including from a particularly pro-Palestine group gloating at how they were affirmed by the Dyke March’s decision. A group called For The People Collect (FTP) is a a vehemently anti-Israel group whose only artistic talent seems to be painting “ZIONISM SUCKS” signs with the skill of a pre-schooler. In their celebration and in solidarity with the people who run the Dyke March, they write:
“For the People Artists Collective (FTP) applauds the decision of Dyke March Chicago (DMC) to protect Palestinian participants of the march by removing a group of openly Zionist marchers from yesterday’s event...” (http://www.forthepeoplecollective.org/ against-zionism-in-solidarity-with-dyke-march-chicago/)
Like most scared little children, they don’t have the guts to come out with what they are really saying. It is the same thing that so many others have said, like their art, is it hardly original. In their narrow protected world view there is:
“.. there is no room for Zionism of any kind. It is a racist and colonialist ideology that rationalizes violence against Black and brown people, particularly Palestinians. “ While meandering and pointless, their statement does confirm that the Wider Bridge contingent was minding their own business till they were approached by the FTP folks who provoked them.
These organizers are polluting the sacred history of the Dyke March with their own politics. I think these flags are about Jewish Queer pride, not Zionist pride and that these women conflate the two is not just phenomenally ignorant, it’s outrageous.
What the organizers want is to silence us and make us invisible. Is there no place for dyke Jews in Chicago? Some of us are Zionist but many are not. I thought the whole purpose of this March was to make it inclusive. Unlike other marches. Wasn’t that the whole point? Oh, that is, up to A point. And that point is up until it contradicts THEIR politics - Israel and the Jews. Not Syria or Yemen or Saudi Arabia or Qatar. Not Nigeria or Sudan or the Congo or Chad. Not North Korea or China. Not Putin’s Russia. Only Israel and the Jews. Chicago’s Jewish dykes, whether they’re self-professed Zionists or not.
There seems to be something about Chicago and anti-Jewish sentiment. We will recall last year in Chicago at the Creating Change conference, a group of 100+ protesters stormed the Wider Bridge Shabbat service. Chanting about Pink-washing in Israel. The assertion that Israel puts its visible acceptance of gay people forward to cover up – or at least redirect attention from – its treatment of Palestinians. An assertion that seems to have an unnatural home at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Conference. It is hard not to believe that there is a connection.
Being outraged at the way my Chicago sisters were treated is understandable, but being outraged with a slacktivist post on Facebook does not cut it. The purpose of the Dyke March as envisioned by the Lesbian Avengers who started the march, was visibility for the lesbian community that to this day can be overshadowed by our Queer brothers, in both organizing and fundraising. We lesbians are different, with separate needs and wants.
We are at a critical point in the lesbian community, where our acceptance in the community as a whole has made our institutions falter and eventually fade. Our larger Jewish community can help us by being great allies and showing up in numbers for marches and protests with us.
What that tells me is that they need more Jewish queer women to show up at the table and make sure theirs is another voice to be heard. We need to bring out synagogues, federations and community centers together to march with us. One or two of us can be intimidated but not a big group of us. We are harder to ignore and marginalize when we show up in numbers. Isn’t that the lesson we learn from pride?
A.J. Campbell is a former director of the Nice Jewish Girls the nation’s only exclusively female Jewish community and founder of the Jacob’s Tent Project, to connect the Jewish community with DC area pride events. She lives in Washington, DC with her family.