Jewish groups, among them San Francisco’s Jewish Community Relations Council and A Wider Bridge, have denounced the banning of Jewish Pride flags at a lesbian march in Chicago, and have demanded an apology for the act they described as “anti-Semitic, plain and simple.”
Organizers of the 21st annual Chicago Dyke March ordered three women to leave the June 24 march because they were carrying rainbow flags with a white Star of David in the center. They were told the flags would be a “trigger,” or traumatic stimulus, for people who found them offensive, that they “made people feel unsafe,” and that the march was “anti-Zionist” and “pro-Palestinian.”
In a June 25 statement on Twitter, organizers said the women were asked to leave “after they repeatedly expressed support for Zionism.”
A Wider Bridge, a North American LGBTQ organization that aims to build support for Israel and its LGBTQ community, was singled out for criticism. The statement by march organizers noted that one of the women was the group’s regional head, and that A Wider Bridge “has connections to the Israeli state and to far-right, pro-Israel interest groups … and has been protested for provocative actions at other LGBTQ events … for using Israel’s supposed ‘LGBTQ tolerance’ to pinkwash the violent occupation of Palestine.”
“Pinkwashing” is a term used to criticize Israel for promoting its LGBTQ-friendly society as a cover for alleged human rights violations.
In a June 26 statement, A Wider Bridge deputy director Tye Gregory said, “We are deeply disturbed by the exclusion of A Wider Bridge Midwest Manager Laurie Grauer and her friends from the Chicago Dyke March, an annual event attended by 1,500 queer women and allies in Chicago. Laurie was proud to carry a rainbow Jewish flag in the march, as has been tradition for her and her friends for a decade. That the organizers would choose to dismiss long-time community members for choosing to express their Jewish identity or spirituality runs counter to the very values the Dyke March claims to uphold, and veers down a dangerous path toward anti-Semitism. We call on the Dyke March to issue a full public apology.”
On June 27, A Wider Bridge, which was founded in San Francisco in 2010, launched a petition demanding Chicago Dyke March organizers issue a written apology and a written statement affirming inclusion of all LGBTQ Jews, as well as commit to having a meeting with representatives from A Wider Bridge and the ADL to “learn about the ugly manifestations of anti-Semitism against the Jewish community.” The S.F.-based JCRC joined in the petition drive, calling on march organizers for a “full public apology.”
The ADL said in a statement that march organizers should apologize for what it described as an “outrageous” action.
“The community of LGBTQ supporters is diverse and that is part of its tremendous strength,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL. “Both the act and the explanation were anti-Semitic, plain and simple. We stand with A Wider Bridge and others in demanding an apology. We appreciate the Human Rights Campaign’s support and we call on other leaders from LGBTQ and progressive communities to join us in condemning this exclusion.”
The Human Rights Campaign, which calls itself the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization (with 1.5 million members), tweeted its support for the ousted Jewish women.
Marches should be safe spaces to celebrate our diversity and our pride. This is not right. https://t.co/LXloRQvXi0
— HumanRightsCampaign (@HRC) June 25, 2017
“Marches should be safe spaces to celebrate our diversity and our pride. This is not right,” the group wrote.
In a statement issued the day after the march, the Chicago Dyke March said that Palestinian and Jewish anti-Zionist marchers approached the women and expressed concern about the flags since they are “visually reminiscent of the Israeli flag” due to the placement of the Star of David in the middle, and because such flags are widely used in “pinkwashing.”
On why we asked folks to leave the rally at Piotrowski Park yesterday pic.twitter.com/4FKSStFFF2
— Chicago Dyke March (@DykeMarchChi) June 25, 2017
The women were asked to leave, according to the statement, after they began “defending the state of Israel and Zionism as a whole.” The statement continued: “It became clear that the political position of the marchers was at odds with the anti-racist and anti-Zionist ethos of Dyke March Chicago.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, also denounced the banning of the Jewish Pride flags, saying it “brings disgrace to a movement that is dedicated to equal rights for all.”
“Equal rights that is except for Jews who dare to celebrate their ties to their people and the Jewish homeland,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the center, said in a statement.
He added: “The unbridled hypocrisy and anti-Semitism of these campaigners degrades the cause for equality for all in our society and for LGBTQ rights around the world.”
The Chicago chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, which backs the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, offered its support to march organizers, retweeting their statement and declaring, “We stand 100% w @DykeMarchChi.”