This past Sunday afternoon, as our local Pride parade streamed by, signifying the semi-official end of our Pride weekend, I sat down to have a much-deserved drink and smoke, and casually checked my phone. There was an email from my editor at The Advocate letting me know about the Dyke March in Chicago, where a group of Jewish attendees were thrown out because they were carrying a Pride flag with a Star of David on it, which made attendees uncomfortable.
I simply rolled my eyes, shook my head, and muttered a well-earned “Goddamn it, people.” The organizers made sure to defend themselves with a statement that said they were certainly not anti-Semitic but were anti-Zionist and supported a free Palestine. They also made sure to let people know that they were welcoming of all, embraced diversity, and were not bad people. Well, of course they aren’t. They’re not bad people, just political partisans who are using LGBT issues to push their ideological agenda, which ironically is what they were accusing these individuals of doing, though only after apparently interrogating them.
What’s interesting is that according to everything I’ve read, these individuals weren’t carrying Israeli flags, just Pride flags with a Star of David on them. Now, yes, the Israeli flag does have a Star of David on it, but the Star of David is not the Israeli flag. Crazy concept, I know, but follow me on this one. The Star of David is an emblem of the Jewish faith that goes back over a thousand years, much like the crescent for Islam or the cross for Christianity. In fact, the image of the Star of David is called the Seal of Solomon in Islamic mysticism, it’s a symbol that predates the nation of Israel by centuries. So what appears to have happened is that a few people saw a hexagram and immediately concluded, “Star of David=Israel=Zionism=Evil.”
This is simple thinking for simple people who want a simple ideology that makes them feel righteous. That’s the problem, though; when you feel righteous in a belief that reduces the overwhelming complexity of humanity and the world to symbols, stereotypes, and a basic good versus evil dynamic, you usually end up being a bigoted zealot. This time around, these bigoted zealots have wrapped themselves in a rainbow shroud to defend their beliefs.
All of this stems from something a part of the left calls “pinkwashing,” which has come to describe the way Israel promotes its LGBT acceptance to allegedly cover up its mistreatment of the Palestinians in the occupied territories. Let me go ahead and say this right now and get this out of the way: If you think you can reduce the cosmic nightmare that is the Israel-Palestine conflict to fancy buzzwords, either/or equations, and a black-and-white morality, you are a moron.
The Arab/Palestinian-Israeli conflict is easily the most morally, legally, and geopolitically complex issue of modern history, with its roots going back hundreds of years, and is almost baked into the two sides' identities. Oh, yes, I said the two sides because there is no “good guy” in this. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians have committed atrocities, violated human rights, broken treaties, and used religion and propaganda as weapons. I don’t pretend to think I have a simple solution or a hashtag-worthy buzzword to frame an issue this complex.
Additionally, and this is very important to understand, to use LGBT+ issues as a shield for your pro-Palestinian stance on the conflict is fundamentally morally abhorrent and hypocritical. For 10 years one of the participants in the Dyke March has carried her Jewish Pride flag with no incident till now. According to her, only anti-LGBT protesters harassed her previously, and they were asked to leave.
Yet now the organizers who objected to the flag want to claim inclusivity, intersectionality, and acceptance. Well, you can’t say that and exclude one group of people at the expense of another, especially when the primary thing binding you together is being LGBT. The uniting factor here is LGBT+ rights, which are used to find that commonality that breaks down prejudices and systems of oppression, and all other things come second. What happened in Chicago was people choosing a side in a complex geopolitical conflict and attacking LGBT+ Jews by using their own queer identities as weapons.
The culpable Dyke March organizers claim that they are inclusive and fighting for social justice, but only if the participants believe like them and support their politics, and all other things be damned. The Jews who were expelled and made to feel ostracized and unwelcome despite their own queer identities were sacrificed for these people to further their goals, as if throwing three gay Jews out of the Dyke March would accomplish anything.
Well, I guess it did in a way. It told these people that their own feelings of oppression and marginalization, along with their queerness, don’t count because they don’t have the same politics; that their lives, their experiences, their pain don’t matter as long as some vastly abstracted conflict on the other side of the planet is decided in these people’s favor.
The people responsible for the embarrassment in Chicago value their chosen political allies and comfort in their beliefs over everything else. That’s not intersectional or inclusive; that’s a partisan, ideological tactic that will gladly hurt people to achieve its ends. There’s nothing about social justice here, just a particular cruelty that’s the seed of much darker things.
If you are going to call yourself an LGBT+ group, take its identifiers, and claim to speak and represent the LGBT+ community, then you represent all of them, you protect all of them, and you use that aspect to find the common ground to build bridges.
When you call yourself something like the “Dyke March” and throw out queer women because they believe something that only through a Byzantine and contrived web can be related to LGBT+ issues, you are no longer a gay rights group; you are a political group with a partisan ideology that has decided to wrap itself in a rainbow flag and use it to deflect and obfuscate that fact. Your queerness is no longer a positive thing, but something weaponized to achieve an end that has no real effect on LGBT+ issues in the greater scheme of things. It is, in all reality, “pinkwashing,” and a very obvious and hypocritical kind at that.
AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian based in Oklahoma City. Follow her on Twitter @EternalKerri.