Two years after the Chicago Dyke March was criticized for ejecting participants carrying rainbow flags bearing the Star of David, a symbol of Israel and Judaism, the Washington, D.C., Dyke March is banning similar flags.
The D.C. Dyke March will be held Friday, after a hiatus of 12 years, The Washington Post reports. The Capital Pride parade and festival will be held Saturday, and the Dyke March is meant for people who typically feel excluded from Pride celebrations because of their race, religion, class, or gender identity, organizers said.
But controversy arose after a woman called organizers and asked if she would be welcome to carry the rainbow flag with the Jewish star. Yael Horowitz, a march organizer who is Jewish, told the Post the event would ban that flag along with all “nationalist symbols,” including those representing “nations that have specific oppressive tendencies.” Other items with Jewish symbols will be welcome, she said.
That did not satisfy A.J. Campbell, the woman who inquired. “I just thought, the Chicago Dyke March is happening all over again — here,” she told the Post. She has carried the flag in marches in New York City and elsewhere, she said. “I’ve been a Jewish lesbian for a long time, and it’s never been a problem. ... They seem to have very specific ideas about what kind of Jew I’m supposed to be, and I don’t feel like they get to say that,” she added.
The controversy over the flag has to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some see Israel’s occupation of land claimed by the Palestinians as oppressive. But others see the Palestinian nationalist group Hamas as a terrorist organization. There have been accusations that Israel is “pinkwashing” itself by highlighting its LGBTQ-friendly policies to downplay problematic aspects of the nation. There have also been accusations that opposition to Israel and to Zionism, the belief that Jews should have their own nation, amount to anti-Semitism, while others say that one can criticize Israel and Zionism without being anti-Semitic.
“The claim is that we are banning Jewish symbols, which is entirely untrue,” Horowitz and another organizer, Rae Gaines, wrote in the Washington Blade, in response to other media coverage. “We are asking people to not bring nationalist symbols because violent nationalism does not fit with our vision of queer liberation. And because we need the march to be a space that is as welcoming to Palestinian Dykes as it is to Jewish Dykes.”
The Pride flag with the Star of David very closely resembles the Israeli flag, they wrote, and they said the star itself became a major symbol of Judaism only with the beginnings of Zionism in the late 19th century. “That being said, 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,” they added. “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.”
But Campbell and a group of Jewish organizations said the policy excludes those “who consider Israel to be the rightful homeland of the Jewish people.”
“The DC Dyke March should know better than to stoke the flames of division and pain by driving a wedge between Queer Arabs and Jews at a time we must stand united against homo- and transphobia, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia,” read a statement signed by Campbell, the Jewish LGBTQ group A Wider Bridge, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, and the Jewish feminist group Zioness. “We hope that they will do better –– for the sake and advancement of all of our communities.”
The march is scheduled to step off at 5 p.m. at McPherson Square.