One would think that the organizers of last Friday’s Dyke March in Washington, D.C., would have been anxious for support from participants of all stripes who wanted to join the march and carry a gay pride rainbow flag. But it turns out that if the flag also had a large Star of David displayed in the middle — as a projection of Jewish pride in support of LGBTQ rights — that support was not welcome to the march. The reason, according to organizers? The Jewish star display in the middle of the flag was too similar to the display of the Star of David on the flag of Israel, an image that would make march participants feel “unsafe.”
Then came the clarifications — and things got even more troubling. According to march organizers, Stars of David were welcome anywhere you wanted to wear one, even on a pride flag, but only if it was small and as far away from the center of the flag as possible. Wear a tallit, a kippah or tzitzit, they said. Just don’t bring anything that reminds anyone of the flag of Israel. The U.S. flag was also banned. Both are countries with “specific oppressive tendencies,” according to organizers, and their flags were not welcome. But the Palestinian flag was not banned. “Palestinian flags are allowed because we believe they represent the hope for freedom for the Palestinian people,” said march organizer Jill Raney, who is Jewish and a member of the group IfNotNow.
Hypocritical, or just ironic? While Tel Aviv has been named the No. 1 gay city in the world by several travel magazines, and while LGBTQ people living in Israel are provided with legal rights not found elsewhere in the Middle East — including protections against employment discrimination and freedom to serve openly in the military — homosexuality remains illegal in Gaza. LGBTQ rights are likewise not protected in the West Bank.
Two Jewish march organizers, Yael Horowitz and Rae Gaines, were explicit: “As we help build the inclusive, welcoming space of the DC Dyke March, we feel extra proud to be feygeles with a lot of chutzpah — to be openly self-loving anti-Zionist Dyke Jews.”
Organizers’ use of Yiddish didn’t make the Dyke March policy any less offensive, nor did they make their argument more compelling. The publicized theme for the march was displacement, affordable housing and support of the LGBTQ community, all of which are endorsed by very large segments of the Jewish community and its pro-Israel, Zionist core. As such, it is mystifying why organizers chose to manufacture a dispute over the Star of David — a cultural, religious and spiritual symbol —for naked political purposes that had nothing to do with march objectives. Moreover, the hint of anti-Semitism in the ban was not assuaged by Jewish organizers arguing, “I’m Jewish, so my decision to exclude Jewish symbols is OK.”
Ultimately, a handful of protesters carrying Jewish pride flags were allowed into the march despite the ban.
But this is not the first time that Jews have been excluded from LGBTQ events. In 2017, the Chicago Dyke March booted participants who were carrying the same Jewish pride flag. Yet in 2018, marchers at the Chicago Dyke March were spotted prominently sporting Palestinian flags.
Multiple Jewish groups, including Keshet, Zioness Movement, A Wider Bridge, Jewish Democratic Council of America and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington criticized the Dyke March’s Star of David policy, as did the National LGBTQ Task Force — which withdrew as a partner in the march because of the policy — and they were right to do so.
In a march whose theme was focused on tolerance, acceptance and inclusion, the clumsy, agenda-driven exclusion of a Jewish symbol was discriminatory and unacceptable. pjc