The organizers of Washington DC’s Dyke March have denied accusations of antisemitism after prohibiting Zionist or Israeli imagery.
Organizers of the lesbian visibility march said that Zionist or Israeli imagery could be considered threatening by some, such as pro-Palestinian groups.
Banned symbols include the Star of David centered on a flag, such as in the Israeli national flag.
This includes the variant of the Israeli national flag with a rainbow design, which is commonly considered a Jewish Pride flag.
DC Dyke March would like to reaffirm our support of Jewish Dykes as well as respond to recent reports concerning our policy against Nationalist symbols. Please read Jewish Dyke March Organizers Rae and Yael’s words on the subject below: https://t.co/xvFArGizhW
— DC Dyke March (@dcdykemarch) June 6, 2019
The decision to ban Israeli and Zionist imagery has been condemned by a number of Jewish groups in the US.
A handful of counter-protestors carrying Jewish Pride flags picketed the event on Friday (7 June).
Photos and videos which appear to show arguments between the two groups have been posted online.
“REMOVE THE STAR, REMOVE THE STAR” – @dcdykemarch#LGBTQ #DykeMarch https://t.co/vD9nOmpuj1 @AWiderBridge @ZionessMovement @hannsimp @HenMazzig @ShaiDeLuca @LGBTAgainstBDS @JewsMatterToMe @MxEnigma007 @lgbtzionist @americanzionism @HikindDov @AmericansAA @AntisemitismEye #March🏳️🌈 pic.twitter.com/3VlM6vG0OU
— WoMen Fight AntiSemitism (@WoMenFightAS) June 8, 2019
‘Violent nationalism does not fit with our vision of queer liberation’
In a comment piece for the Washington Blade, Dyke March organizers Yael Horowitz and Rae Gaines said that the decision to ban Zionist or Israeli imagery was part of a wider policy to prohibit nationalistic images.
The two organizers, who describe themselves as ‘Jewish Dykes and Dyke-ish Jews’, stated that ‘[imagery of] violent nationalism does not fit with our vision of queer liberation’.
Horowitz and Gaines also stated that the Star of David has only become widely synonymous with Judaism after being chosen as the symbol for the First Zionist Congress in the late 19th century.
I spoke with Bethany @bzaiman, a Jewish organizer involved with the DC Dyke March, which banned Israeli pride flags
“It’s important to us that our identity as Jews is celebrated in a way that makes space for others, especially Palestinian dykes who will also be there tomorrow.” pic.twitter.com/8KoUfJhuV6
— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) June 6, 2019
The two wrote that the march was welcoming to Jewish people, and other forms of Jewish iconography was encouraged.
‘We welcome yarmulkes, tallitot, rainbow pomegranates, Lions of Judah, Hamsas, chai, a menorah and anything that doesn’t directly replicate nationalist images and symbols,’ they wrote.
The organizers also said that Palestinian flags or pro-Palestinian imagery were permitted at the march.
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) June 7, 2019
‘They are sending a divisive message to members of the LGBTQ community’
The Dyke March has been widely criticized since announcing the ban earlier this week.
Following the announcement, a loose coalition of Jewish groups spoke out against the decision.
‘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,’ the groups said in a statement according to the Jewish Journal.
‘We hope that they will do better — for the sake and advancement of all of our communities,’ the Jewish Journal reports.
How is the @dcdykemarch inclusive when it excludes Israeli or Jewish Pride flags?
By banning the Jewish star from their event, they are sending a divisive message to members of the LGBTQ community.https://t.co/h1493KaLK2
— AJC (@AJCGlobal) June 6, 2019
The American Jewish Committee tweeted: ‘How is the @dcdykemarch inclusive when it excludes Israeli or Jewish Pride flags? By banning the Jewish star from their event, they are sending a divisive message to members of the LGBTQ community.’
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of The Anti-Defamation League called the decision ‘outrageous’. He also called on the Dyke March organizers to reverse their decision.
Polarising opinions online
The decision to ban Zionist and Israeli imagery has also been highly divisive on social media.
Rabbi Denise Eger tweeted: ‘Shame on DC Dyke March for excluding Jews and Jewish symbols. This is anti-Semitism. Plain and simple’
Shame on DC Dyke March for excluding Jews and Jewish symbols. This is anti-Semitism. Plain and simple pic.twitter.com/Syo6GME5To
— Denise Eger (@deniseeger) June 6, 2019
In contrast, Sophie Ellman-Golan, the Director of Communications and Digital Outreach at Women’s March, tweeted: ‘I am genuinely curious. I actually understand not wanting Israeli flags (or USA flags!) at Dyke March events because of the association with state repression and state violence that queer liberation movements have always stood against. But the Magen David is JEWISH, not Israeli.’
I am genuinely curious. I actually understand not wanting Israeli flags (or USA flags!) at Dyke March events because of the association with state repression and state violence that queer liberation movements have always stood against.
But the Magen David is JEWISH, not Israeli.
— Sophie Ellman-Golan (@EgSophie) June 6, 2019
Not a first
Dyke Marches in the US have faced accusations of antisemitism in the past.
A Dyke March in Chicago expelled three marchers for carrying Jewish Pride flags.
Organizers initially said the women were asked to leave the march as the flags could be a threat to other attendees.
However, they later said they were expelled from the march for being pro-Israel activists, and their ‘Zionist stance and support for Israel’.
The following year, Jewish groups in Chicago said they were reluctant to attend the event. The groups cited concerns over their safety and of being alienated.