Calling yourself progressive doesn't make this discrimination any less regressive or shameful
|Jun 7|| 8|
One of the unfortunate things about reporting on anti-Semitism—the world’s oldest hatred—is that you find yourself writing the same story over and over again. Today is one of those days.
Back in 2017, Jewish lesbians were ejected from the Chicago Dyke March, a radical alternative to the city’s annual Pride Parade. Their crime? Carrying Jewish pride flags, which feature a star of David on a rainbow background. For its part, the march claimed that the Jewish star, one of the most recognizable symbols of the faith, was actually “Zionist” and thus “threatening” and “triggering” to their group.
At the time, this anti-Semitic discrimination masquerading as anti-Zionism was condemned by a wide spectrum of organizations, from the Human Rights Campaign to the Anti-Defamation League to the Anne Frank Center. In response, the Chicago Dyke March doubled down and deployed a bona fide neo-Nazi slur popularized by David Duke. Surveying this fiasco, one would have thought that others would not want to emulate the Chicago group’s conduct. One would be wrong.
This Friday, the Washington D.C. Dyke March is being revived after 12 years on hiatus. And it, too, has decided to ban Jewish pride flags. The march, which claims to be a more “inclusive” alternative to the annual D.C. Pride Parade, seemed to miss the irony of revictimizing a victimized population at an event purportedly meant to celebrate identity in the face of oppression. Needless to say, this has not gone over well with the local Jewish community and protests have been lodged by the Jewish Community Relations Council and ADL, among others. As A.J. Campbell, the former director of D.C.’s longstanding Jewish lesbian group Nice Jewish Girls, poignantly put it: “I didn’t come out of one closet just to be forced back into another.”
As is often the case with higher profile incidents of anti-Semitism, the march’s apologists have attempted to obfuscate the issue and obscure its bigotry. This also happened in 2017, which prompted me to write a piece entitled “Four Reasons The Chicago Dyke March Was Anti-Semitic.” And so, for those in D.C. and anywhere else who might have missed it, here it is once more, updated and revised for this ignominious occasion. Let’s hope I don’t need to write this one again.
Four Reasons the D.C. Dyke March's Ban on Jewish Pride Flags is Anti-Semitic
1. The star of David is one of Judaism’s basic symbols. It dates back many centuries before the founding of the state of Israel and appears on Jewish gravestones around the world. It is worn by all Jewish chaplains in the U.S. Army, and the Nazis forced Jews across Europe to wear it to identify themselves. If one of Judaism’s classic symbols makes you feel “threatened,” the problem is with you, not the symbol. If members of your organization complain about a Jewish pride flag because it looks like an Israeli one, and your response is to expel the Jews with the flag rather than educate your members to tell the difference, you are not an opponent of anti-Semitism, you are an accomplice to it.
Jews threateningly sport Jewish stars at the Buchenwald concentration camp during the Holocaust. (U.S. Holocaust Museum)
2. Jews are not collectively accountable for the actions of all other Jews, any more than Muslims, African-Americans, or immigrants are. If you feel the need to interrogate every Muslim and demand they denounce a Muslim country or group before allowing them into your space, you are a bigot. If you feel compelled to interrogate every Jew and demand they denounce Israel (or any other Jews or Jewish actions) before allowing them into your space, you are a racist.
3. Medieval Christian Europe persecuted its Jews because it considered them responsible for the alleged acts of completely different Jews in the Middle East. The Chicago and DC Dyke Marches have done the exact same thing to American Jews. While these people present themselves as the farthest thing from medieval theocracy, they are actually reenacting its worst pathologies. Being progressive does not insulate you from falling prey to bigotry anymore than being conservative does, which is why this particular expression of anti-Semitism—blaming random Jews around the world for the actions of other Jews thousands of miles away—continues to be a staple of even enlightened discourse, from the BBC to Swedish public radio.
4. During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump shared an anti-Semitic meme on Twitter featuring a Jewish star. When confronted, he insisted it was not a Jewish star, but a sheriff’s star. Similarly, in the face of the obvious, the Chicago and now D.C. Dyke March insist that the Jewish star is actually an Israeli star. When you find yourself in the same Jewsplaining rabbit hole as Donald Trump, it’s time to rethink your life choices.
One final point: According to the Washington Post, the D.C. Dyke March is expecting some 1000 people on Friday, most of whom are doubtless entirely unaware that the event has been organized under anti-Semitic auspices. The problem is not with those attendees, but with those who set the anti-Semitic terms of engagement—and those who defend them now. Judge accordingly.
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