A Q&A from IfNotNow DC, a community partner of DC Dyke March. IfNotNow DC members shared a shorter version of this piece as a zine at Dyke Fest on May 19, 2019, and we’ll see y’all at DC Dyke March on June 7!
Q: Are Jewish dykes welcome at DC Dyke March?
Q: Why does it sometimes seem as though liberation for Jews and liberation for Palestinians are at odds with each other?
A: Because white supremacy wants to divide us! Antisemitism structurally makes intersectional organizing more difficult by making Jews feel afraid of non-Jews. Zionism and the State of Israel are important to some Jews, but the particular way that the State of Israel was founded caused catastrophic harm to Palestinians. Antisemitism and white supremacy have pitted Jews and Palestinians against each other, and we say enough!
Q: What is antisemitism?
A: “Originating in European Christianity, antisemitism is the form of ideological oppression that targets Jews. In Europe and the United States it has functioned to protect the prevailing economic system and the almost exclusively Christian ruling class by diverting blame for hardship onto Jews.”
— Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ), Understanding Antisemitism
Q: What is Anti-Zionism?
A: “‘Anti-Zionism’ is a loose term referring to criticism of the current policies of the Israeli state, and/or moral, ethical, or religious criticism of the idea of a Jewish nation-state. There has been debate, criticism and opposition to Zionism within Jewish thought for as long as it has existed… There are also many non-Jewish anti-Zionists whose perspectives may be informed by moral criticism of the policies of the Israeli government, problems with the impact of Zionist thinking in Israel on non-Jewish residents, and/or a criticism of ethno-nationalism more broadly.”
— Jewish Voice for Peace, “Our Approach to Zionism.”
Q: What is the difference between antisemitism and Anti-Zionism?
A: Antisemitism is hatred of Jews for being Jews, also known as bigotry.
Anti-Zionism is criticism of the actions and policies of the State of Israel and/or criticism of the idea of a Jewish nation-state.
Q: What is IfNotNow’s position on Zionism?
A: A principle of our movement is: “We focus on what unites rather than what divides us…We do not take a unified stance on BDS, Zionism or the question of statehood. We work together to end American Jewish support for the occupation.” Zionism in practice causes many harms, but Zionism as a conceptual movement for Jewish liberation, and Israel as a place where Jewish people live and visit, are dear to many Jews. Most mainstream Jewish institutions assume all Jews must be Zionist and even hide from young Jews the reality of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians, so many Jewish dykes are unfamiliar with the harms Zionism has caused to Palestinians. We can take seriously the harms Zionism causes to Palestinians and to some Jews, and also welcome Jewish dykes who hold a variety of perspectives on Israel and Zionism.
Q: I want to show that I’m a proud Jewish dyke! Are there things I should think about?
A: Jewish dykes deserve to be proud of their Jewishness at DC Dyke March. Certain symbols of Jewishness have been co-opted by the pinkwashing movement, an effort to conceal Israel’s harms against Palestinians. Palestinian dykes deserve to be proud of their Palestinian-ness at DC Dyke March too, and we believe that Jewish and Palestinian dykes can celebrate shared liberation at DC Dyke March. Is it frustrating that Jews are uniquely expected to consider another marginalized group’s needs before showing our own pride? Absolutely! It is very frustrating that Israel violates Palestinians’ human rights in the name of Jews around the world.
Q: What happened at Chicago Dyke March in 2017 and why were people upset about it?
A: A few Jewish dykes who were associated with A Wider Bridge, an Israel lobbying organization that engages in pinkwashing, brought a rainbow flag with a Star of David in the middle of it, which looks a lot like an Israeli flag, a Zionist symbol. These dykes purposefully disrupted the march and harassed attendees during the rally. Organizers of the march, including other Jewish dykes, asked them to stop their disruptive, harassing behavior and to put the flag away. They told press that they felt as though they could not be openly Jewish at Chicago Dyke March. This caused many Jewish dykes who heard about the event to worry that they would be unwelcome or asked to hide their Jewishness in dyke spaces. The dykes associated with A Wider Bridge took advantage of common public misunderstanding of the difference between being proudly Jewish, and carrying a flag that represented Zionism. This can be confusing because the Jewish star has been co-opted by Zionism and the State of Israel.
Q: What is pinkwashing?
A: Pinkwashing is the practice of a country or corporation presenting itself as queer-friendly and progressive in order to downplay their negative behavior. The State of Israel practices pinkwashing by promoting itself as a safe haven for queer and trans people. This distracts attention from Israel’s denial of Palestinian human rights, erases queer and trans Palestinians and some queer and trans Jews who don’t have a safe haven in Israel, and promotes the Islamophobic and anti-Arab racist narrative that Palestinian queers must be saved from Arab and Muslim society.
Q: Why is IfNotNow cosponsoring DC Dyke March?
A: One of IfNotNow’s principles as a movement is “We show up for others. We stand with other movements, such as those working for racial, economic, and gender justice. We are building a world in which American Jews use our unique position to fight for the liberation of all people.” We are also here to show up for ourselves: there are a lot of Jewish dykes who are members of IfNotNow DC, and our work for queer and trans liberation and for Jewish liberation are deeply connected.
Q: Can we talk more about the rainbow flag with the Star of David in the middle? What’s wrong with bringing that flag to DC Dyke March, and what are my other options?
A: The flag that caused so much consternation back in 2017 was a rainbow flag with a Star of David in the middle that used the same proportions and line art as the Star of David in the middle of the Israeli flag. It was very specifically an Israeli flag and a rainbow flag merged together, a specifically Zionist symbol, not a neutral symbol of Jewish pride. DC Dyke March is a liberatory space for all dykes, and that includes liberation from violence, from cops, from militarism, and from nationalism. “We are asking people to not bring nationalist symbols because violent nationalism does not fit with our vision of queer liberation,” says a recent piece from DC Dyke March organizers.
So DC Dyke March welcomes Jewish dykes and does not welcome nationalist symbols. What symbols of Jewish dyke pride are available to us? Paint a rainbow Star of David on your face! Scrawl the words YIDDISHKEIT DYKES across a rainbow flag, or a lesbian pride flag, a bi pride flag, an ace pride flag, a trans pride flag! Or if Yiddishkeit isn’t your thing, take your pride flag of choice and put a big menorah on it, or a Hamsa or a chai or a pomegranate, or a cool dinosaur wearing Star of David sunglasses and eating a bagel! Wear a yarmulke, your rainbow tallis, maybe booty shorts that say Jewish Dyke across the ass! There are so many options! Go wild! See you there!
Jill Raney, Rae Gaines, and Sarah Beth Alcabes are members of IfNotNow DC involved in organizing DC Dyke March.