a wonderful example of thought control at its creepiest

Anti-Semitism Again Rises in LGBTQ Chicago
Dana Beyer, Executive Director, Gender Rights Maryland, HuffPost, Jun 25 2017

Yesterday 1500 people participated in the Dyke March Chicago, and, once again in Chicago, anti-Semitism reared its ugly head. The Windy City Times: … asked to leave by Collective members of the Dyke march were three people carrying Jewish Pride flags. According to one of those individuals, A Wider Bridge Midwest Manager Laurel Grauer, she and her friends were approached a number of times in the park because they were holding the flag. She told Windy City Times:

It was a flag from my congregation which celebrates my queer, Jewish identity which I have done for over a decade marching in the Dyke March with the same flag.

She added that she lost count of the number of people who harassed her. One Dyke March collective member asked by Windy City Times for a response, said the women were told to leave because the flags “made people feel unsafe,” that the march was “anti-Zionist” and “pro-Palestinian.” Grauer said:

They were telling me to leave because my flag was a trigger to people that they found offensive. Prior to this, I had never been harassed or asked to leave and I had always carried the flag with me.

Laurie Grauer, Midwest Manager for A Wider Bridge, shared the following with me: What is Inclusion? What is Safe Space? What is Intersectionality?

You have to leave because you are making people feel unsafe. You are putting them in danger by being here.

I was told this by Dyke Collective organizers, volunteers, and even other marchers. Why? Because I was carrying a rainbow flag with a single Jewish star. For over ten years, I have marched in Dyke March carrying this same flag without incident. This flag I received from my congregation, which was founded over 42 years ago, when the Jewish community still closed its doors to LGBTQ Jews. While there is always work to be done as far as including and empowering LGBTQ Jews within Jewish spaces, the community as a whole has come a long, long way. In part, by carrying this flag, it has allowed me to show the pride I carry for me and my identities, as well as my communities.

That may be what the flag means to you, but other people find it offensive. This march is a private event and you are offending the organizers of this event.

Dyke March has taken place for over 20 years. It was done to raise awareness and empower those who identify as female, and others who felt marginalized and/or felt invisible at Chicago’s Pride Parade among the onslaught of commercial and political candidate floats. To drive this mission even further, ten years or so after its founding, the Dyke March itself was taken out of Andersonville, an affluent, mostly Queer friendly neighborhood on Chicago’s Northside, and transformed into a rotating march that kicked off in a different Chicago neighborhood every few years. This was done as a sign that not all LGBTQ people reside in Chicago’s Northside and that they have a right to be visible and included as well. This was a brilliant move that made it possible for more people of diverse color, ages, gender expression, citizenship status, and economic status, to be visible and empowered. I was tremendously proud of this initiative and showed my support by continuing to take part in Dyke March event after it moved. In every year that I marched, I carried the flag from my congregation unhindered. Several people even took pictures either with me, or holding my flag, because they were so happy to see it and proudly proclaimed their Jewish Pride and/or solidarity on the spot. This year, there was some of that, but it was attached to a much more disturbing message. More than one Jewish marcher said:

Thank you for marching. I’ve felt unsafe in the past.

They were there because like me, they felt a strong connection with Dyke March Chicago, yet they felt they had to hide their Judaism. Furthermore, as this continues to pour out in social media, other Queer Jewish activists are sharing stories of have been excluded, or how they decided to avoid the march for this reason. How can this be called a Chicago Dyke March if local Dykes are made to feel unwelcomed and unsafe, be they at the march or in spirit? To be fair, Jewish members of the Dyke Collective, or those who were Jewish and said they were speaking on behalf of the March organizers, said:

Even if you see it as a Jewish Pride flag, it’s seen by others as an Israeli Pride Flag, and as such it’s offensive to them.

Besides the Star of David being a symbol of the Jewish people, I think of what this flag means to Jewish people around the world. This flag is carried by gay Jews and Jewish supporters across Pindostan, around the world, and, yes, in Israel! But while this flag may be welcomed in Tel Aviv, people I know who marched in World Pride in 2006 from Chicago, my Rabbi being one of them, were publically ridiculed and shunned for carrying this exact same flag! In 2010 and 2015, marchers in Jerusalem Pride were violently attacked and in 2015 one, Shira Banki, was killed. How is this an Israeli Pride Flag? How does use by one city, or even one country, erase what this flag means for an entire world-wide community?

Are you a Zionist? This march is pro-Palestine and explicitly anti-Zionist!

Just as I did not hide my flag, I did not hide when asked point-blank that yes, I care about the State of Israel. Yes, I believe it does exist and that it should continue to exist. I also believe that it should continue to be held accountable and challenged by the amazing Israeli Queer LGBTQ activists I proudly call my colleagues, who struggle every day to make Israel more pluralistic, accepting and accountable not only to Queer Israelis, but everyone, including Queer/non-Queer Palestinians 972 Mag et al, who do exactly fuck all – RB. In many ways, their work mirrors those of the LGBTQ activists I work with here in Chicago, both on a personal level, and within my role at A Wider Bridge. In the same breath, I stated that I believe there should be a free and independent Palestine. I was shut down.

You cannot be Zionist and believe in a Palestinian country, Zionism is inherently racism.

And so again, because of one belief I have that I shared when asked, because of the one symbol I carried, I was asked to leave.

Are you asking anyone else to leave?
Yes, one other girl who was carrying a similar flag.
So you are asking the two people who are carrying Jewish Pride Flags to leave, and no one else?
Just you, the other girl, and the religious protestors.
So you are asking the two people carrying Pride flags with Jewish stars on them and the “God hates fags” contingent?

Is this what the LBGTQ community has become? There are too many such incidents which are being allowed and, at times, encouraged to happen, and all it does is play into the hands of the Nazis and anti-Semites among us, including those in the White House. Putin, once again, is smiling. It’s time for the national LGBTQ leadership to take a public and powerful stand. Dayeinu! Enough!

A Wider Bridge has record of fabrications
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Jun 26 2017

a_wider_bridge_knessetA delegation sponsored by A Wider Bridge at the Knesset, Nov 2016 (Facebook)

The pro-Israel group accusing Chicago’s Dyke March of anti-Semitism for asking several people, including its Midwest manager, to leave, has a history of fabrications about attacks against Jews. A Wider Bridge made global headlines this weekend with its claims about the incident, in which several individuals were asked not to display “rainbow Jewish flags” at the Dyke March in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood on Saturday. The flags had blue stars similar to those on Israel’s flag, on a rainbow background. The group is demanding that the Dyke March “issue a full public apology for dismissing LGBTQ Jews,” and that it engage in “a constructive dialogue about how anti-Semitism and calls for the disappearance of the Jewish state are creating an unsafe environment for LGBTQ Jews and allies.” The Human Rights Campaign, the Washington gay rights lobby group that endorsed Hillary Clinton, added its criticism:

Founded in 1996, the Dyke March Collective describes its annual gathering as a “grassroots mobilization and celebration of dyke, queer, bisexual and transgender resilience.” Often seen in contrast to the corporate and gay-male dominated official pride march, usually held the same weekend, the Dyke March calls itself “an anti-racist, anti-violent, volunteer-led, grassroots effort with a goal to bridge together communities across race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, size, gender identity, gender expression, sexuality, culture, immigrant status, spirituality and ability.” The Dyke March Collective is not apologizing to A Wider Bridge and laments that “our celebration of dyke, queer, and trans solidarity was partially overshadowed by our decision to ask three individuals carrying Israeli flags superimposed on rainbow flags to leave the rally.”

In 2014, A Wider Bridge sponsored rallies addressed by Israeli boxtops in support of Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza. The Dyke March said:

The decision to ask the three people to leave was made after they repeatedly expressed support for Zionism during conversations with Chicago Dyke March Collective members. The Chicago Dyke March Collective is explicitly not anti-Semitic. We are anti-Zionist. We want to make clear that anti-Zionist Jewish volunteers and supporters are welcome at Dyke March and were involved in conversations with the individuals who were asked to leave.

The group For The People Artists Collective, whose members were present at the Dyke March, offered a similar account. FTP Artists Collective said:

The marchers carrying the flags were approached and engaged by both Palestinian and Jewish anti-Zionist participants of the march to“find out more about the intention behind the flags, as they are often seen at Israeli pride parades, are widely used in pinkwashing efforts, and were visually reminiscent of the Israeli flag due to the color and placement of the star. We recognize and affirm that the Star of David is a Jewish symbol and not inherently connected to Israel or Zionism. The cooptation of the Star of David by the state of Israel is deeply saddening and makes it hard to distinguish between imperialist ideology and non-state, religious belief.

Stephanie Skora, who works with JVP Chicago and organizes with the Trans Liberation Collective, was part of the discussions that led to the three people, two of them had been carrying flags, being asked to leave. Skora told EI:

The flag is being argued across Facebook as either a Jewish pride flag or an Israeli pride flag as if it could never have both meanings. They were asked to put the flag away and then they could stay, but one of the persons refused and became increasingly hostile and then the organizers asked them to leave. Organizers were right to prioritize safety of traumatized people over the right to display a flag that has ambiguous connotations in a space that’s supposed to be safe for everyone.

Caleb Wagner, a queer anti-Zionist Jewish activist, was also part of the discussions. He rejected the claim that the individuals were asked to leave because they were Jewish, noting that most of those opposing the display of the flags were also Jewish. The objections to the flag, he insisted, were also based on its use in Israel’s pinkwashing. Pinkwashing is the public relations strategy that deploys Israel’s supposed enlightenment toward LGBTQ issues to deflect criticism from its human rights abuses. It often involves gross exaggerations of Israel’s progressive policies, accompanied by outright lies about Palestinians. A recent example was the national tour of Israel’s “first trans officer” which aimed to present the IOF in a favorable light to LGBTQ communities, neglecting to mention the officer’s role in Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Bedouins. Wagner said:

Those carrying the flag refused to acknowledge that the symbol could have any association with pinkwashing. They refused to acknowledge how that association with Israel, not Judaism, is not welcome in this space that is anti-colonial and pro-Palestine. A Wider Bridge’s Midwest manager Laurie Grauer insisted on putting forward pro-Israel arguments, but that’s like coming into this space and saying you want to have a dialogue about anti-gay marriage or anti-trans. You coming into this space and trying to have a dialogue about the merits of Zionism is wrong and immoral in this space that is designed for queer people of color. From my perspective, she came in there with a particular agenda to open up a dialogue about Zionism and be pro-Zionism.

This is not the first time A Wider Bridge has made false accusations of anti-Semitism against Chicago activists expressing solidarity with Palestinians. Last year, A Wider Bridge was at the center of fabrications that protesters had disrupted Shabbat prayers during the National LGBTQ Task Force’s annual Creating Change conference. In fact, the activists protested a reception for A Wider Bridge, an Israel lobby group. Although the JTA, one of the media organizations that spread the false claim, later retracted it, the damage was done. A Wider Bridge itself helped to fan misinformation and hyperbole about what happened. This story is taking on a familiar pattern, where A Wider Bridge’s distorted version is making headlines and setting in place a false narrative. A key goal of Israel and its lobby groups in recent years has been to inoculate Israel against criticism by obscuring the line between anti-Jewish bigotry, on the one hand, and criticism of Israel and its state ideology Zionism, on the other. Skora said:

I really think people are ganging up on this situation because it looks bad on the surface, but it was not like that in reality. It didn’t help that A Wider Bridge was involved and their propaganda jumped on it immediately. Members of the Dyke March Collective I’ve been in touch with have spent the last 36 hours fielding personal attacks from Zionists, including rape and death threats. International news has had a field day.

A Wider Bridge says it is “building a movement of pro-Israel LGBTQ people and allies.” It also opposes what it claims are the “demonizing and delegitimizing” of Israel, terms habitually used by Israel and its surrogates to justify repression of the Palestine solidarity movement. Among its major funders is the Jewish Federation of Chicago, which has led efforts to combat activism for Palestinian rights. A Wider Bridge also has a history of working with StandWithUs, an Israeli government-funded lobby group with ties to right-wing anti-LGBTQ activists.

One Comment

  1. shaul
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    “made people feel unsafe,” . welcome to this world.

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