The Anti-Defamation League on Monday demanded an apology from organizers of an LGBT march in Chicago that asked Jewish participants to leave because they carried a rainbow flag superimposed with a Star of David.
The incident was described by Laurel Grauer, an official with the group A Wider Bridge, which connects LGBT Jews in the United States with their counterparts in Israel, who was one of the individuals ejected from the Dyke March on Saturday.
Grauer said she had participated in the Dyke March for 10 years and always carried with her a rainbow flag, a widely-recognized symbol of LGBT pride, emblazoned with a Star of David, which is closely associated with Judaism and the Jewish community. Grauer said this flag, which she received from her LGBT-inclusive Jewish congregation, prompted the march’s organizers to target and exclude her this year.
“You have to leave because you are making people feel unsafe. You are putting them in danger by being here,” Grauer said she was told by the march’s organizers, volunteers, and even other participants.
When she raised an objection to that demand, explaining that the flag was an expression of her personal identities, Grauer said she was told, “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.”
Grauer noted that the Dyke March was supposed to be a celebration of inclusiveness and that she had previously carried the flag from her Jewish congregation “unhindered.”
In previous years, “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,” she wrote. “This year, there was some of that, but it was attached to a much more disturbing message.”
“Thank you for marching,” said more than one Jewish marcher. “I’ve felt unsafe in the past.” They were there because, like me, felt a strong connection with Dyke March Chicago, yet 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?
Jewish organizers of the march told Grauer that even if she viewed her flag as an expression of Jewish pride, “this is seen as an Israeli Pride Flag and offensive to others.”
Grauer was also asked if she was a Zionist. When she responded in the affirmative and added that she also supported a Palestinian state, she was told, “You cannot be Zionist and believe in a Palestinian state, Zionism is inherently racism.”
Grauer was told that one other woman who was carrying a similar flag had been asked to leave the march. (Other reports say that three marchers were singled out and expelled.)
“It is outrageous that while celebrating LGBTQ pride, Jewish participants carrying a rainbow Star of David flag were asked to leave the Chicago Dyke March. The community of LGBTQ supporters is diverse and that is part of its tremendous strength,” said ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt.
“Both the act and the explanation were anti-Semitic, plain and simple,” he added. “We stand with A Wider Bridge and others in demanding an apology. We appreciate the Human Rights Campaign’s support and we call on other leaders from LGBTQ and progressive communities to join us in condemning this exclusion.”
The expulsion of visibly Jewish participants from the Dyke March recalls an incident from January 2016, when a Sabbath service at an LGBTQ event in Chicago was shut down by anti-Israel protesters.
Leading LGBT activist James Moon recently penned an op-ed for The Miami Herald calling on the “LGBTQ and progressive ally communities” to take a stand “against censoring, and against anti-semitism.” Moon wrote his op-ed in response to the efforts of some LGBTQ groups to boycott a Tel Aviv LGBT film festival.
“BDS and those that hate Israel are playing a zero-sum game where any achievement by Israel or any community or person in or from Israel cannot be tolerated or recognized,” Moon observed. But “you cannot advocate for LGBTQ rights” without supporting Israeli LGBTQ rights, he added. “And you cannot advocate for progressive values — and not stand against bald bigotry when confronted with it.”
For more on Israel’s strides in granting rights to its LGBT citizens and residents, read The Persistent Progress of Israel’s LGBT Community, in which Corinne Berzon discusses the advances LGBT individuals in Israel have made in gaining mainstream societal acceptance, and the challenges their community continues to face.