Dahlia St. Knives, a transsexual activist and writer, said she doesn’t feel “safe” at the Chicago Dyke March as a black Jewish woman, after organizers failed to apologize for the discrimination of two Jewish women at the event last year.
At the annual LGBTQ march in Chicago in 2017, organizers of the event demanded that Jewish participants 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 LGBTQ Jews in the United States with their counterparts in Israel, who was one of the individuals ejected from the Dyke March.
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 LGBTQ 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 LGBTQ-inclusive Jewish congregation, prompted the march’s organizers to target and exclude her.
“You have to leave because you are making people feel unsafe. You are putting them in danger by being here,” Grauer recalled she was told by the march’s organizers.
Writing a year later, Knives charged that “the Chicago Dyke March has made zero effort to apologize for their wrongs or show that they have made any progress in better understanding how to treat Jewish women.”
“Jewish people are more or less required to be subjected to a purity test with regard to their stance on the Occupation in Palestine,” Knives continued. “In no other circumstances within progressive communities can I think of examples of marginalized people having to denounce what a nation-state they have no connection with does.”
The activist observed that, while the Dyke March is supposed to be a celebration of inclusiveness, for Jews to be accepted in this circle, they “must openly, loudly, and continuously disavow Israel, or we will be forcibly removed from any space that we share with progressives.”
According to her, “We are guilty by association and must prove our innocence in order to be treated like human beings.” Knives insisted that, “Such behavior should not be tolerated at all, and the creation of special rules that apply only to Jewish people is inherently anti-Semitic.”
Grauer was asked at the march last year 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.”
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.
“What could the Dyke March have done to make their space a safer and more inclusive event for Jewish women?” Knives asked.
“Some accountability and humility would have been a brilliant start, as doubling down on an ignorant position won’t make people affected feel any better. As well, adding a Jewish voice amongst the organizers, and perhaps even doing some outreach to ask Jewish lesbians what we would like at an event like this, could help us to feel included and not ostracized.”
However, Knives concluded, “It would be one thing if the organizers had used this as an opportunity to educate themselves on how to not be anti-Semitic, but that clearly has not been too high on their list of priorities. As such, their event remains a safe space for anyone but women like us.”
[Photo: World Jewish Congress / YouTube ]