Don't believe the hype about Chicago Dyke March

  • by Kate Raphael and Deeg Gold
  • Wednesday August 9, 2017
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Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism has staged numerous<br>protests, including this one at the San Francisco Women's March in January, to<br>draw attention to Palestinian issues. Photo: Kris Mizutani.
Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism has staged numerous
protests, including this one at the San Francisco Women's March in January, to
draw attention to Palestinian issues. Photo: Kris Mizutani.

Something happened at the Chicago Dyke March in June. Something involving three Jewish, Zionist women, some chants about walls, and a flag.

That much everyone seems to agree on. Beyond that, the facts are intensely disputed. Even what the flag in controversy looked like is unclear; it has been described by many people who saw it as a rainbow flag with a large blue Star of David in the middle, but all the photos accompanying the thousands of articles about the incident, mostly in right-wing media, have shown a rainbow flag with a white or silver star. But when you look closely, it's evident that those photos were not taken at the Dyke March.

We in Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism have no way to know what actually happened. We were not there. But we do know that this was no isolated incident of Jewish dykes innocently showing up with a symbol of Jewish pride that they had no idea might be controversial. We know that because Laurel Grauer, the woman at the center of the controversy, apparently contacted organizer Alexis Martinez the night before the Dyke March to find out if she would be welcome with her flag – and was assured that she would but reminded that the Dyke March was an anti-colonial and hence anti-Zionist space. We also know that A Wider Bridge, the organization Grauer works for, has a long history of provoking confrontations at queer events, and then claiming that they were the target of anti-Semitism.

And we know that within hours of the incident, there were articles and op-eds screaming "anti-Semitism!" "Jewish women unwelcome at Dyke March!" "I was kicked out of the march for my Jewish flag!" all over the internet, including very prominently on white supremacist sites such as Breitbart and the Washington Times, as well as in the New York Times. No self-respecting queer who genuinely cares about Jewish safety would allow herself to be used by overt anti-Semites like those at Breitbart.

The playbook used by the women who were asked to leave the march is well worn. Recently the LGBT contingent in the New York Israel Day parade claimed they were the target of a homophobic attack when a group of anti-occupation queers protested in front of them. Palestinian students at San Francisco State have regularly been threatened with harsh discipline for being "anti-Semitic" after they have been attacked and harassed by Zionist students. Two weeks ago, Zionist protesters at Reem's Bakery in Oakland attempted to have an Arab dyke arrested, claiming that they had been assaulted; when police were shown video of what actually happened, they concluded that it was the Zionists who had attacked people.

The community defenders at Reem's knew they would need to defend themselves against false accusations. The organizers of the Dyke March did not know they were being set up. They thought they were dealing with individuals, not the well-oiled propaganda machine called "Brand Israel," whose goal is to build sympathy for the state of Israel in progressive circles, including queer spaces. A Wider Bridge is an integral part of that strategy; its website states that it is "building a movement of pro-Israel LGBTQ people and allies. ... We believe our communities are strengthened when people move from demonizing and delegitimizing Israel to a place of understanding, empathy, and engagement." It says nothing about promoting Jewish identity apart from the state of Israel.

No doubt, people on all sides of this conflict could have communicated better before, during and after the events. Anti-Semitism exists, even in queer communities. But criticism of Israel and opposition to its discriminatory laws and ongoing theft of Palestinian land is not anti-Semitism. Faux crises and cynical manipulations make fighting anti-Semitism harder.

We urge community members to look deeply into the narrative being spun and read the statements of the Chicago Dyke March Committee and the Chicago chapters of If Not Now and Jewish Voice for Peace describing what actually happened.

Justice is indivisible. Justice-loving dykes cannot be divided.


Kate Raphael and Deeg Gold are members of Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism.