Letters to the Editor
The following letters, statements and Facebook posts were shared with Windy City Times in response to the controversy at the Chicago Dyke March. We would not normally dedicate this much space, but we do so to get as many opinions in as possible. WCT stands by our original story the evening of the Dyke March, in which those kicked out, and a member of the Dyke March collective, each had an opportunity to give their side. The story continued to develop and more responses were added. WCT does not relish being in the middle of this controversy, as the messenger, and it is certainly horrible that anyone would use this opportunity to give death and other violent threats. We must not threaten one another over our views, and as a community we need to have continued dialogue to try to figure out how best to navigate inclusion of LGBTQs in public events in public spaces.
Tracy Baim, Publisher
Statement from Christopher Clark, Midwest Regional Director of Lambda Legal Regarding Incident at Chicago's Dyke March
Lambda Legal has proudly participated in Chicago's Dyke March for more than 20 years, and we were proud to be there again this past weekend. We are concerned, however, that women carrying rainbow pride flags with the Star of David were questioned about their beliefs and asked to leave.
We are even more deeply disturbed by the conversation that has followed the incident, and the anti-Semitic statements that have been expressed in our community's discussion.
In our work, we strive to protect the voices of all members of the LGBTQ community. Inclusion and mutual respect are part of our core values.
Lambda Legal welcomes those who seek to stand with us. We cannot and will not participate in events and activities that exclude people based on who they are. If our movement cannot find common ground in a spirit of inclusion, we all lose.
Chicago Dyke March official Statement on 2017 march and solidarity with palestine
On June 24, 2017, a small group of individuals were asked to leave Chicago Dyke March for expressing Zionist views that go directly against the march's anti-racist core values. In the days following, articles have appeared in a number of major news outlets that put forward false reports based on testimony that is purposefully misleading. We wish to clarify the circumstances under which organizers and community members alike asked the group to leave.
The group in question was heard disrupting chants, replacing the word "Palestine" with "everywhere," saying: "From everywhere to Mexico, border walls have got to go." One of the individuals, Laurel Grauer, is the Regional Director of A Wider Bridge, an organization with ties to the Israeli government that was protested for pinkwashing at the Creating Change Conference in Chicago in 2016. It was later revealed that Laurel was aware of Dyke March's anti-Zionist position from pro-Palestine memes and art that were posted on the Dyke March page, and was also aware of the fact that her flag could be interpreted as being at odds with that position. The night before, she contacted an organizer to ask if her flag would "be protested." The organizer told her the flag was welcome, but reminded her that the space is one that supports Palestinian rights.
Screenshot of text messages sent from Laurel Grauer to CDMC organizer the night before Dyke March Screenshot of text messages sent from Laurel Grauer to CDMC organizer the night before Dyke March
Upon arrival at the rally location in Piotrowski Park, Palestinian marchers approached those carrying the flags to learn more about their intentions, due to its similarity to the Israeli flag and the flag's long history of use in Pinkwashing efforts. During the conversation, the individuals asserted their Zionist stance and support for Israel. At this point, Jewish allies and Dyke March organizers stepped in to help explain why Zionism was unacceptable at the march. There was an earnest attempt at engagement with these marchers, and the decision to ask them to leave was not made abruptly nor arbitrarily. Throughout a two-hour conversation, the individuals were told that the march was explicitly anti-Zionist, and that if they were not okay with that, they should leave.
Zionism is an inherently white-supremacist ideology. It is based on the premise that Jewish people have a God-given entitlement to the lands of historic Palestine and the surrounding areas. This ideology has been used to justify dozens of laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel, segregated road systems in the West Bank, and forced removal of Palestinian families from their homes in order to make way for Jewish-only housing, among other violent and discriminatory practices. We recognize that Zionism is not synonymous with Judaism, but instead represents an ideology that uses legacies of Jewish struggle to justify violence.
Chicago Dyke March Collective is a grassroots mobilization and celebration of dyke, queer, bisexual, and transgender resilience. Our priority is to ensure a safer space for those who are most marginalized. We welcome and include people of all identities, but not all ideologies. We believe in creating a space free from oppression, and that involves rejecting racist ideologies that support state violence. We welcome the support we have received from Jewish allies and marchers who are as invested in liberation as we are.
The threats that have been made to Chicago Dyke March and its organizers by Zionists worldwide does not even compare to the violence that Palestinians endure on a daily basis while living under Israeli military rule in the name of Zionism. Palestine is being occupied by Israeli military forces, and at the time of writing, Gaza is currently being bombed. This is what we as a collective are most concerned with. Palestinians deserve to live free from violence, and Dyke March will continue to fight for Palestinians alongside all other oppressed communities around the world.
To the editor:
Today's story filled me with fury. I was one of those who organized the first gay protest march in 1969, exactly one month after Stonewall. Immediately after that, we formed the Gay Liberation Front. I have attended marches year after year, and watched gay people carry flags of all nations. No one was excluded.
This year the Chicago Dyke March, which bills itself as being "inclusive," removed three Jews who were carrying rainbow flags printed with the Star of David. One woman states that she was told to leave because her flag "was a trigger" to people who found it offensive. The organizers said that the flag made people feel "unsafe." What kind of insanity is this, that a handful of Jews expressing pride in both their cultural heritage and their gayness are such a threat? Were they also carrying AR-15s?
For the historically illiterate, the Star of David did not originate with the modern state of Israel. It was first seen on a 3rd or 4th Century synagogue in Galilee. Its use as a symbol of Judaism became widespread in the Middle Ages. Including it on a rainbow flag says nothing one way or another about Zionism. And if someone carrying that flag says she supports the survival of the state of Israel, how is that a threat? Are the pro-Palestinian marchers so timid, so unsure of their beliefs, that they can't even stand the presence of someone who thinks differently?
This incident doesn't just "veer down a dangerous path toward antisemitism." It is antisemitism, pure and simple. And by no coincidence it comes at a time when anti-Jewish, anti-Islamic, and racist hate crimes have risen dramatically.
Martha Shelley, Gay Liberation Front-New York, 1969
To the editor:
I have read Martha Shelley's letter concerning the dyke march, and as a longtime gay activist and journalist, I wish to clearly state my resounding approval of every single word of Martha's letter. In the name of everything I have struggled for all my life as an anti-war, anti-racist and freedom-loving gay activist, I reject the repressive anti-Semitic and anti-democratic stance taken by those who expelled the Jewish pride marchers because of their flag and their opinions about Israel.
Allen Young, Royalston, Massachusetts
To the editor:
As anti-racist LGBTQIA+ organizers, we unequivocally stand with The Chicago Dyke March.
The Windy City Times journalism of last weekend's incident was sloppy at best, dangerous at worst. Overall, it was very disappointing as regular readers.
This controversy began with a rushed piece by WCT lacking in detail of the events that unfolded.
We need to address what was initially left out: Both before and after Saturday, CDM has received death and rape threats.
The WCT left out that those with the flags were known figures from Zionist organizations connected to hate groups profiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They left out that these individuals went to the event with full knowledge of the march's mission and acknowledged they anticipated it'd be a "politically fraught atmosphere."
The WCT left out that these individuals interrupted pro-Palestinian chants. They left out that mostly Jewish activists tried to have a dialogue with the flag wavers for literally two hours before asking them to leave. They left out that many other attendees wore Jewish symbols and imagery and have been doing so for years at the CDM with nothing but acceptance and affirmation. They left out the history of dishonesty by one of these flag bearers, once known for making false accusations at the 2016 Creating Change Conference.
What did get reported though? Jews were banned from a Chicago Pride event.
CDM organizers have been enduring increasing numbers death threats, which illustrates how this kind of journalism is irresponsible. It is a calamity compared to WCT's decades of coverage of LGBTQIA+ issues.
CDM released a statement alongside other solidarity letters from groups like For the People's Artists Collective and Jewish Voice for Peace.
The lack of editorial procedures at Windy City Times to prevent such slanderous accounts is quite disturbing, and the Dyke March Collective is owed an apology by all concerned.
Ryne Poelker ( he/him ), Jes Scheinpflug ( they/them ) & Andy Thayer ( he/him )
Statement from Jewish Voice for Peace
As a Jewish organization dedicated to justice for Palestinians and opposition to all forms of bigotry, including antisemitism, Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago affirms our support for the Chicago Dyke March Collective, a powerful force for justice and queer and trans liberation in our city. While we also hear those who are concerned at the perception that Jewish participants were singled out at the march, we ask that everyone reflect on how events actually unfolded, how Israel has appropriated Jewish identity and symbols, and how that impacts our movement spaces.
On Saturday at the Chicago Dyke March, a small number of members and staff of A Wider Bridge challenged the inclusion of Palestinian human rights as an issue supported by Chicago Dyke March. A Wider Bridge has the explicit purpose of "building a movement of pro-Israel LGBTQ people and allies." "Pro-Israel," for a Wider Bridge, has included organizing war rallies cheering on the Israeli military during the massacre of civilians in Gaza in August 2014 and partnering with Israeli consulates in the U.S. in organizing pinkwashing propaganda tours.
The A Wider Bridge contingent loudly encouraged fellow participants to erase mentions of Palestine during solidarity chants. When Palestinian attendees approached them, they became hostile while expressing explicit support for Zionism, which was one of the ideologies that march organizers had disavowed because it has led to decades of displacement and violence against Palestinians. After a two hour conversation with organizers and other members, the attendees were asked to leave for not respecting the community norms, including opposition to all forms of racism and violence. One of the people asked to leave was Laurel Grauer, Midwest Manager from A Wider Bridge ( AWB ), who held a rainbow flag with a blue Star of David identical in color, size and placement to the one on the Israeli flag.
Many other Jews, including members of Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, were present at Dyke March wearing Jewish symbols, including Stars of David, t-shirts with Hebrew, kippot, and sashes with Yiddish script, and none of them were asked to leave the event, interrogated about their politics, or were the target of any complaints because of their visible Jewish presence.
The Star of David is a Jewish symbol not inherently connected to the State of Israel. Since much of the media coverage has centered on whether Palestinians can justifiably feel unsafe around a blue Star of David in the center of a flag, we believe it is worth remembering that in the West Bank, Israeli flags bearing a blue Star of David fly above military installations and settlements. Stars of David are painted onto Palestinian homes to intimidate people, near Hebrew graffiti calling for "Death to Arabs." Palestinian homes are demolished and replaced by Jewish homes flying the Star of David on an Israeli flag.
While for many this incident may have evoked fears engrained in our collective memory of instances in which Jews have been singled out, we believe this incident is a sad reminder of the destructive impact of the State of Israel's appropriation of Jewish symbols and identity.
As Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, we share the Chicago Dyke March Collective's opposition to state violence, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, anti-Black, anti-immigrant, anti-queer and trans, anti-woman and anti-Person of Color bigotry. As a Jewish organization committed to justice and equality for Palestinians, we invite everybody to work with us in opposing the State of Israel's use of Jewish identity, trauma and symbols in its oppression of Palestinians.
To the editor:
I could not believe it so I read as much as I could. I called the editor of the Windy City Times to verify a quote by Dyke March organizers. There is no justification for the behavior of organizers at the Dyke March in Chicago.
The Middle East problems will not be solved by condemning and banning the Star of David from your march, but you have succeeded in establishing a precedent for your historically supportive organization as a safe haven for hateful rhetoric aimed at condemning all Jewish members of the LGBTQ community who believe in the historic necessity of a Jewish state.
Saying that you are a Zionist is not a statement of support for the current Israeli government. It is a belief in the State of Israel. How convenient that someone born after the Holocaust can make a statement condemning the existence of a state that was conceived for victims of hate and violence. Refugees who were refused a safe haven found refuge in the State of Israel and they still do. Exactly which refugees do you support? Who do you like enough?
Those who march with a Palestinian flag are not questioned as to the current Palestinian government views. The elimination of Jews. Not just the elimination of the State of Israel, but the eradication of the Jewish people. You can get behind that? That's just fine with you?
As for the Jewish members of Dyke March Chicago, do you practice your religion or do you just celebrate with lox, bagels and the NYTimes on Sunday mornings? Cowards! You really thought it was justified to condemn and suppress someone carrying a rainbow flag with the Star of David because it looks like the flag of Israel?
Oppression by the oppressed. Congratulations, you've made it to the level of oppressor. DykeMarchChicago, perhaps your statement should read, "Dyke March Chicago you can march with us only if WE respect your right to self-determination." You are no better than the St. Patrick's Day parades who banned openly gay groups.
This last action shows you have become an organization of short-sighted, close-minded, narrow-minded hypocrites and you dishonor the very freedom that gives you the right to march.
Cara Meiselman, Chicago
To the editor:
As one of the original marchers in New York's 1970 "Gay Parade," as well as someone born into a Jewish family, I'm dismayed by the Chicago Dyke March's rejection of three people who carried rainbow flags with Jewish stars on them. First of all, the allegation that people carried Israeli flags superimposed over the rainbow flag is, judging from the photo I've seen, preposterous. Secondly, even if they did, people from other faiths routinely carry rainbow flags that include symbols of their religious affiliations. I find it hard to believe that there was anything other than a strong undercurrent of anti-semitism at work here.
There is nothing inherently Zionist about being gay and Jewish. One can simultaneously support the existence of a Jewish state, reject the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians, and support a negotiated two-state solution. Even if the flag holders were Zionists, so what? A movement that keeps on adding letters of inclusion to its identityLGBTQIAhas all of a sudden declared that Zionists need not apply?
The leaders of the Chicago Dyke March seem to want some kind of anti-Zionist loyalty oath from participants. We won't carry American flags, we won't carry flags with six-pointed stars on themwe will only carry what is considered politically correct at this particular moment in history. That a movement that prides itself on inclusion, and that began by people fighting back, has turned on some of its own because they "trigger" strong emotions is intolerable, and must never happen again.
Jason Victor Serinus, founder, New Haven Gay Liberation Front, member, New York Gay Liberation Front, Port Townsend, WA
To the editor:
The recent events are very unfortunate ( "Jewish pride flags banned," June 24Windy City Times ). One obvious point is that the Star of David on a rainbow flag represents Jewish LGBT people, not the policies of Israel. The exclusion practiced by the Chicago Dyke March organizers is wrong. But given what happened at the Chicago Dyke March and the organizers' statement, it seems important to address widespread misunderstanding in our LGBT activist community about what Zionism is and what kind of country Israel is.
The Chicago Dyke March statement expresses concern for refugees today. They should also be concerned about the safety and wellbeing of the Jewish refugees and their descendants who left their homelands in Europe and the Arab and Muslim world for Israel in the late 19th and 20th centuries. For Jewish refugees from Russia, Poland, Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere who left under duress or were expelled from their homelands, and for their descendants, Zionism represents liberation, freedom from millennia of persecution, self-determination, refuge ( the literal meaning of "Zion" ), and relative safety. Being a Zionist means you support all of these things, and Israel's right to exist, and its right to a place of respect and equality among the nations. It does not mean you support everything the Likud government does, or its problematic settlement policy.
Many, probably most Zionists support a negotiated peace and a two-state solution. But to negotiate peace one needs a reasonable partner willing to compromise and coexist, and Israel has been attacked over and over again by its Arab neighbors from when it was founded in 1948 to the present. Many attempts have been made to negotiate a settlement. Thankfully peace agreements have been negotiated with Egypt and Jordan. I hope that, eventually, one will be negotiated with the Palestinians. But the Israeli-Palestinian/Arab conflict is complex and not black and white. There are people of good will on both sides. LGBT community leaders in the U.S. should not impose narrow litmus tests on participation in events, like the Chicago Dyke March organizers did, based on flawed and simplistic understandings of history and a complex, regional conflict.
Sean Cahill, Boston
To the editor:
The Nazis forced Jews to wear the Star of David (before the founding of the State of Israel) to demonize and isolate them prior to extermination. Organizers of the Chicago Dyke March forced Jews to remove the Star of David. Ironically, the Nazis also forced gay people to wear an identifying triangle.
As the son of a survivor of Auschwitz and Mauthausen concentration camps whose extended family was destroyed there, I consider this act by the organizers clearly and shamefully anti-Semitic.
George Muenz, Vancouver, BC, Canada
To the editor:
I have read the recent news reports in the Windy City Times indicating that Dyke March Chicago ( "DMC" ) condones anti-Semitism and divisiveness.
In participating in censorship and denying individuals the right to participate in the DMC March because they wish to waive a flag with the Star of David not only fans the fire of hate and anti-Semitism, but it insults every person who has sacrificed in the fight against racism and for equality.
The Supreme Court has announced it is reviewing whether businesses can discriminate against LGBQT people based upon the business owner's own religious beliefs. If the Court allows this sort of discrimination, it will be a dismantling of all the LGBTQ rights that so many men and woman have sacrificed and fought for.
DMC is now a participant in censorship and discrimination, and has provided support for hate in the name of its members own religious/political view. You dishonor all who marched before you.
Deborah S. Ashen
To the editor:
I am writing this letter to the Editor in response to the current online issue of the Windy City Times concerning the incident that occurred at the "Dyke March" on June 24 the day before Chicago's Pride Parade. It was reported in this article that members of the Jewish community were ejected from the march for showing their pride by integrating the Israeli flag with the rainbow colors. The claim of the Dyke March leadership was the Jewish participants were engaged in pinkwashing, a term used by march leadership to expose hypocrisy
At the outset let me say as a person of faith I believe in the just aspirations of both the Palestinian people and LGBQ people, both communities are engaged in a just struggle for human rights. Both peoples suffer greatly in the Middle East. In my opinion; the incident was an example of how well intentioned people can get it wrong.
However, I believe this could be an opportunity to engage in bridge building rather than political extremist knee-jerk reactions. It reminds me of the over reaction of Ferguson Police Department.
I appeal to the Dyke March leadership to remember its roots of inclusiveness, and use this as an opportunity to call for dialog between the Christian, Jewish and Moslem members of our community. It does not serve the human-rights agenda of either of these communities to pit Palestinian rights against gay rights
Joe Murray, Executive Director, Rainbow Sash Movement ( LGBTQ Roman Catholics )
Personal account from Facebook:
Yesterday I was removed from the Chicago Dyke March. I am so upset that I'm no longer upset, so here is a faithful narrative of every event.
I wanted to be in public as a gay Jew of Persian and German heritage. Nothing more, nothing less. So I made a shirt that said "Proud Jewish Dyke" and hoisted a big Jewish Pride flaga rainbow flag with a Star of David in the center, the centuries-old symbol of the Jewish people. I snapped a picture before the March, and in retrospect my happy, proud smile breaks my heart.
I knew the March was a politically fraught atmosphere, so I went in very carefully. I ignored people side-eyeing me. I stayed away from Palestinian flags and Palestinian chants. I actively walked away from people who directly tried to instigate conflict. I thought maybe if I played by their rules, I could just be Jewish in public.
No such luck. During the picnic in the park, organizers in their official t-shirts began whispering and pointing at me and soon, a delegation came over, announcing they'd been sent by the organizers. They told me my choices were to roll up my Jewish Pride flag or leave. The Star of David makes it look too much like the Israeli flag, they said, and it triggers people and makes them feel unsafe. This was their complaint.
I tried to explainno, no! It's the ubiquitous symbol of Judaism. I just want to be Jewish in public. No luck. So I tried using their language. This is an intersectional march, I said. This is my intersection. I'm supposed to be able to celebrate it here. No, they said. People feel unsafe. I tried again to explain about the Star of David. I tried again to use their language, to tell them that not being able to be visibly, flagrantly, proudly Jewish on my terms makes me feel unsafe. This was what I said.
But it didn't work. After some fruitless back-and-forth, during which more people joined the organizers' delegation and used their deeper voices, larger physical size, and greater numbers to insistently talk over my attempts at explanation, at conversation, I recognized a losing battle and left sobbing.
I was thrown out of Dyke March for being Jewish. And yes, there were other Jews there, visible ones even, who weren't accosted, who had fun, even! And yes, Israel exists in a complicated way. But in this case, it doesn't matter what Israel does or doesn't do. This was about being Jewish in public, and I was thrown out for being Jewish, for being the "wrong" kind of Jew, the kind of Jew who shows up with a big Jewish star on a flag. No matter how much I tried to avoid conflict, to explain. Oh, maybe there was a way I could have stayed, but rolling up my beautiful proud flag for them would have been an even bigger loss.
This was my community, where for four years I have shown up, stood up, and helped out, and I am broken-hearted.
( I do not want this to turn into a debate about Israel and Palestine in the comments. That is not what this is about. This is about being Jewish in public. Also, I have made this post public and do not mind sharing done respectfully. )
To the Editor:
It's a sad irony to read that the Dyke March, an event originally established to create a safe place for lesbians to celebrate Pride, recently prevented the participation of Jewish lesbians doing nothing more than expressing pride in who they are. Is that how far we have (not) come? I thought that was the point. When did I miss the part when Jewish flags became "triggers" and symbols that make "people feel unsafe." Warnings about veering "down a dangerous path toward anti-Semitism" have arrived too late. We're there.
Separatism has always been a dangerous concept because it encourages just that; rather than celebrating what we all have in common, separatism does nothing more than continue to divide us into smaller and smaller parts. Are we not seeing enough of that on a daily basis from the Trump Administration? Removing Jewish lesbians from a march sounds more like a strategy pulled from the Breitbart playbook than anything I would expect to see happening in Chicago.
So, let's not forget some of our own history here in Chicago. As one of the people who spearheaded the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance in the late 1980s, I will never forget the people and organizations that stood at our side during the "early days." To demonstrate support for the ordinance, we sent out letters to over 100 community leaders and organizations asking for their public endorsements of the ordinance. The first two letters we received back were from Jewish organizations. Many more arrived in the following days. Jewish community organizations and leaders have stood by us from day one. Further, the Jewish community has not only been our longtime ally, but is also part of our collective community.
I recommend that the leaders of the Dyke March take some time to review its mission. Unless their actions change in the future, it may be time to disband. In the meantime, I look forward to celebrating the faith and pride of the Jewish community on Pride Day, 2018, where everyone is welcome.
Laurie J. Dittman, Uptown
Letters of 300 words or less can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org .
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