D.C. Dyke March Bans Israeli and Jewish Symbols on Pride Flags, Sparking Criticism

Dyke March organizers say rainbow flag featuring Star of David is too similar to Israeli flag, but symbols that don't 'directly replicate nationalist images and symbols' are permitted

File photo: Jewish participants at the Twin Cities Pride Parade in Minneapolis, 2011.
Fibonacci Blue/Creative Commons

NEW YORK - Israeli symbols and Pride flags with the Star of David, will be banned at the Washington, D.C. Dyke March set to take place on Friday, drawing much criticism from Jewish groups.

March organizers clarified that while Jewish symbols would be allowed in general, rainbow flags with a Star of David appearing in the center are banned because they are "almost entirely reminiscent" of the Israeli flag.  

Organizers Yael Horowitz and Rae Gaines wrote in an opinion article that claims that they were banning Jewish symbols were untrue, and described themselves as "specifically and explicitly Jewish Anti-Zionist Dykes."

"We are asking people to not bring nationalist symbols because violent nationalism does not fit with our vision of queer liberation," they wrote. "And because we need the march to be a space that is as welcoming to Palestinian Dykes as it is to Jewish Dykes. The 'Jewish Pride Flag' seemed to only rise in popularity after the Chicago Dyke March — it was never a flag that we felt directly connected to, and it does not represent all Jewish Dykes," they continued, referencing controversy that erupted in 2017 when the Chicago Dyke March ejected participants who carried such flags.

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"That being said, the Star of David represents more than just Israel when not on a flag and can be brought to the march in many other forms without question," Horowitz and Gaines wrote. "It is not the only symbol available to us. We welcome yarmulkes, tallitot, tefillin, rainbow pomegranates, Lions of Judah, Hamsas, chai, a menorah and anything that doesn’t directly replicate nationalist images and symbols."

The event, which will take place in the capital after a 12-year hiatus, is not affiliated with the annual Pride Parade, as it rejects “the corporate sponsorship of Pride,” and will be held without permits or collaboration with law enforcement. According to its website, the Dyke March is aimed at encouraging “activism within our community and center trans people, queers, lesbians, and other dyke identities who are often marginalized by the mainstream LGBTQ movement.”

Jewish marchers and groups had found out about the restriction through inquiries they had sent to the Dyke March leadership.

Days before the march, several Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, called on its organizers to reverse their ban on Israel-related symbols.

The organization Zioness, which aims to provide American Jews with a progressive and Zionist space, said it will defy the ban and “fight homophobia, transphobia and anti-Semitism as proud progressive Zionists” on Friday and encouraged followers to join them at the march.

The Anti-Defamation League criticized the ban, calling it "outrageous" and saying: "Banning the Star of David in their parade is anti-Semitic, plain and simple. The LGBTQ community and its supporters are diverse, and that is part of its tremendous strength. We call on the organizers to immediately reverse this policy."

In a statement released in partnership with the JCRC, A Wider Bridge, and the Jacobs Tent Project, Zioness said the ban contradicts the March’s mission of inclusivity.

“The DC Dyke March should know better than to stoke the flames of division and pain by driving a wedge between Queer Arabs and Jews at a time we must stand united against homo- and transphobia, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia,” Zioness wrote on Facebook.

“To the extent that organizers intended the ban as a form of protection for queer Palestinians and Arabs, the decision makes queer Jews and Israelis that much more vulnerable at a time of rising anti-Semitism, on the far right and far left,” the statement added.

In an interview with the Washington Post, one of the march’s organizers Laila Makled said the ban is intended to help create a welcoming space.

“All people should have a space to celebrate themselves, but I feel like at this moment in D.C. there is definitely a demand for a more inclusive way to display pride and protest,” she said.

In light of the controversy, many commentators expressed their outrage on the event’s Facebook page.

“I imagine you didn’t ban head coverings and crucifixes as you did Jewish and Israeli symbols. How hypocritical and self-defeating can you possibly be?” one woman wrote. “Shame on you for your intolerance. You were among the first persecuted during WW II. What makes you think you’ll be excepted next time?’

Back in 2017, the Dyke March had already drawn criticism in Chicago when Jewish participants had been kicked out of the event for carrying Pride flags with stars of David.

In a statement released on Thursday, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said the ban on Jewish symbols constitutes “anti-Semitic Hypocrisy.”

“For decades, gay activists have insisted that there needs to be one standard in pursuit of human rights and human dignity. Yet such hypocrisy by some leaders in the LGBTQ community to treat Jews differently is classic anti-Semitism,” the center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper said.

Cooper added that the ban may also “damage the important campaigns for equality and should be denounced by LGBTQ activists everywhere.”