Dyke March Chicago Rejects Zionist Pinkwashing

The following piece is by Trans Liberation Collective – Chicago organizer and friend of the Central Illinois BRRN local, Stephanie Skora. It is a response to the controversy surrounding Chicago Dyke March participants ejecting a Zionist pinkwashing group from the June 24 march. Read Chicago Dyke March’s official statement on the incident here, the Electronic Intifada piece about it here, and the Jewish Voice for Peace Statement of Solidarity with Chicago Dyke March Collective here. The term “pinkwashing” refers to the Israeli state’s public relations strategy of forwarding a disingenuous version of LGBT rights as a cover for occupation, apartheid, and settler colonization of Palestine. 

By Stephanie Skora

Statement of Solidarity with Dyke March Chicago

Before I say anything else, it is most important to note that the Israeli State began bombing Gaza again last night. Gaza has been limited to only two hours of electricity a day for the past several days, no doubt in a preemptive move to silence news about the bombing. Instead of circling up around Palestinian communities and helping support them during yet another brutal attack on their land and families, many people were calling them antisemites and perpetuating Zionist violence against Palestinians by allowing unfounded and unsupported accusations of antisemitism to gain traction. This is a source of no small amount of disappointment and anger on my part. We, as Jews who claim to be in solidarity with Palestine, must do better.

Let me make myself VERY clear: I am a proud Jewish woman. I am a genderqueer trans woman, a lesbian, and an anti-Zionist. I am nobody’s token, and I find antisemitism in all forms abhorrent. I am in explicit solidarity with the Chicago Dyke March Collective, and support all of their actions, and decisions during the March and at the park afterwards in regards to their removal of three Zionists from the space. I participated in the conversations with, and removal of, those Zionists, and would do the same again if asked. The people in question were kicked out because they were Zionists, were aggressive, and made Palestinian attendees feel unsafe. That is, and will always be, a valid reason to remove someone from a space.

The Chicago Dyke March

In the interest of centering Palestinian voices in recounting the actual events of that day, I will refer everyone who asks to the forthcoming statement from the Dyke March organizers. The Chicago Dyke March Collective organizers can speak for themselves, and I would encourage everyone to listen to their words, rather than making assumptions based on sources that lack credibility. I will, however, make a statement about the backlash from, and aftermath of, the removal of those Zionists. Many of you have asked my perspective on the events of that day, so please consider this my official statement on the matter.

Dyke March is, very specifically, a space organized by queer and trans people of color, FOR queer and trans people of color, so that they have somewhere safe to go and celebrate themselves during Pride Month. Yes, everyone is welcome at Dyke March as long as they follow the rules of the space and don’t cause any problems, but Dyke March is not designed to be a space for everyone and their assorted feelings about oppressed people.

This year, Dyke March was very, VERY visibly anti-Zionist, and pro-Palestinian. This means a variety of wonderful and necessary things, but it also means that, for attendees, that there are prerequisites to our attendance there. By attending, we are recognizing that we are entering a space that was specifically designed to center and uplift queer and trans Palestinian voices… If that is not something that you can comply with, the solution is simple: don’t go to Dyke March. If, like Ellie Otra, Palestinians make you feel uncomfortable and you “just want to be Jewish in public” but feel the need to assert your presence and privilege even after you’ve been told that Palestinians feel uncomfortable, then don’t come to Dyke March, and go do it somewhere else. If, like Laurel Grauer, you are a known liar, Zionist, racist, and Islamophobe, then don’t come to Dyke March, and go march with A Wider Bridge and/or the Israeli Consulate in Chicago Pride, who I’m sure would be more than happy to have your despicable-ass self in their contingent.

Being Clear On Zionism

Just to make myself clear: if you are a Zionist, if Palestinians make you feel uncomfortable, or if you work for a horrible, violent, pinkwashing organization, go fuck yourself, and go fuck yourself somewhere other than Dyke March. Just because a space allows you to attend does not mean that the space is FOR you, and to assume that you have a right to come and make people feel unsafe in their own spaces just because you want to be visible in public is the HEIGHT of privilege, White fragility, Jewish feelings, and general fuckery.

It is also important to say something about the role of Jews in explicitly anti-Zionist spaces. Namely, it is never the place of Jews to tell Palestinians how, where, why, and at what they are allowed to feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or traumatized, and in which contexts. Palestinians always have the right to determine the terms of their own safety in their own spaces. Always. It is neither the place, nor the right, of Jews to get all up in our feelings about the reactions of Palestinians to symbols that have been heavily appropriated by the Israeli State and Zionist settlers for the express purpose of eliciting reactions of fear and trauma. Whatever your feelings about the Star of David as a symbol, the reality of the situation is that the violent use of that symbol by the Israeli State has made it inextricably associated with that state, and the violence that it commits. That is OUR problem as Jews, and our feelings about that symbol are to be hashed out amongst ourselves, in Jewish spaces, and not taken out in the form of baseless and violent accusations against Palestinians.

It is absolutely true that the Israeli State has appropriated Jewishness for its own purposes, and perverted the culture and history of a beautiful, proud, and strong people to serve the theocratic, ethno-nationalist interests of a genocidal nation-state. It is absolutely true that Zionism is a form of racism and White Supremacy, mediated through a Jewish context. It is absolutely true that Zionism is an unacceptable political ideology that has no right to be heard, or considered as valid, in any space, but particularly those that center Palestinians. It is absolutely true that Zionism is an ideology that maintains its supremacy through the re-traumatizing of each successive generation of Jews, in attempt to force us into allegiance with the Israeli State. It is absolutely true that Zionism reinforces its power by forcing Jews to exhibit White fragility in response to criticism of Jews, because in the context of Zionism, Jews assume a position of power and privilege that we have not historically occupied.

Jews in Anti-Zionist Spaces

So, what is the role of Jewish people in anti-Zionist spaces, especially ones organized by Palestinians? I would argue that our role is twofold:

1) To support the labor, organizing, and work of Palestinians as they continue their struggle for liberation from the Israeli State and Zionist ideology, including by educating other Jews about Palestine and Zionism.
2) To link the struggles against antisemitism and anti-Zionism, and to help ensure that one struggle is not weaponized to silence the other.

Why does this look so limited? Because we, as Jews, enter into these spaces (or at least SHOULD be entering into these spaces) as accomplices to the liberatory struggle of the Palestinian people. Zionism is a system of power and control that places Jews in a position of privilege vis a vis Palestinians.

This means that when Jews enter an anti-Zionist space, we accept that we are entering it under certain conditions. As beneficiaries of the system of power and control that those spaces were set up to combat and dismantle, we may be held to a higher political standard. We may be required to affirm certain political positions in order to remain in the space. We may be asked certain questions about our politics because of our positions of privilege. And all of those things might feel bad, might hurt our feelings, and might seem really unfair to us… but it is our job to remember, and to remind each other, that our discomfort and hurt feelings at being held to a higher standard is nothing, NOTHING, compared to the genocide, violence, and ethnic cleansing that we are in those spaces to help put to an end. That is our role as accomplices, and privileged people in that space. Other privileged groups of people are treated the same way in social justice spaces, and that is the norm in our corner of society. It is also important to note that if you are arguing that a space that excludes Zionists automatically also excludes Jews in general, then it is YOU who is conflating Zionism and Judaism, not Dyke March.

The Voices of Palestinians

I would also like to add this, specifically addressing the Jewish people that will see this statement, and in particular those of us who call ourselves anti-Zionist, or Palestine solidarity activists. It is incumbent upon us, in particular, to not participate in this mishegas, and to not heap violence upon Palestinians. It is incumbent upon us to not let our possible previous Zionist brainwashing and existing Jewish fragility and feelings to allow us to grab on the first specious accusations of antisemitism levied against Palestinians by a source that completely lacks credibility. A Wider Bridge, is a known racist, Islamophobic, homophobic, and transphobic organization coming down against Dyke March, which is run entirely by queer and trans people of color, some of whom are Palestinians. Laurel Grauer, a known liar, racist, and Islamophobe, works for A Wider Bridge, and is not credible in any meaningful way on this issue.

It is our job to listen to Palestinians. To not pass judgement on them without hearing their voices. To believe them when they refute or reject accusations made against them. To lift up their voices when they speak their own truths, and give their account of events. It is our job to not give further traction to unfounded or under-supported accusations of antisemitism made against Palestinians, especially when we KNOW that accusations of antisemitism have been historically weaponized against Palestinians, and used to silence their voices on vital matters, including affirming their own humanity and safety.

If you, personally, cannot do these things, then I ask you to consider why you cannot believe Palestinians, why you are giving credibility to accusations of antisemitism without knowing all the details, and why you have a right to be considered a Palestine solidarity activist.

That’s all I have to say on the matter for now. I am in explicit solidarity with Chicago Dyke March, and all the organizers in the Chicago Dyke March Collective.

Stephanie Skora is a lesbian, trans woman, and anti-Zionist Ashkenazi Jew whose activist work centers around Palestinian solidarity organizing, queering Jewish spaces, and fighting for justice and liberation for all trans people. She organizes actively with Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow, and is a co-founder and lead organizer for the Trans Liberation Collective in Chicago. When not organizing, Stephanie is a professional educator and trainer on topics ranging from gender and sexuality to Jewish theology and anarchism.