Angry participants in a gay pride march in Chicago have spoken about how they were forced to leave the event after organisers said their Jewish Pride flags, bearing the Star of David, were “offensive”.
The Chicago Dyke March, which took place last weekend, is billed an "anti-racist, anti-violent, volunteer-led, grassroots mobilisation and celebration of dyke, queer, bisexual, and transgender resilience", according to its Twitter account.
One marcher, Ellie Otra, who was holding a Jewish Pride flag, said she was approached by a delegation sent by the march organisers who told her that her Star of David flag “looks too much like the Israeli flag ….it triggers people and makes them feel unsafe.”
Ms Otra added: “They told me my choices were roll up my Jewish Pride flag or leave.
“I tried to explain, no, no, it’s the ubiquitous symbol of Judaism. No, they said people feel unsafe. I was thrown out of Dyke March for being Jewish. This was about being Jewish in public.”
Ms Otra said she deliberately stayed clear of Dyke March supporters carrying Palestinian flags and chanting anti-Israel slogans.
“I ignored people side-eyeing me,” she said. “I actively tried to stay away from people who directly tried to instigate conflict.
I thought if I played by their rules I could just be Jewish in public.”
Another marcher, Laurel Grauer, said she was harassed by other Dyke March attendees before being told she needed to leave with her flag.
“It was a flag from my congregation which celebrates my queer Jewish identity, which I have done for over a decade, marching in the Dyke March with the same flag," she told Windy City Times.
“They were telling me to leave because my flag was a trigger to people that they found offensive,” she added. “Prior to this [march] I had never been harassed or asked to leave and I had always carried the flag with me.”
Eleanor Shoshany-Anderson was also asked to leave because she was carrying a Jewish flag.
She said: "The Dyke March is supposed to be intersectional. I don't know why my identity is excluded from that. I felt that, as a Jew, I am not welcome here.”
The Chicago Dyke March Collective, which organized the march, posted on its social media accounts that the women were asked to leave for expressing support for Zionism, adding that they supported Jewish marchers who were anti-Zionist.
“The Chicago Dyke March Collective is explicitly not antisemitic, we are anti-Zionist,”
Ruthie Steiner, a marcher who witnessed the removal of the Jewish participants, called it “horrific.”
Israel’s own tolerant attitude to homosexuality, especially in Tel Aviv, is often dismissed as “Pinkwashing” by anti-Zionist activists who claim it is way of covering up its treatment of Palestinians.
In January 2016, a Shabbat service and reception for Jewish participants at a gay activism conference in Chicago, hosted by A Wider Bridge, was disrupted by hundreds of protesters who chanted "Hey hey, ho ho, pinkwashing has got to go”.