Before we dive into the events that occurred on June 24th during the Chicago Dyke March, let’s get a couple of things straight: Zionism is an ideology that claims that Jewish people are entitled by God to historic Palestine for a Jewish-only homeland, thus excluding non-Jews from the rights of the land. Zionism has therefore been utilized as a tool to justify the oppression of Palestinians, the placement of discriminatory laws against them, and subjecting them to home demolitions, segregation, and violent practices. Anti-Semitism is prejudice against the Jewish people. And for those unaware, you can very well be against Zionism and not be anti-Semitic. In fact, there is a very large (and growing) number of Jews who are against Zionism and the occupation of Palestine because of the way Zionism has been levered against Palestinians in inhumane ways.
However, time and time again, the Zionist agenda has falsely accused pro-Palestinian individuals, organizations, and collectives of anti-Semitism as a mechanism to silence Palestinian struggles and to distract the public eye from the role Zionism has in the oppression of Palestinians. The Chicago Dyke March was no exception.
Included in the mission of the Chicago Dyke March is to, “honor our histories and identities, to disrupt oppression and dominance, and to challenge silence and fear.” Therefore, the Dyke March has historically been in solidarity with Palestinians and have held positions against both Zionism and anti-Semitism. Even more, Jewish and Palestinian allies have participated in previous marches with no problems. However, while the Dyke march is open to all identities and intersectionalities of identities, it does not tolerate ideologies that are embedded in racism such as Zionism.
Nevertheless, this year’s Dyke March sparked some controversy when a group of Zionists were asked to leave the march after disrupting pro-Palestinian chants. According to a statement issued by the Chicago Dyke March, the group replaced the word “Palestine” with “everywhere” in the chant: “From Palestine to Mexico, border walls have got to go.” When fellow marchers approached the group to understand their intentions, the group was not shy about its root in Zionism and support for Israel. Organizers of the march stepped in and had a lengthy and thorough conversation with the group explaining why Zionism would not be tolerated at the march. After a two hour conversation, the group was finally told that if they did not agree with the march’s anti-Zionist position, they could leave the march.
…Numerous media outlets accused the march of anti-Semitism based on misleading information and false testimonies…
Here is the really interesting part: an individual from the group, Laurel Grauer, contacted an organizer before the march and asked if she would be protested for bringing Jewish pride flags. The organizer proceeded to tell her that it should not be a problem and that they support the struggle for a Palestinian state but also do not support anti-Semitism in any way. What happened next? Grauer and her group decided to discredit Palestinian struggle by erasing Palestine from the chants. After they expressed Zionist views and were asked to leave, numerous media outlets accused the march of anti-Semitism based on misleading information and false testimonies by group members. Headlines such as “Jews Kicked Out” began circling the news. To spell it out plainly, the
group was fully aware of the Dyke March’s stance against Zionism, deliberately disrupted pro-Palestinian chants, and then victimized themselves.
Zionists continue to act appalled that their views are not accepted within social justice discourse, just as the Zionist group had during the Chicago Dyke March. Zionists would rather cry “anti-Semitism” than to let others see the real and dangerously inhumane faults of the ideology they support. It is important to note that this tactic is not new and it only serves to divert attention from Israel’s occupation of Palestine. When allies protested Gal Gadot’s role in Wonder Woman as the new face of feminism in Hollywood due to her time serving in the Israeli Defense Force, Zionists accused protesters as being “anti-Semitic.” Across college campuses nationwide, whenever students protest the occupation of Palestine, Zionists accuse activists as being “anti-Semitic.” When it was revealed that Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian Muslim political activist, was among the organizers for the 2017 Women’s March, Zionists felt their views were left out of feminism and fell back on “anti-Semitism.” Do not get me wrong: anti-Semitism is very real, especially within the Trump era, and we as a nation should be doing everything we can to put an end to racism and prejudices. But let’s not confuse anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Rather, let’s be aware of how Zionists are abusing serious and real threats against Jews for their own oppressive agenda. Let’s not conflate Judaism with Zionism, and realize that they can function separately.
Further, it is extremely problematic to falsely claim that instances of anti-Zionism equates to being anti-Semitic because that leaves no room for criticism against Israel’s state sanctioned violence against Palestinians. This tactic is meant to deliberately scare people into keeping their mouths shut against the occupation of Palestine, because Zionism works in favor of Zionists – naturally – and, by association, keeps on fueling the occupation (that and, of course, billions of U.S. foreign aid sent to Israel). Israel can continue to boast about its culturally appropriated falafel, amazing beaches, and (false) fair treatment for all living in Israel while Palestinians live in an open air prison – even Palestinian citizens in Israel are still treated as second-class citizens. This is why grassroots movements, such as the Chicago Dyke March, are so important. They include a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to Zionism. The movement is not scared to criticize a state, precisely because it is criticizing a state, not a people (there isn’t enough “bolding” and “underlining” to make this any clearer).
How can we claim to be feminists, claiming to fight for equality for all, if we are ignoring the oppression and occupation of Palestinians?
A wise man once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” You might have heard of him; his name is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and I think he was onto something here. How can we claim to be feminists, claiming to fight for equality for all, if we are ignoring the oppression and occupation of Palestinians? The answer: we can’t. If we are serious about justice for all, we cannot be afraid to speak up against injustice. We need to look past racist agendas and propaganda and actually fight for equality and freedom from oppression for everyone. And as long as Zionism continues to justify the occupation of Palestine and the human rights abuses along with it, there is no room for Zionism within feminism or any movement towards any type of liberation. Period. Chicago Dyke March, we march with you. Palestine and all others who face oppression and injustice of any sort, we march for you.