Sunday, June 25, 2017

Who Could Have Known That Characterizing All Jewish Political Agency as a Conspiracy Could Lead To Antisemitism?

I briefly posted last night about the exclusion of queer Jews carrying a rainbow flag with a Star of David on it being excluded from a Chicago gay pride parade. The march was not the main Chicago Pride parade but a smaller "Dyke March" which claimed to be specifically interested in fostering greater inclusion and diversity.

The Windy City Times (a gay periodical in Chicago) now has some more information on the exclusion. While the march organizers have yet to issue a statement, defenders of the expulsion of Jewish marchers have unsurprisingly seized upon the "pinkwashing" claim as their best gambit. Given that one of the expelled marchers is an officer with the LGBT group A Wider Bridge -- an organization often unjustly accused of pinkwashing on the basis of little more evidence than "they work with queer Israelis" -- I expect we'll hear plenty more contentions that a rainbow flag with a Star of David is actually best thought of as a propaganda arm of the Israeli government seeking to downplay the occupation.

I've written quite a bit about why pinkwashing is an absurd charge, and one that is only intelligible through antisemitic notions of Jewish conspiracy whereby any actions Jews take is presumed to be part of some sort of plot. This shows the inevitable endpoint of that analysis: If you're a Jew, and you're open about it, the presumption is you must be an agent of Israeli hasbara unless you engage in public self-flagellation demonstrating the contrary. A Star of David suffices to show you're in on the plot. A Star of David with a rainbow is enough to infer your true objectives. What else could you possibly be doing at a gay pride parade other than serving as an agent of a foreign power?

Simply put, when you can't conceptualize Jewish political action but through the lens of some sort of conspiratorial effort to prop up Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza, it's utterly unsurprising that simply carrying a Star of David will become sufficient proof of "pinkwashing". "Pinkwashing", as a concept, merges entirely into a politics of antisemitic exclusion precisely because it is predicated on being unable to hold multiple thoughts in one's head at the same time -- the Star of David is a Jewish symbol and it's on the Israeli flag! Jews may be proud of Israel's relative protections of LGBT rights and sharply critical of its policies towards Palestinians!

One final thing. On twitter, some people questioned if the expulsion of these marchers might be unlawful as a form of anti-Jewish discrimination. I believe that the answer is clearly no, under the precedent set by Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston. But there is some irony: Hurley allowed an Irish pride parade to exclude gay marchers from the proceedings insofar as the parade organizers disagreed with the "message" of their would-be co-marchers (the message, apparently, being that there were Irish-American gay people who were proud of that identity). And the same rule that permits an Irish pride parade to be homophobic, allows a Gay pride parade to be anti-Semitic.

UPDATE: I've finally seen a statement by a march organizer, Iliana Figueroa:
"Yesterday during the rally we saw three individuals carrying Israeli flags super imposed on rainbow flags. Some folks say they are Jewish Pride flags. But as a Collective we are very much pro-Palestine, and when we see these flags we know a lot of folks who are under attack by Israel see the visuals of the flag as a threat, so we don't want anything in the [Dyke March] space that can inadvertently or advertently express Zionism," she said. "So we asked the folks to please leave. We told them people in the space were feeling threatened."
First of all, these flags were not "Israeli flags super imposed on rainbow flags." They had a Star of David on a Rainbow background. This is an "everything is critical of Israel" move, where an antisemitic action is reformulated as anti-Israel expression, which then will be lobbed back at Jews accused of being unable to tolerate "criticism of Israel" and/or (ironically enough) unwilling to cease "conflating" Israel and Jewishness.

Second, the "we don't want anything in the space that can inadvertently or advertently express Zionism" -- as applied against a visible Star of David -- couldn't illustrate my above points better if I had written it. The point of "pinkwashing", as an accusation, is to render any organized act of queer Jewish agency that is not torch-and-pitchfork anti-Zionist into the equivalent of an Israeli governmental press release. Once that's the standard, it is unsurprising and predictable that basic expressions of Jewish identity will become illicit as "inadvertently express[ing] Zionism," and the upshot is that Jews are excluded virtually in toto.

Figueroa said that a full statement will be forthcoming "after it finishes crafting one, and that members have asked pro-Palestinian organizations and others to release statements of solidarity with Dyke March as well." Again, note how the easiest move for many groups, when faced with Jewish claims of marginalization, is to shift as quickly as possible onto the "Israel" terrain as a means of delegitimizing the Jewish narrative. This response doesn't remedy the anti-Semitism (indeed, it scarcely seeks to address it) -- it doubles-down on it.

UPDATE 2x: Statement is out, and as predicted "A Wider Bridge" gets exactly the treatment I anticipated. On the other hand, the Human Rights Campaign issued a statement of condemnation.

UPDATE 3x: I wrote a follow-up post: "That's Funny, This Story About Anti-Semitism Keeps Repeating Itself."

1 comment:

David Bernstein said...

Re Hurley, the march organizers would have to argue, publicly, that their "message" includes the exclusion of Jews. It would be worth suing them just to make them have to say this clearly and publicly.