Chicago Dyke March accuser A Wider Bridge has record of fabrications

A delegation sponsored by the Israel lobby group A Wider Bridge poses outside Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, with a rainbow flag emblazoned with the Star of David, November 2016. (via Facebook)

The pro-Israel group accusing Chicago’s Dyke March of anti-Semitism for asking several people, including its Midwest manager, to leave, has a history of fabrications about attacks against Jews.

A Wider Bridge made global headlines this weekend with its claims about the incident in which several individuals were asked not to display “rainbow Jewish flags” at the Dyke March in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood on Saturday.

The flags had blue stars similar to those on Israel’s flag, on a rainbow background.

The group is demanding that the Dyke March “issue a full public apology for dismissing LGBTQ Jews,” and that it engage in “a constructive dialogue about how anti-Semitism and calls for the disappearance of the Jewish state are creating an unsafe environment for LGBTQ Jews and allies.”

The Human Rights Campaign, the Washington gay rights lobby group that endorsed Hillary Clinton, added its criticism, calling the Dyke March’s actions “not right.”

Founded in 1996, the Dyke March Collective describes its annual gathering as a “grassroots mobilization and celebration of dyke, queer, bisexual and transgender resilience.”

Often seen in contrast to the corporate and gay-male dominated official pride march, usually held the same weekend, the Dyke March calls itself “an anti-racist, anti-violent, volunteer-led, grassroots effort with a goal to bridge together communities across race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, size, gender identity, gender expression, sexuality, culture, immigrant status, spirituality and ability.”

The Dyke March Collective is not apologizing to A Wider Bridge and laments that “our celebration of dyke, queer, and trans solidarity was partially overshadowed by our decision to ask three individuals carrying Israeli flags superimposed on rainbow flags to leave the rally.”

The group said that the decision to ask three people to leave “was made after they repeatedly expressed support for Zionism during conversations with Chicago Dyke March Collective members.”

“The Chicago Dyke March Collective is explicitly not anti-Semitic, we are anti-Zionist,” the group added. “We want to make clear that anti-Zionist Jewish volunteers and supporters are welcome at Dyke March and were involved in conversations with the individuals who were asked to leave.”

(Note: On 27 June, the Chicago Dyke March Collective published a longer statement, providing more details of provocations by the persons affiliated with A Wider Bridge, including the altering of chants to erase the word “Palestine,” and further refuting its claims).

What’s in a flag?

The group For The People Artists Collective, whose members were present at the Dyke March, offered a similar account.

FTP Artists Collective said that the marchers carrying the flags “were approached and engaged by both Palestinian and Jewish anti-Zionist participants of the march” in order to “find out more about the intention behind the flags, as they are often seen at Israeli pride parades, are widely used in pinkwashing efforts and were visually reminiscent of the Israeli flag due to the color and placement of the star.”

“We recognize and affirm that the Star of David is a Jewish symbol and not inherently connected to Israel or Zionism,” FTP Artists Collective added. “The cooptation of the Star of David by the state of Israel is deeply saddening and makes it hard to distinguish between imperialist ideology and non-state, religious belief.”

The Star of David is not only a symbol of the Israeli state, but of its army, which carries out the kind of mass violence against Palestinians that is currently being examined as possible war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

Stephanie Skora, who works with Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago and organizes with the Trans Liberation Collective, was part of the discussions that led to the three people – two of them had been carrying flags – being asked to leave.

Skora told The Electronic Intifada that the rainbow flag emblazoned with the Star of David “is being argued across Facebook as either a Jewish pride flag or an Israeli pride flag as if it could never have both meanings.”

“They were asked to put the flag away and then they could stay,” Skora said, but “one of the persons refused and became increasingly hostile and then the organizers asked them to leave.”

“Organizers were right to prioritize safety of traumatized people over the right to display a flag that has ambiguous connotations in a space that’s supposed to be safe for everyone,” Skora said.

Denying pinkwashing

Caleb Wagner, a queer anti-Zionist Jewish activist, was also part of the discussions. He rejected the claim that the individuals were asked to leave because they were Jewish, noting that most of those opposing the display of the flags were also Jewish.

The objections to the flag, he insisted, were also based on its use in Israel’s pinkwashing.

Pinkwashing is the public relations strategy that deploys Israel’s supposed enlightenment toward LGBTQ issues to deflect criticism from its human rights abuses.

It often involves gross exaggerations of Israel’s progressive policies, accompanied by outright lies about Palestinians.

A recent example was the national US tour of Israel’s “first trans officer” which aimed to present the Israeli army in a favorable light to LGBTQ - Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer – communities, neglecting to mention the officer’s role in Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Bedouins.

Wagner said those carrying the flag refused to acknowledge that the symbol could have any association with pinkwashing. “They refused to acknowledge how that association with Israel – not Judaism – is not welcome in this space that is anti-colonial and pro-Palestine.”

A Wider Bridge’s Midwest manager Laurie Grauer insisted on putting forward pro-Israel arguments, Wagner said. “But that’s like coming into this space and saying you want to have a dialogue about anti-gay marriage or anti-trans,” Wagner said. “You coming into this space and trying to have a dialogue about the merits of Zionism is wrong and immoral in this space that is designed for queer people of color.”

“From my perspective, she came in there with a particular agenda to open up a dialogue about Zionism and be pro-Zionism,” Wagner said of Grauer.

False claims

This is not the first time A Wider Bridge has made false accusations of anti-Semitism against Chicago activists expressing solidarity with Palestinians.

Last year, A Wider Bridge was at the center of fabrications that protesters had disrupted Shabbat prayers during the National LGBTQ Task Force’s annual Creating Change conference.

In fact, the activists protested a reception for A Wider Bridge – an Israel lobby group.

Although the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, one of the media organizations that spread the false claim, later retracted it, the damage was done.

A Wider Bridge itself helped to fan misinformation and hyperbole about what happened.

This story is taking on a familiar pattern, where A Wider Bridge’s distorted version is making headlines and setting in place a false narrative.

A key goal of Israel and its lobby groups in recent years has been to inoculate Israel against criticism by obscuring the line between anti-Jewish bigotry, on the one hand, and criticism of Israel and its state ideology Zionism, on the other.

“I really think people are ganging up on this situation because it looks bad on the surface, but it was not like that in reality,” Skora said. “It didn’t help that A Wider Bridge was involved and their propaganda jumped on it immediately.”

Skora said that members of the Dyke March Collective she’s been in touch with “have spent the last 36 hours fielding personal attacks from Zionists, including rape and death threats,” and that “international news has had a field day.”

A Wider Bridge says it is “building a movement of pro-Israel LGBTQ people and allies.” It also opposes what it claims are the “demonizing and delegitimizing” of Israel – terms habitually used by Israel and its surrogates to justify repression of the Palestine solidarity movement.

In 2014, A Wider Bridge sponsored rallies addressed by Israeli government officials in support of Israel’s 51-day bombing campaign that devastated the Gaza Strip and left 2,200 Palestinians – more than 550 of them children – dead.

Among its major funders is the Jewish Federation of Chicago, which has led efforts to combat activism for Palestinian rights.

A Wider Bridge also has a history of working with StandWithUs, an Israeli government-funded lobby group with ties to right-wing anti-LGBTQ activists.

This article has been updated since initial publication.

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The entire incident is based upon the claim that the banner was the flag of the Zionist State or in effect the flag of Zionism.. which it is not. The place of the star suggest it may be but the claim that the colour of the star is the same as that of the flag of the Zionist State is wrong, it is white and not blue. So one must conclude that it is not the flag of that State.
It is common in the current populist drift of things to hear many other such ambigious claims as well. The failure to distinguish Israel Apartheid from Israeli Apartheid is based on the absurd claim that the Israeli people democratically support their government and so are complicit. Such a claim that would make all guilty of all that happens with no one left to be the responsable ones - sounds like Eichmann.
But it it great to see the Jewish identified groups like JVP, Neturei Karta and If Not Now-Jewish Resistance take form to speak in the name of the Jewish People without shame or regret.

Ali Abunimah's picture

You are mistaken. On the flags at the march, the star was blue, as the photos published by Haaretz show. A Wider Bridge also uses a blue star on its web page. In any case that is pedantry, since obviously the whole issue is that a symbol can carry different meanings for different people. Would you argue that a white Star of David painted on an Israeli military vehicle does not represent Israel because it is not blue? Obviously context and perspective matter.

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we are not dealing with plain ambiguity here. neather with the question of colours on the flag. this.is clearly a case of attended tactics of provoke and accuse. zioinists create and abuse the ambiguity between zioinist and jewish symbols in order to force zionist discourse or be able to shout "anti-semitisn", taking jewish comunnity members as hostages amo.g.thr way.

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It's unacceptable to include symbols of division on a flag of inclusion. It doesn't need any further discussion. It's unacceptable to do this in an Israeli pride parade let alone outside of Israel.

There are cases of the rainbow flag carrying national symbols. South Africa is one example...
http://www.mambaonline.com/201...

It is not unique to Israel. The idea has been used by gay Muslims and Christians as a symbol of solidarity. It is reasonable to say that Jewish symbols should have the same rights.

How would a gay boy who had been molested by a priest feel about that? Or an Iranian transvestite that escaped persecution in Iran? Clearly, the idea is problematic and not a concept that should be promoted.

While this is clearly particularly unacceptable in the case of the Jewish symbol, with the promotion of pinkwashing and the inherent apartheid nature of Israel, it is universally against the very principles of inclusion that the rainbow flag seeks to represent.

It opens a door to other even more abhorrent deviations, a Nazi gay flag, a white supremacist gay flag... then what, corporate logos on rainbow flags.

There are good reasons why organizations spend considerable effort and money defending their organizations' identity. The rainbow flag is a collective identity and not one to be usurped to the purpose of nationalism, religious promotion or sponsorship.

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So.. if it is deemed unacceptable to pose a symbol on the Rainbow flag on the basis of universalism, what about the Red flag of Spartacus. Should the Bolsheviks have used the Red flag for Russia, should China with its 4 stars of the 4 nationalities, what about the IV International as well, or the Che profile on the Red flag and on and on!
Why cannot the Jewish revolutionists use the Jewish star and recuperate it from the Zionist movement. Do not Jewish people have an identity to protect and preserve against the Antisemites, fascists, neo-Nazis and Zionists?

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"Why cannot the Jewish revolutionists use the Jewish star and recuperate it from the Zionist movement." (Excuse me- Jewish revolutionists? Is that who they were?)

And afterwards you can run down to South Carolina and help rehabilitate the old "Stainless Banner" of the Confederacy. As for the spate of whataboutery- which flag the Soviet Communists should have used, ditto the People's Republic of China, appropriation of Che Guevara's image, and the Fourth International- ah yes, the Fourth International!- what does any of that have to do with the Chicago Dyke March and the attempt by a small crew of Zionists to insert their colonial message in the parade?

By the way, it's customary when making the whatabout rounds to bring up Tibet. You're letting the side down there.

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there's no reason to add a religious symbol to a gay flag. a pride march isn't about religion and pushing a symbol thats also associated with a country is also a kind of attempt to co-opt the pride symbol for whatever political purpose. adding anything to the flag is divisive. jews and israelis can wave the rainbow flag, JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE...

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"Adding anything to the flag is divisive." Really? If gay Moslems added a crescent to its Rainbow Flag, who would object?

One of the expelled marchers had marched with a Rainbow Flag with a Star of David on it for the previous ten Chicago Dyke marches. Why was nothing said then?

So now we're told that the Chicago Dyke March is anti-Zionist. Was this ever announced prior to the March?

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YES REALLY. . a dyke march shouldn't have to commit to whether its pro or anti zionist. any opinions may be held by individuals but it's not appropriate to bring that politics into a LGBTQ specific event. its about celebrating pride and marching for LGBTQ rights.. i would object to ANY religious symbol or country or ideology superimposing its values and agenda on the rainbow. IT IS DIVISIVE.

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Sure the March should take a political postion against Zionism and the Occupation. Now if some Jewish people want to participate anyways who are pro-Zionist (while living in the USA!), then why not if they do not seek to impose their ideology on theMarch. They may even be against the Occupation but they were not even asked about that i read. Also the Jewish activists who objected to their presence were likely once educated to be pro-Zionists not so long ago, no?

Ali Abunimah's picture

According to the Chicago Dyke March organizers’ full statement published on Tuesday and added to the article above, the pro-Israel activists did indeed try to impose their anti-Palestinian ideology on the march. Here’s an excerpt, though I encourage you to read the statement in full. It really suggests that the Israel-government linked Zionist group A Wider Bridge was there to stage a provocation:

On June 24th, 2017, a small group of individuals were asked to leave Chicago Dyke March for expressing Zionist views that go directly against the march’s anti-racist core values. In the days following, articles have appeared in a number of major news outlets that put forward false reports based on testimony that is purposefully misleading. We wish to clarify the circumstances under which organizers and community members alike asked the group to leave. 

The group in question was heard disrupting chants, replacing the word “Palestine” with “everywhere,” saying: “From everywhere to Mexico, border walls have got to go.” One of the individuals, Laurel Grauer, is the Regional Director of A Wider Bridge, an organization with ties to the Israeli government that was protested for pinkwashing at the Creating Change Conference in Chicago in 2016. It was later revealed that Laurel was aware of Dyke March’s anti-Zionist position from pro-Palestine memes and art that were posted on the Dyke March page, and was also aware of the fact that her flag could be interpreted as being at odds with that position. The night before, she contacted an organizer to ask if her flag would “be protested.” The organizer told her the flag was welcome, but reminded her that the space is one that supports Palestinian rights.

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Well done, Chicago Dyke March. Your response to A Wider Bay on why the group was asked to leave the March is a template for all individuals and groups who criticize Israeli policy and are attacked as 'anti-Semitic'. The response was clear, concise, reasoned and free of emotional connotation.

Hold the line and Jusice will prevail.

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If it's appropriate to ask Zionists openly displaying their Zionism to leave a queer event, why not do the same for U.S. nationalists? The United States is likewise a settler-colonial nation state that commits all manner of horrors. I'd love to see more opposition to U.S. nationalism at Pride and other queer/trans events.

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This article omits any mention of Eleanor Shoshany Anderson, who was also kicked out. According to her account, she never expressed support for Zionism or Israel, and it is not even clear whether she is a Zionist, or has any affiliation with A Wider Bridge. Do the march organizers dispute her account, and claim that she did express support for Zionism or Israel?

http://chicagoist.com/2017/06/...

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Ms. Anderson claims she "only" wanted to show a Jewish symbol. But she went to the March together with Grauer, an activist for the explicitly Zionist lobby group A Wider Bridge. At the March, Grauer expressed that she was Zionist (for which she was excluded then). Their flags were collectively provided by that organisation. It is the same flag you can see in the top-picture of this article: unfolded right before an Israeli (that is: the Zionist state) institution. It is the flag of Tel Aviv Pride, and so connected with Pinkwashing.

Even when her proclaimed prior naivity is genuine (not knowing that the star-of-david-rainbow flag is the one signifying pinkwashing; is she this new to Pride?), *after* the March she should have known better. At least her travelling companion, an explicit Zionist, should have told here something by then. Any journalist should have asked: do you still think your narrow interpretation of the flag is the general one? (Monday in the link, Tuesday again in NYT).

All in all, her chosen interpretation "it's just a Jewish symbol" does not stand. She knew enough.

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It's not a question of naiveté. I'm sure she knew about the double meaning of the six-pointed star as a symbol of both Judaism and Zionism. The question was, what was her intent in displaying it at that march. If her intent was to express her Jewish and lesbian identity, that really should have been the end of the conversation. Just as a Muslim displaying a rainbow crescent flag should not be interrogated about whether there may be an alternate, pro-ISIS meaning to her flag, just because the same symbols may be used by ISIS.

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We have a right to protect the symbols of a gay identity. Your additions to it are not wanted or requested, whatever those symbols might be.

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It's a fair point, and if there had been a blanket ban on all symbols on flags, it would have been well taken. But when the ban is enforced solely against Jewish symbols (and when one of the marchers even confirmed beforehand that her flag was acceptable), it looks a lot more like discrimination against Jews.

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So another hasbara exercise has backfired. These Zionist trolls tried to insert themselves into a march celebrating human liberation and were sent packing. Clearly those marching in the parade understood what happens to LGBTQ people who fall into the hands of the IDF, Shin Bet and other Israeli police agencies. The hypocrisy of Zionists is a never-ending source of wonder- as is their incomprehension.

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Unfortunately the video news program The Young Turks got the reporting on this all wrong, self righteously parroting the Wider Bridge version, https://youtu.be/LUwSivMPuLc
Ali-any chance you have any contacts to TYT that could reach out to them on this? Clearly they need a lot of help on this issue, which appears to be a major blind spot for an otherwise progressive group. And there might be hope for potential growth-The founder Cenk was at one time a denier of the Armenian genocide who now says he has no basis for that denial.

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The "Z" word gets thrown around alot, but how is it defined? Is supporting Israel's right to exist Zionism? The three who were kicked out claimed they support a two-state solution, and made that clear. Is that Zionism? There's a lot of accusations of Zionism, discussion of how bad they are for being Zionist, and precious little proof that they are, in fact, actually Zionist. A flag acknowledging the existence of Israel is not Zionist. Supporting the existence of Israel is not Zionist. Being for a two-state solution is not Zionist. But it does acknowledge Israelis as human beings with as much right to live in peace, safety and dignity as anyone else - a view shared by millions of Israelis toward the Palestinians, but who unfortunately have had as much luck making themselves felt as liberals here have managed to stop the tide of Trumpism. Maybe, since I'm American and love my country, I'm pro-Trump, even though I voted for Bernie and then Hillary. Maybe the Dyke Bike organizers are. I'm sure some antifa will be able to make that case.

As far as triggering, what about other flags? Were Chinese flags allowed there? Isn't that triggering to Tibetans and Uighurs? Don't they count? That hammer and sickle triggers me, as it reminds me of family members in the Czechoslovakia and Cuba who suffered under Communist rule. But hey, Communism doesn't oppress anyone. Right? Of course, not, silly! It's just great kitsch to put on display in coffee shops, as harmless as a teddy bear. And don't get me started on Myanmar and their treatment of the Rohingya Muslims. I'm sure their flag was banned as well, right?

Right?

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" Supporting the existence of Israel is not Zionist."

The proposition is framed as though confined to the realm of the abstract. But supporting the existence of Israel is a very material process involving the provision of billions of dollars in arms sales, staunch diplomatic backing, large-scale "donations" to virtually all members of Congress, blackmail of U.N. members to compel acquiescence in Israel's actions, and a richly funded full-time propaganda offensive in print and broadcast media. In light of all this we're at least entitled to ask what are the consequences of this support for Palestinians. When you're prepared to dwell on that question, you'll be in a position to assess what the existence of Israel means in real terms and how such support can't be regarded as distinct from the Zionist movement that actuates that state.

And by the way, it's always nice seeing the Tibet card being played in discussions of Israel. Though I doubt if any Tibetan has yet to take encouragement from the tactic.

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