D.C. Gay Pride March Bans Israeli Flags, Allows Palestinian Ones

Jewish organizations call on D.C. Dyke March to apologize, reverse course

Participants of the Gay Pride parade gather in a park in Jerusalem / Getty Images

A Washington gay pride parade is banning participants from brandishing Israeli flags, Israeli pride flags, or any "pro-Israel paraphernalia" during its event on Friday.

Yael Horowitz, a Jewish organizer of the D.C. Dyke March, said organizers had decided to ban "nationalist symbols," including flags and banners that represent "nations that have specific oppressive tendencies."

Palestinian flags would be allowed, however, the Forward reported. It was unclear if this was a tacit acknowledgment of Palestinians not having a true state. It was also unclear if organizers were aware of the lack of LGBT protections for gay Palestinians, including the illegality of male homosexual conduct in the Gaza Strip.

"Jewish stars and other identifications and celebrations of Jewishness (yarmulkes, talit, other expressions of Judaism or Jewishness) are welcome and encouraged," Horowitz wrote in a Facebook message to marcher A.J. Campbell. "We do ask that participants not bring pro-Israel paraphernalia in solidarity with our queer Palestinian friends."

A similar situation developed in 2017 when a Chicago lesbian march ejected several women for carrying gay Jewish pride flags. Some other marchers claimed the flags made them feel "unsafe" in keeping with the anti-Zionist sentiment of the event.

Campbell told the Washington Post she felt the march was trying to tell her what kind of Jew she was allowed to be. Israel has the most progressive gay rights record in the Middle East, while homosexuality is illegal in the Palestinian-governed Gaza Strip.

"I just thought, the Chicago Dyke March is happening all over again — here," she said. "I’ve been a Jewish lesbian for a long time, and it’s never been a problem … They seem to have very specific ideas about what kind of Jew I’m supposed to be, and I don’t feel like they get to say that."

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who is currently visiting Jerusalem, slammed the decision and noted a similar parade was occurring this week in the Israeli capital, calling it "an event impossible to conceive of in an Arab country or in Iran where they publicly execute gay individuals."

"For decades gay activists have insisted that there needs to be one standard in pursuit of human rights and human dignity," Cooper said in a statement to the Free Beacon. "Such hypocrisy by some leaders to treat Jews differently is classic anti-Semitism, will damage the campaigns for equality for all, and should be denounced by LGBTQ activists everywhere."

The Israel Project's Josh Block said it was the "very definition of racism" in a statement to the Free Beacon.

"It is the very definition of racism — and antithetical to the values of inclusion that such celebrations of tolerance are engendered to embody — for the D.C. Pride parade to ban Jews and Americans displaying symbols of pride and Jewish faith. We call on all people of conscience to condemn this blatant bigotry," he said. "At a time of rising antisemitism on the Right, it is vile and equally painful to see such blatant anti-Jewish racism coming from the Left as well. There should be no quarter for bigots."

Joining Campbell, a group of LGBT, Jewish, and feminist organizations released a joint statement condemning the March and challenging it to live up to its message of inclusivity.

"We ask the organizers to hold true to their mission of inclusivity as stated on their website: ‘The DC Dyke March exists to celebrate and center all Dykes," the statement by Zioness Movement, A Wider Bridge, Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, and Campbell said. "Together we call on the DC Dyke March to apologize to the community and reverse course by allowing Dykes wishing to carry all Jewish and Israeli symbols to march as their full, authentic selves."

This will be the first Dyke March in Washington, D.C., since 2007.