In support of the Chicago Dyke March, and against pausing our work on racism & state violence.

In the attacks on the organizers of the Chicago Dyke March, NYC Queers Against Israeli Apartheid see a panicked attempt to shut down the growing queer movement against Zionism and Israeli apartheid. To do it, they switch hats in the middle of the conversation. A Wider Bridge (“Building LGBTQ Connections With Israel”) and other Zionist activists bring political Zionist messages into a queer space, and when queers object, they say they’re being targeted as Jews. They’re not.

A Wider Bridge has made these claims of anti-Semitism (and even homophobia) in LGBTQ spaces before. They appear intended to sow Jewish mistrust of queer community.

Why would they do that? The claim that Jewish people are marginalized “even by queers, who are supposed to understand oppression” seems aimed at making Israel more appealing, more necessary, to a generation of Jews and non-Jews that increasingly rejects Israel as racist and violent. It turns the spotlight away from violent armies, cops, and the people of color they target. This is not a new practice: similar tactics were used to push Arab Jews to separate from their home communities and become Israeli. It’s a violent disruption of community, and a cruel way to use people.                            

Let’s also be clear about where this is happening. Anti-Semitism is a problem in party politics from left to right, and among the white supremacists freewheeling around the U.S. right now. It is not a problem in dyke marches or other explicitly grassroots, antiracist queer spaces. It just isn’t. What’s big in those queer community spaces are anti-Zionism and anti-pinkwashing.

In the last decade or so, virtually all the alarms raised about anti-Semitism in U.S. queer communities have been about challenges to Zionism, and have been raised by pinkwashing organizations. This is important: it means that charges of anti-Semitism in queer spaces are intentional diversions. And they work. The conversations online get so focused that they turn on individual words rather than how power is being used. They become so intense that they destroy friendships and alliances. The damage to progressive queer community seems to be deliberate.

In the last month, Zionist LGBT activists have diverted our attention from catastrophic state violence against Palestinians by claiming anti-Zionist queers are anti-Semitic and homophobic. The uproar shuts down discussion of the fact that Gaza is down to two hours of electricity per day. That Israeli settlers continue to shoot at Palestinians in their homes and streets while Israeli soldiers stand aside. That Palestinians, queer or otherwise, can’t move freely even within their shrunken, fenced-in spaces: not for medical emergencies, not for education, not for food, not for work.

Queers are fighting back against pinkwashing, and against charges that queers who oppose Zionism are “homophobic.” Now we have to fight back against the manipulation of our community conversations. Yes, it’s important to hold each other accountable in conversations about racism, including anti-Semitism, and violence. But check those conversations. If we’re not talking about power and our relationship to it, if we’re obscuring actual state violence happening now, then we’re being played. That’s how to tell when charges of anti-Semitism are being used to mess with queer movements, rather than to improve them. And that’s when to say: no more.


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