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On June 24, 2017, what could have been a typical Pride celebration turned into an international incident whose reverberations will be felt by some members of the queer community for years to come. At the Chicago Dyke March, an annual radical march that can trace its roots back more than 20 years, multiple participants were forced to leave because they carried flags that the organizers claimed made people feel “unsafe.” These flags featured the well-known rainbow flag with the image of a Magen David, or Star of David as it is commonly translated, superimposed overtop.
As many communities within the larger queer community have done, queer Jews created this flag to represent and celebrate their unique position as queer people who are also marginalized in other ways. The creators of the flag used a symbol that is undoubtedly the most recognizable sign of Judaism purposefully and without shame, in much the same way as the creators of the Israeli flag did nearly 70 years ago. A person carrying the Jewish pride flag is not making a statement about their relationship to Israel, but one of the many red flags for modern Anti-Semitism is assuming a connection between all Jews around the world and Israel. This is dangerous because many people view Israel as an oppressive force and therefore view all Jews as oppressors as well. This is part of why people do not feel the need to include Jewish issues in social justice and leads to further marginalization on all sides of the political spectrum.
Anti-Semitism in the progressive left is not a new phenomenon, but has recently begun gaining alarming visibility. Movements that have been led and supported by Jewish people since their formation are becoming hostile environments for socially conscious Jews. The acts of anti-Semitism at the Chicago Dyke March are only the latest in an 86 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents from 2016, which in turn saw a 34 percent increase from 2015, according to a report put out by the Anti-Defamation League in April of this year. Jews who are driven to practice tikkun olam, the Jewish concept of repairing the world through activism and social policy, are finding it increasingly difficult to do their work in a system that seemingly supports all other marginalized groups.
It has become a dangerous balancing act for Jewish activists who have to witness the rise of Neo-Nazi culture coming from one direction and the dismantling of previously safe spaces from the other. Without the support of other marginalized communities, Jewish activists face the doubly violent reality of Anti-Semitic violence occurring without anyone outside of the community caring about it. Historically, this is how the heaviest times of Jewish persecution have begun, and it can only be stopped by non-Jews standing up and refusing to let their communities be a part of this cycle. It is the responsibility of the queer community to fight for all people under its umbrella, and hopefully through unity we all can find safety.