To the Editor:
As many of us have tried to move on from the chaos and anger of the Creating Change Conference ( January 2016 ), and the more recent Dyke March in Chicago, it turns out that anti-Semitism does not go away, and is raising its ugly head once again in advance of the upcoming Chicago SlutWalk, scheduled for August 12.
While a "Chicago Slutwalk representative says Jewish and Zionist symbols now 'welcome,'" [Jewish Chronicle] the underlying message that many of us continue to hear is "Jews not welcome!" I am not sure that those sending out this message will understand this letter, but the LGBTQ Jewish members in our community will recognize their message for what it is.
I remember being chastened for violating the philosophy of intersectionality almost 40 years ago, but we did not have a term for it then. Fresh out of the US Air Force, and just coming out, I wore my Air Force summer uniform shirt to a Friday night service at Congregation Or Chadash. I was verbally attacked by some of the women members for wearing this 'symbol of male oppression.' I had no idea what they were talking about, as I was just wearing it because it looked very sexy on me, or at least I hoped that it did. As I interpret this in retrospect, I believe the women were caught in the intersectionality of the day, between the Gay movement ( as it was known then ) and the women's rights movements. And they found it necessary to take it out on me and my innocent shirt! Now that we have a term for it, and have seen it in action, many of us see and feel the sharp edge of this double-edged sword. None of this was then, or is today, good for our LGBTQ 'community,' or at least the community we want and should try to be.
I think that all Jewish members of the LGBTQ community would agree wholeheartedly with their printed goals: "Chicago SlutWalk demands end to rape culture and gender-based oppression." Unfortunately, the Pro-Palestinian message which has been added to the Dyke March and the SlutWalk stated messages easily turns into Anti-Israel and Anti-Zionist messages, and then to Anti-Semitic messages, as we saw at the Dyke March, which have become very divisive!
Before traveling to the Middle East to show their support for Palestine, I suggest that the Pro-Palestinian supporters visit Wikipedia's page on "LGBT rights by country or territory": **
( Excerpts ): Same-sex sexual activity: Death/ Extra judicial Execution, Up to 10 years imprisonment. Yes, Female always legal.
and then to the footnote on "STATE-SPONSORED HOMOPHOBIA":
GAZA, OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY, No. 74 of 1936 is in force in Gaza. Section 152( 2 ) of the Code criminalises sexual acts between men with a penalty of up to 10 years.
It appears that, in the Palestinian Territories ( Gaza Strip ), legally, women are not prohibited from lesbian activities ( the good news ), while they are fairly well known to be second-class citizens in most other aspects of their life in this part of the world to begin with ( the reality ).
Compare this with the information on Israel:
( Excerpts ): Bans some anti-gay discrimination; Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty applies to homosexuals and bisexuals. Yes, Full recognition of gender's ID without a surgery or medical intervention; equal employment opportunity law bars discrimination based on gender identity; Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty applies to transgender individuals.
Part of the problem is that people who like to encourage anger can do so by extrapolating from 'Jewish gays' and the 'Jewish star' to 'Zionist Displays' which they have decided to ban. *
Calling Jewish marchers "the Zionist contingent" is simply not accurate, and further encourages anti-Semitism. While "They were kicked out after a discussion where they made their Zionist beliefs known and refused to back down," it was only after these Jewish women were aggressively interviewed, were they deemed Zionists. I do not know how many other individuals were interviewed in a similar manner before being allowed to march.
My hope is that a conversation can occur before the start of the SlutWalk, so some Jewish women can try to provide some education on what it means to be a Jewish Lesbian that has no direct Zionist message, and the SlutWalk organizers can figure out how to be pro-Palestinian, if they wish, without punishing Chicago's Jewish Lesbians.
My voice as a white gay man might not get much traction in any discussion on this issue, but I do see anti-Semitism being thrown at my Jewish Lesbian friends, and for that and its divisive results in the LGBTQ community, I am very sorry. With transgender military now under attack from the White House, attacks on many other LGBTQ rights will not be far behind! We need to stand together, or see segments of our community fall, one by one! Who will you stand with?
Norman L. Sandfield
** en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_by_country_or_territory .
* * * * * * *
"To the Editor:
Harvey Milk, a gay Jewish man, once said, "It takes no compromise to give people their rights." I write to echo Mr. Milk's brave words, and to encourage all queer and trans people in Chicago to add their efforts to one of the most important justice movements happening right now: the movement for Palestinian liberation. In his August 7th Letter to the Editor, Norman L. Sandfield argued that support for Palestinians and Palestinian human rights had no place in queer spaces, and that support for Palestinians can easily turn into antisemitism. As a genderqueer trans woman, a femme lesbian, and a proud Jew, I write to say that nothing could be further from the truth. My support for Palestinian human rights is inextricably tied to my queer, trans, and Jewish identities. Indeed, I feel it necessary here to paraphrase yet another queer icon and my movement ancestor, trans Jewish lesbian Leslie Feinberg, "with every breath and every sinew, we must fight for Palestinian liberation."
Support for Palestinians is a logical step for members of the LGBTQ community to take, not in spite of our identities, but because of those identities. Our liberation as queer and trans people in the US is inextricably linked with the liberation of Palestinian queer and trans people, and indeed, that of all Palestinians. We should not hesitate to support the rights and freedoms of a people from all forms of oppression simply because the government that claims to represent them is homophobic or transphobic. This is a lesson most of us in the community should not need, given the results of the most recent Presidential election. As for the government of the Israeli State that also claims jurisdiction over Palestinians, a deeper look reveals that they may not be as LGBTQ-friendly as Mr. Sandfield thinks.
We shouldn't have to justify our support for Palestinian human rights with specific examples of atrocities committed against them, or with grand arguments about morality; the case to fight for Palestinian human rights is that everyone deserves human rights. In case we need specifics, though, I'll be more than happy to provide a few examples of the atrocities that the Israeli State has committed against the Palestinian people. For sixty-nine years Palestinians have endured countless crimes at the hands of the Israeli State, which organizations like the UN and Amnesty International now describe as an apartheid state. Most heinous among these are atrocities like the arbitrary imprisonment of children, fifty years of brutal military occupation, the destruction of villages to construct illegal settlements, depriving Gaza of adequate electricity or water, massacres in Gaza which the Israeli Military horrifyingly refers to as "mowing the lawn," and the terrorizing of gay Palestinians to force them to act as informants for Israeli intelligence agencies. With even this partial list, it is no surprise that queer and trans people are flocking to the Palestinian cause.
The recent stances taken by SlutWalk, the Chicago Dyke March Collective, and the Trans Liberation Collective, who conducted a shutdown of the Chicago Pride Parade with a explicitly pro-Palestinian contingent and list of demands show something that is becoming increasingly clear: it is harder than ever to be queer, trans, and progressive on everything except Palestine. Queer and trans people everywhere are standing up together in support of dignity, human rights, and self-determination for the Palestinian people. The narrative on Palestine is shifting. Every day more people are supporting Palestinian liberation, and a new study shows that the more people learn about the realities of the Israeli State, the less they like it. It is time for the LGBTQ community of Chicago to follow in the footsteps of Mr. Milk and Mx. Feinberg. We can't keep compromising on Palestinian liberation; we need to support Palestinians, with every sinew and every breath.
In Solidarity with Palestinians Everywhere,
Member, Jewish Voice for Peace - Chicago