Monday, January 24th | 23 Shevat 5782

June 24, 2019 5:13 am

Where Is Jewish ‘Pride’?

avatar by Karen Lehrman Bloch


Revelers take part in a gay pride parade in Tel Aviv, Israel June 8, 2018. Reuters/Corinna Kern.

Perhaps the most surprising part of the DC Dyke March, which sought to ban rainbow flags embossed with the Star of David, was how surprised many people were by it.

I mean, where have they been for the past decade?

Demonization of Israel, and by extension Jews, has now been fully normalized on the left, as part of a broader campaign to replace Israel with “Palestine,” in the false name of social justice.

The decision of the organizers to explicitly allow the Palestinian flag was far from incidental. “We choose to prioritize Palestinian lives and justice in Palestine over lazy symbols,” wrote the organizers. What sentence better sums up what “intersectionality” has become, or perhaps has always been? Does anyone really think a similar message won’t prevail at the Democratic National Convention in 2020?

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I fully respect how A Wider Bridge, Zioness, and the Anti-Defamation League chose to deal with the Dyke March’s ban: call it antisemitism and essentially force their way in. But I don’t think it’s ultimately effective — the problem of leftist antisemitism grows exponentially every day — and it is not, in my opinion, the dignified liberal Jewish response.

Jews should not be groveling to be part of groups that hate us — we should not be forced to pray to the false god of identity politics.

Moses gave us a blueprint on how to deal with situations like this. Throughout most of our history, we were not in a position to follow this blueprint. Today we are.

But in the name tikkun olam, many of us have forgotten that in order to be a light unto nations we first have to be a light unto ourselves. We have come to tolerate hate against Jews that we would never tolerate against any other group. But we can’t help anyone else until we strongly unify ourselves against hate from both the left and the right.

The normalization of antisemitism on the left is based on an easily refutable set of lies about Israel and Jews repeated over and over again on campuses, in the media, and now in Congress. The Jewish liberal response is not to beg the perpetrators and pawns of these lies to be part of this pre-genocidal hatefest. The liberal Jewish response is to correct the lies — to tell the truth over and over again; to pull funding from any group or university that continues to employ anyone who perpetuates the lies; and, perhaps most important, to stand tall throughout the process.

The purportedly Jewish organizer of the DC Dyke March didn’t know that the Star of David has been a symbol of Judaism for thousands of years. Many on the left apparently don’t know that Israel is a bastion of freedom for women and the LGBT community — that gay Palestinians flee to Israel for protection. Meanwhile, criminalization of homosexuality is the norm in Muslim countries, with nine retaining the death penalty. Beheadings and stonings are common responses.

A truly liberal left would hold Israel as an example of what LGBT rights would look like in the Middle East. Instead, Israel is falsely condemned, and citing Muslim homophobia is considered Islamophobic. Clearly, much work needs to be done — and it should be done in tandem with the Muslim Reform Movement.

Second, liberal Jews should walk away from hate groups and create truly liberal spaces — spaces that reteach liberalism through tolerance, respect, justice, and compassion. Personally, I would also walk away from the word “progressive” — let the haters have it — but I understand the argument not to do so. For years, I’ve been told to walk away from the word “liberal,” but I refused. Today, most media outlets use “leftist” to refer to the illiberalism on the left.

Finally, there has never been a better time to enhance our Jewish pride through wearing those “lazy symbols” — the Star of David, the kippah — that have kept us as a people through centuries of persecution.

When we stand up with dignity against our oppressors, we show oppressed groups all over the world how to face lies, bigotry, and ignorance — how to act as a free people. Liberalism stems from the essential principles of Judaism, and Zionism is a subset of liberalism. It’s time to fully own that.

Karen Lehrman Bloch is an author and cultural critic living in New York City. A version of this article was originally published in The Jewish Journal.

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