Following an open letter from the Mardi Gras Board advocating for mutual ceasefire in Gaza, Dayenu, a Jewish LGBTQIA+ community group in Sydney, made a statement in The Australian suggesting that the pro-ceasefire stance of this letter makes Mardi Gras “no longer safe” for queer Jews. Dayenu’s statement expressed concerns for the ‘safety’ of their members following the publication of this open letter and that they were reconsidering their participation in Mardi Gras events for this year as a result. As the queer Jews of Tzedek Collective, we reject that support for Palestine is inherently antisemitic and we assert that it is absurd to suggest that that calling for an end to the genocide in Gaza is somehow ‘harmful’ to Jews. Our principles are based on solidarity and collective liberation. We denounce this anti-Palestinian stance and maintain that Dayenu does not speak for all queer Jews. The open letter in question was conservative in its calls, advocating for immediate ceasefire, mutual de-escalation and the release of Israeli hostages. It did not address any of the colonial violence upon which the Zionist Jewish ethno-supremacist state was founded, which precipitated October 7. Nor did it address the evidence presented by genocide scholars, international law experts and human rights organisations that Israel has committed and continues to commit the crimes of apartheid, genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people. We believe that calling for a ceasefire is the bare minimum, and we strongly advocate for an end to the occupation of Palestinian land, the right of return of all Palestinian refugees to their homeland and for liberation, self-determination and justice for the Palestinian people from the river to the sea.

We recognise our particular obligation as Jews, as descendants of those who experienced historical persecution, exile and genocide, to raise our voices against Israel’s ongoing human rights abuses. Dayenu’s claim that criticism of Israel makes Jews in Sydney somehow less safe, is a claim founded on the conflation of antisemitism with anti-Zionism, and thus of Judaism with Zionism. We reject this idea that Zionism is an inextricable part of Jewish identity. We are queer anti-Zionist Jews who acknowledge the long history of Judaism before Zionism, and the Jewish resistance to Zionism that has existed since its conception. We affirm the danger to Palestinians and Jews alike of making these conflations. Moreover, we reject the use of pinkwashing inherent in Dayenu’s statement; we recognise that queerphobia and transphobia remain worsening issues in Israeli society and that same-sex marriage is not legalised. It is misleading and deeply disingenuous to depict Israel as an LGBTQIA+ sanctuary, as though this somehow justifies any of this occupation, apartheid, genocide and ethnic cleansing. Queer Palestinians cite Israel’s violence against Palestinians as the greatest threat to their existence. Queer Palestinians are being murdered and mutilated by Israel every minute of every day; those in Gaza have stated they are more likely to die from Israel’s violence than from any other cause.

Dayenu’s statement, like other similar statements made by other Jewish Zionist institutions since October 7, portrays this as a ‘safety’ issue, but fear and discomfort are not equivalent to a lack of safety. Zionist organisations who claim to represent the Jewish community seek to weaponise Jewish trauma, to magnify and exacerbate fears of antisemitism in order to suppress advocacy for the basic rights of Palestinians — their rights to life, health, food, housing, land, self-determination, and sovereignty. Moreover, by conflating antisemitism with political criticism of Israel, the meaning of antisemitism becomes diluted and eventually lost. This is dangerous, firstly by implying that all Jews should be held responsible for Israel’s crimes, and secondly by discrediting instances of genuine antisemitism, such as from Neonazis and white supremacists. Furthermore, Dayenu’s anti-ceasefire stance privileges Zionist comfort over Palestinian existence, with no concern for the safety of Palestinians. We reject this mislabelling of legitimate dissent as hate speech. We affirm there is no supremacy of Jewish lives over Palestinian lives and that community safety within LGBTQIA+ spaces cannot be achieved without acknowledging and rejecting all forms of oppression (including Islamophobic, anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab racism, and antisemitism).

Safety at Mardi Gras has been a key concern for activists since 1978, with Blak, trans and queer advocates repeatedly and consistently highlighting the presence of police as the largest risk to safety for queers at Mardi Gras and indeed anywhere they go. This has been brought into sharp focus by the recent double homicide and inquiry which have led to NSW police being uninvited from this year’s parade, a decision which the Mardi Gras Board has since renounced. The BIPOC community has long pointed to issues of institutionalised racism with the police force culminating in racial disparities in police brutality, racial profiling by police, and 559 Blak deaths in custody in 30 years; for many years these communities have had concerns about police involvement in Mardi Gras. We recognise the institutional racism and deprioritisation of the BIPOC community evidenced by the Board not taking measures to reconsider police participation in Mardi Gras, despite these ongoing community concerns, until the horrifying double homicide this past week. However ‘safety’ for Dayenu means holding onto Zionist ideologies and the perpetration of genocide without fear of being criticised for it. We believe in creating a future of community interdependence, solidarity and justice which rejects the police-military complex. 

This Mardi Gras, as we once again take to the streets to demand freedom and justice for queer and trans people, we reaffirm our commitment to community safety in fighting for First Nations rights and for Land Back; rejecting all forms of bigotry and oppression including Islamophobia, anti-Arab racism, anti-Palestinian racism and antisemitism; fighting against suppression and brutality by police; and fighting for a free Palestine within our lifetime.