Israeli Soldiers Raise Pride Flag In Gaza, Reignite “Pinkwashing” Debate

Israeli Soldiers Raise Pride Flag In Gaza, Reignite 'Pinkwashing' Debate

The images sparked an outcry among some LGBTQ activists.

Tel Aviv:

Amid the war ruins of Gaza, an Israeli soldier unfurls a rainbow flag in support of the LGBTQ community, reigniting a debate around “pinkwashing” as activists accuse Israel of deploying its liberal image as a tool against Hamas.

Israel has the most liberal legal approach to homosexuality in the Middle East, in marked contrast to the Palestinian territories, including the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, where it remains a taboo.

Two images showing the soldier in Gaza appear to have been first posted online by screenwriter Lee Kern, who said on X, formerly Twitter, that they showed “the first ever pride flag raised in Gaza”.

The emblems were taken there by gay Israeli soldier Yoav Atzmoni, he said, quoting him as saying Israel’s army was the only one in the region “that allows gay people the freedom to be who we are. And so I fully believe in the righteousness of our cause.”

The post was enthusiastically picked up on by multiple official social media accounts, including the state of Israel on X, and some Israeli embassies around the world.

The post on the Israel X account — which said Atzmoni “wanted to send a message of hope to the people of Gaza living under Hamas brutality” — had been viewed nearly 17 million times by Tuesday.

Written across one flag were the words: “In the name of love”.

Behind the soldier lay an apocalyptic landscape of ravaged streets and buildings destroyed in Israel’s military campaign to oust Hamas.

In the other photo, Atzmoni poses in front of a tank holding a rainbow-edged Israeli flag, crisp folds in the emblems still clearly visible.

The images sparked an outcry among some LGBTQ activists.

Nas Mohamed, the founder of the Alwan Foundation, a LGBTQ campaign group in the Gulf, questioned the use of Israeli LGBTQ rights as a “weapon” against Palestinians who do not have them.

He told AFP the rainbow flag “has absolutely no place in this war”.

– ‘Trojan horse’ –

A Palestinian LGBTQ activist who uses the pseudonym Ahmad Nawwas slammed the photos as “disgusting”.

The underlying message was that queer Palestinians “do not exist” or that “they can only be free if they depend on Israel”, he said.

That could also reinforce homophobia among Palestinians, who may see homosexuality as something that is “exclusive to Israel,” he added.

Israel has vowed to “crush” Hamas in response to the group’s October 7 attack when its militants broke through Gaza’s border to kill about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took around 240 hostage, according to Israeli officials.

The army’s air and ground campaign has killed 13,300 people, including more than 5,500 children, according to Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007.

Israel has long been accused of “pinkwashing”, or pushing its reputation for tolerance, in an effort to give a liberal veneer to an image tarnished by its occupation of Palestinian territories.

Israel uses LGBTQ rights as a “Trojan horse to pinkwash Israel’s image” and present itself as “a human rights bastion of the region”, said Rasha Younes, a researcher on LGBTQ rights in the Middle East at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

– ‘Gay capital’ –

Neither Kern nor Atzmoni responded to repeated requests by AFP for comment.

But Israel has a large and influential LGBTQ community, particularly in Tel Aviv, widely dubbed the “gay capital of the Middle East”.

Legislatively, Israel is a pioneer in LGBTQ rights in the region, despite homosexuality being deeply rejected by conservative religious parties.

While domestically it only registers religious weddings, it recognises same-sex marriages carried out abroad.

That stands in contrast to Palestinian territories where homosexuality remains a taboo.

In a recent US newspaper column, David Kilmnick, president of the NGO LGBT Network, called on the community to support Israel in the war against Hamas as “a matter of principle and survival”.

It was undeniable that the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank restricted the rights of LGBTQ people, said HRW’s Younes.

“But that does not erase… the abuses by the Israeli government that have left many Palestinians without access to basic services and any freedom, whether they are queer or not.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *