Photos of a gay Israeli soldier holding a LGBTQ pride flag during Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza have sparked a controversy and accusations of Israeli “pinkwashing”.
Over the weekend of Nov. 11, photos showing 31-year-old Yoav Atzmoni holding a LGBTQ rainbow flag and an Israeli flag with rainbow colors while he was participating in Israel’s invasion of Gaza went viral.
The photos were also shared on Israel’s official social media account, with the caption “The first ever pride flag raised in Gaza.”
The caption said Atzmoni “wanted to send a message of hope to the people of Gaza living under Hamas brutality” and raise the flag as “a call for peace and freedom”.
The words “in the name of love” can be seen written on the rainbow flag in English, Arabic and Hebrew.
He said he chose the words after he saw “bismillah” – a popular and revered word meaning “in the name of God” – on Palestinian houses, according to Middle East Eye.
Atzmoni told the New York Post that the Israeli military “is the only army in the Middle East that protects democratic values”.
“It is the only army that allows LGBT people the freedom to be who they are, and therefore I fully believe in our goal,” he added.
Israeli media called the photos a “huge boost to Israeli morale”, but Atzomi’s actions have been criticized by both Palestinian and Israeli LGBTQ activists given Israel’s relentless onslaught of Gaza.
Ghadir Shafie, a Palestinian LGBTQ activist, told Middle East Eye that Atzomi’s actions was Israel “pinkwashing” itself to distract from its crimes and abuses by promoting its LGBTQ rights.
Shafie said that Israel has given the impression that being LGBTQ is punishable by death in Gaza, but in reality, all the LGBTQ Palestinians who have been killed recently were killed by Israeli forces and airstrikes.
Another Israeli LGBTQ activist, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of their safety, told Middle East Eye that the war is not about rights.
“This war is not about rights, and it is not a war between the West and the Arabs, and it is also not a war between ‘the people of light and the people of darkness’,” another Israeli LGBTQ activist told the Middle East Eye.
“Many innocent people are killed. No one checks their sexual orientation before dropping a bomb, like Hamas did not check the sexual orientation of the residents of the south before the massacre on 7 October,” they said.
People online also voiced the same sentiment under Israel’s post.
“In the name of love you killed 5000 kids in 1 month,” someone wrote.
“I stand with Israel, but I don’t support this,” another person wrote.
“A message of ‘solidarity’ with the buildings u leveled to the ground in the background? I’m sure the LGBTQ+ community of Gaza(or specifically those of them who managed to survive ur bombs) will be hopeful after seeing ur message. Wtf is that????,” a third person wrote.
“I’m sorry to point this out but isn’t it hypocritical to say / write / associate “in the name of love” with a war? just because it’s for love doesn’t mean it’s right, global wars, civil wars, any kind of war is against love because it produces hate. So saying Love when all I see is Hate (not direct hate but I still see hate) is very hypocritical and insensitive,” another comment read.
Israel declared war on Hamas after the Palestinian miliant group launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing about 1,200 Israelis and taking another 240 people hostage back to Gaza.
Since then, Israeli airstrikes and a ground offensive have killed than 11,000 Palestinians, including more than 4,300 children, in Gaza.