Israel-Palestine war: Soldier flying rainbow flag in Gaza 'textbook pinkwashing'
Over the weekend, photographs began circulating online of Yoav Atzmoni, a gay 31-year-old soldier, displaying an LGBTQ+ banner and an Israeli flag with rainbow colours while participating in the invasion of Gaza.
Atzmoni, an army reservist called up to fight following the 7 October Hamas-led attack on Israeli border posts and communities near Gaza, had spoken of his wish to fly the flag on a tank in Gaza before the ground invasion began a fortnight ago.
The words “in the name of love” are seen written on the rainbow flag in English, Arabic and Hebrew, and the photograph was reportedly taken about two weeks ago in the northern Gaza area of al-Atatra.
Atzmoni told Israeli media he chose the words in response to seeing “bismillah” – a popular and revered word meaning “in the name of God” – on Palestinian houses.
He said 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.
Atzmoni told Insider his own rights as a gay man would be threatened if Hamas is not defeated by the Israeli military.
“I won’t let them bring me back into the closet,” he said.
However, his actions have been condemned by members of the Palestinian and Israeli LGBTQ+ community.
Ghadir Shafie, a Palestinian queer activist, said the stunt was another case of Israeli “pinkwashing” – the process in which Israel distracts from its crimes and abuses by highlighting its own LGBTQ+ rights to appear more liberal.
“Experts have described Israel's indiscriminate bombing of Palestinians in Gaza as a textbook case of genocide,” she told Middle East Eye.
'The Israeli government, which has attempted to pinkwash its crimes against Palestinians for years, has provided a textbook example of pinkwashing'
- Ghadir Shafie, Palestinian queer activist
“The Israeli government, which has attempted to pinkwash its crimes against Palestinians for years, has provided a textbook example of pinkwashing.”
Shafie noted that despite the impression given by Israel that homosexuality is punishable by death in Gaza, all the queer Palestinians that have been killed recently were instead slain by Israeli forces during their relentless onslaught on the coastal enclave.
“They lie in mass graves and under piles of rubble with their family members, friends, lovers, and other thousands of Palestinian civilians brutally murdered with US dollars,” she said.
Shafie stressed that international queer solidarity was uniting in defence of Palestinians under Israeli attack.
“Over 40 queer and trans groups across nine cities around the world are coming together for the Queer Cinema for Palestine ‘No Pride in Genocide’ global event,” she said.
The event is described as being “in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza and across all of historic Palestine and denouncing Israel’s genocidal attacks and ethnic cleansing against millions of Palestinians”.
'The recruitment of queers and use of LGBTQ+ rights to justify the war is a cynical use of a real struggle for the rights of people from every sector'
- Israeli LGBTQ+ writer
An Israeli writer and queer activist told MEE that “the recruitment of queers and use of LGBTQ+ rights to justify the war is a cynical use of a real struggle for the rights of people from every sector”.
The activist was speaking anonymously due to the risk of attack faced by Israelis voicing criticism of the Israeli government and military’s actions in Gaza.
“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’,” the activist said, referencing language used by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to justify the war.
“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.”
Around 1,200 Israelis were killed by a Hamas-led attack on Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip on 7 October, the great majority civilians and 30 of them children, according to the latest estimates. Another 240 people were taken captive back to Gaza.
Since then, an Israeli bombing campaign and ground offensive have killed more than 11,000 people, mainly women and children.
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.