A gay Israeli soldier says he’s going to fly the LGBTQ+ flag on his tank while fighting Hamas – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

A gay Israeli soldier says he’s going to fly the LGBTQ+ flag on his tank while fighting Hamas

Yoav Atzmoni holding an LGBTQ+ flag in front of two tanks in Israel

Courtesy of Yoav Atzmoni

A gay Israeli soldier plans to take an LGBTQ+ flag to fight against Hamas.Israel has more LGBTQ+ rights protections compared to many other Middle Eastern countries.If Hamas wins the war, Israel could lose these rights, Yoav Atzmoni told Insider.

A gay Israeli soldier said he plans to display his LGBTQ+ flag on his tank as he fights against Hamas, despite it likely making him larger a target for attacks by militants.

Yoav Atzmoni, 31, was called up to serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) after Hamas militants stormed Israel on October 7.

The surprise terrorist attacks killed more than 1,400 Israelis and injured over 5,400, according to Israeli officials. The retaliatory Israeli airstrikes on Gaza killed more than 5,000 and injured more than 15,000, according to Palestinian officials.

Atzmoni told Insider that he’s worried that a Hamas victory could set Israel’s progress on LGBTQ+ rights back several decades. “I won’t let them bring me back into the closet,” he said.

Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attacks

Atzmoni recalled him and his boyfriend, Nadav Yitzhaki, waking up to the sounds of sirens in their Jerusalem apartment.

When Atzmoni found out Hamas militants had started attacking southern Israel, he was stunned that they had managed to breach the $1 billion heavily fortified Iron Wall that separates Gaza from Israel.

“The border between Gaza and Israel was supposed to be strong and impossible to go through,” he said.

Having served his mandatory military service a decade ago, Atzmoni knew it was just a matter of time before a commander would call him up and send him to the front. So did his boyfriend, who started to cry.

Nadav Yitzhaki and Yoav Atzmoni at Tel Avid Pride in June 2023

Courtesy of Yoav Atzmoni

“It was very scary because we’re not used to seeing them [Hamas fighters] in Israel,” he said.

Atzmoni served his country in the military for three years, between 2010 and 2013, as part of Israel’s compulsory military service. At the time, he had spontaneously come out to his comrades. They supported him.

Azmotovi says he believes the IDF is the protector of Israel’s democracy and LGBTQ+ rights — and the flag represents that.

Yoav Atzmoni (left), Eytan Marmelstein, Omer Bauman and Yulav Shtaigel (right) on a tank in Israel

Courtesy of Yoav Atzmoni

LGBTQ+ rights at risk

During previous trips to Jordan and Egypt, Atzmoni said he noticed how severely LGBTQ+ rights were limited.

In Egypt, same-sex sexual activity is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine, per the LGBTQ+ defender Humanity Dignity Trust.

Meanwhile, in Jordan, public opinion is overwhelmingly opposed to LGBTQ+ rights, according to the LGBTQ+ collaborative knowledge base, Equaldex.

Under Hamas, LGBTQ+ Palestinians suffer “severe persecution and ostracism,” per UN Watch’s 2022 report.

Same-sex intercourse between men is banned in Gaza and punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment under Section 152(2) of the British Mandate Criminal Code Ordinance of 1936, which is still in force in Gaza, according to the Human Dignity Trust.

In a statement sent to Insider, the Israeli LGBTQ+ rights organization, The Aguda, said that being an LGBTQ+ person in Gaza under Hamas’ rule is an “immediate life risk.”

Israel, however, has made strides in LGBTQ+ rights and protections over the past six decades, including recognizing same-sex marriages performed abroad in 2006 and adopting children through surrogacy in 2020.

Israel’s Defense Ministry recently formally recognized same-sex couples’ right to the same benefits as other families of dead IDF soldiers, per The Times of Israel.

Nadav Yitzhaki and Yoav Atzmoni holding an Israeli flag with LGBTQ+ colors

Courtesy of Yoav Atzmoni

But the progress has been hard-won, according to Azmotovi.

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu spent the last five years trying to cling to power, lying to his moderate partners, and eventually formed the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history last year, he said.

In the process, he said, Netanyahu allowed ultra-religious parties into power and tore apart the fabric of society, pitting minorities and Israelis against each other.

“We feel a lot of anxiety because now, more than a gender minority, we are a political minority,” he said, pointing to criticism from government ministers.

Yitzhak Pindrus, a member of the orthodox and conservative United Torah Judaism Party (UTJ), said the LGBTQ+ community is “more dangerous than Hamas and Hezbollah,” per the Israeli newspaper Haartez.

Nadav Yitzhaki and Yoav Atzmoni at a party held by the Hilltop Youth, a religious-nationalist youth movement seeking to establish settlements in the West Bank.

Courtesy of Yoav Atzmoni

If Atzmoni gets the chance to enter Gaza, he says he wants to bring LGBTQ+ flags to Palestinians.

“I remember as a child how important that flag was for me,” he said.

Looking ahead, Atzmoni hopes Israelis can grow from the “shock” of the war and come together after five years of divisive policies and rhetoric.

Yoav Atzmoni holding a rifle and sitting on his tank

Courtesy of Yoav Atzmoni

He said he wants to defend democracy in his country and perpetuate what his grandparents did when they survived the Holocaust and built the Mosha, a cooperative agricultural settlement, where he lived as a child.

“That’s the story that they chose for me, and that’s the story I want to tell my children when they grow up,” he said.

He added: “I want my children to live here — not in Europe — and pass that heritage on to them.”

Read the original article on Business Insider
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