A Palestinian artist whose mural of a rainbow flag on Israel's West Bank separation barrier was whitewashed by anti-gay protesters says his work sparked a rare debate among Palestinians about gay rights.

Khaled Jarrar said Wednesday that he received hundreds of Facebook messages — some threatening but others supportive or curious — since he painted the flag on six barrier cement slabs Monday.

Jarrar, 39, says his art was meant as a reminder that Palestinians live under Israeli occupation, at a time when gay rights are in the news after the U.S. allowed same-sex weddings. But protesters perceived the mural as support for homosexuality, a taboo subject in Palestinian society, and whitewashed it.

The artist says he told his critics that "we can only demand equality if we give it."