Members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reportedly use “thirst traps” on social media to encourage support and stoke nationalism.
There are an abundance of young female IDF recruits who post selfies and other photos and videos on Instagram, TikTok, and other social media platforms
And one professor of cultural anthropology says “beauty in uniform” is an Israeli “nationalist symbol” which has a far greater effect than it may first seem.
“There is a long history within Israel of military iconography favoring the beauty in uniform as a nationalist symbol,” Rebecca Stein, a Duke University professor and author of Screen Shots: State Violence on Camera in Israel and Palestine, told Rolling Stone.
She also notes that the military uses iconography in ways to “meet the needs of the digital moment.”
The suggestion is that these ‘thirst traps’ can be confusing and distracting for American progressive with pro-Palestinian sympathies, as well as playing a role in boosting Israeli nationalism and encouraging support.
A soldier of the Israeli Defence Forces on TikTokPhoto courtesy of @idfofficial/TikTok
Natalia Fadeev, an IDF Military Police reservist who has 1.1 million followers.Photo courtesy of @nataliafadeev/TikTok
Last year, the IDF mysteriously posted a mirror selfie on Twitter without much context of a young woman and a tank top.
It later said that it tweeted the photo because it was used on a Hamas operatives’ fake account to try and catfish and hack into Israeli soldier’s phones.
The IDF, which is in a cease-fire with Hamas after a short war in Gaza, is pretty internet savvy - participating in trends, memes, and much more.
Despite TikTok previously showing countless images of people fleeing Israeli airstrikes, Rolling Stone notes that soldiers within the IDF often respond with pro-military content, such as showcasing their uniforms and visiting loved ones at the Gaza border.
— Israel Defense Forces (@Israel Defense Forces)
Utilizing social media as a method of propaganda isn't new. Still, the IDF’s social media use is particularly resonant due to Israel's mandatory military service for young people.
Sophia Goodfriend, who is a Duke cultural anthropology PhD candidate based in Jerusalem, told Rolling Stone: "Israel is such a militaristic society, so there's broader support for that kind of media, whereas, in the US, things like [soldier dancing videos] don't go viral in the same way."
But Stein says there has recently been a significant "shift" in the "social media ecosystem," which wasn't prevalent in previous military campaigns.
"We're seeing this content and messaging is dwarfed by the scale of Palestinian social media usage and global solidarity. The military now recognizes they'll never catch up; they'll have to reinvent their PR strategy. It has failed," she continued.
Some supporters of the IDF’s social media accounts have been pretty clear on the reason why they’re following.
“Show us the pretty girls with rifles please,” one person commented on TikTok about a montage of male soldiers.