Members of the Israel Defense Forces are posting “thirst traps” on TikTok as their siege of the Gaza strip continues with experts saying it’s part of a wider strategy to garner support and spread nationalism as the social media masses flock to support Palestinians.
The IDF which has butchered over 240 Palestinians, has long been social media-savvy with a strong online presence.
As platforms are flooded with images of people running away from Israeli airstrikes, soldiers with the IDF are trying to save face by pumping out pro-military content like showing off their uniforms or meeting loved ones at the Gaza border.
עדיין לא יכולים לספר במה מדובר🤫, אבל יש לנו תאריך- 15.4 ויש למה לחכות! 💙🇮🇱#להלהלה♬ Fadeaway - TikTok
“There is a long history within Israel of military iconography favoring the beauty in uniform as a nationalist symbol,” Rebecca Stein, a professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University and author of “Screen Shots: State Violence on Camera in Israel and Palestine,” said.
“The military is using it in new ways to meet the needs of the digital moment.”
It is believed that the “thirst traps” aim to create a cognitive dissonance with young male progressives who may espouse pro-Palestinian views yet find the Israeli soldiers attractive.
Although social media as a tool for propaganda is nothing new, the IDF is unique as many of their soldiers are between the ages of 18 and 21, owing to Israel’s mandatory military service, making them extremely social media-savvy.
“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,” Sophia Goodfriend, a cultural anthropology PhD candidate at Duke who is currently based in Jerusalem, said.
The IDF’s TikTok was rolled out in 2020 and has amassed nearly 100,000 followers to date.
However, comments on posts have turned negative as Israeli atrocities against Palestinians have recently come under the spotlight of the global community.
“There’s been a major shift in the social media ecosystem, [and] Palestinian social media has gained global virality in a totally unprecedented way, which wasn’t the case in previous military campaigns,” Stein went on to say.
“We’re seeing this content and messaging is dwarfed by the scale of Palestinian social media usage and global solidarity. The military now recognises they’ll never catch up, they’ll have to reinvent their PR strategy. It has failed.”
However, even if the larger strategy to sow Zionist pride is stumbling, some fans of the account have made it clear why they’re followers.
“No one wants to see these clowns,” one person commented on an IDF TikTok montage showing off male soldiers.
“Show us the pretty girls with rifles please.”
The article originally appeared in the Rolling Stone
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