They’re young, hot and ready for war.
Members of the Israel Defense Forces are posting “thirst traps” on TikTok amid the nation’s conflict with Hamas — and experts say it’s part of a larger strategy to garner support and spread nationalism as the social media masses flock to support Palestinians, Rolling Stone reported.
The IDF, which is in the midst of a cease-fire with Hamas following a short war that left 13 Israelis and over 240 Palestinians dead, has long been social media-savvy with a strong online presence, but they’ve stepped up their game amid the latest round of conflict in Gaza, the outlet reported Friday.
As the platform is flooded with images of people running away from Israeli airstrikes, soldiers with the IDF are responding by pumping out pro-military content like showing off their uniforms or meeting loved ones at the Gaza border, the outlet said.
“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,” told the outlet.
“The military is using it in new ways to meet the needs of the digital moment.”
The outlet reported the “thirst straps” are creating a cognitive dissonance with young male progressives who may espouse pro-Palestinian views yet find the Israeli soldiers attractive — which is exactly the point.
While using social media as a tool for propaganda is nothing new, the IDF is unique in the sense that many of their soldiers are between the ages of 18 and 21, thanks to Israel’s mandatory military service, and thus, extremely social media-savvy.
“Israel is such a militaristic society, so there’s broader support for that kind of media, whereas in the U.S. 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, told the outlet.
The IDF’s TikTok account launched in 2020 and has since racked up nearly 100,000 followers, but lately, comments on posts have turned negative and the Palestinians appear to be winning the social media war, the outlet said.
“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 told the outlet.
“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.”
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.”