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Why Are Israeli Defense Forces Soldiers Posting Thirst Traps on TikTok?

Israeli soldiers — and the military itself — are trying to influence the Middle East narrative with sexy social media posts

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With her long, lush blond hair, almond-shaped blue eyes, and expertly manicured brows, influencer Natalia Fadeev bears a striking resemblance to model Gigi Hadid. On TikTok, where she’s racked up nearly a million followers, she’s mastered the art of the coquettish facial expression, balancing it with angles that show off her rear end. She’s cultivated a brand as an Airsoft shooting game enthusiast, maintaining a separate Instagram account under the handle @gunwaifu sponsored by a tactical gear store, and she regularly posts catgirl videos and kawaii (a Japanese-inspired cutesy aesthetic) cosplay on her TikTok page.

In addition to being well-versed in the art of monetizing her personal brand, Fadeev is a reservist in the Israel Defense Forces, and much of her page is devoted to pro-Israeli military content. Earlier this month, she posted a video of Israeli soldiers playing soccer with Palestinian children; in another, she dances and preens at the camera while the caption, “when they tried to destroy your nation but you ended up having one of the most powerful armies” flashes on-screen. In the context of the most recent turmoil in Gaza, which has left 13 Israelis and over 240 Palestinians dead, many criticized Fadeev’s content for making light of the Israeli military’s actions and attempting to put a sexy face on the conflict.

Fadeev has a long history of using her platform to spread what is essentially nationalist propaganda. She’s a member of the Alpha Gun Angels, an Israeli gun-modeling and social media marketing agency featuring buxom former and current IDF soldiers brandishing heavy military artillery while wearing crop tops and camo pants. And Fadeev, who did not respond to Rolling Stone‘s requests for comment, is not the only hot IDF soldier who’s gone viral for blatant pro-Israeli military cheerleading: last week, Yael Deri, who describes herself in her bio as a member of the Ta’oz battalion in the IDF, garnered controversy when a TikTok of her lip-synching to Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad saying, “What was that? I should kill everyone and escape?” while brandishing her gun and preening adorably at the camera went viral. Such content is interspersed with videos of her filming at what appear to be military checkpoints.

It’s not clear what the IDF’s official stance on such content is: though the military ostensibly has guidelines restricting “unbecoming online content,” Deri herself has been featured on the official IDF TikTok page, and her page is still active. (The IDF did not respond to a request for comment.) But it’s fair to say that IDF soldier thirst traps are part and parcel with the official IDF’s general strategy to use social media to win hearts and minds across the globe.

@idfofficialבואו נדבר תכלס.. 🤭 #פוריו #צבאההגנהלישראל #בסיססגור♬ original sound – צה”ל

On its official TikTok page, the IDF has posted videos of beautiful female soldiers lip-syncing to Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” or marching in fatigues and doing dances to military music. “There is a long history within Israel of military iconography favoring the beauty in uniform as a nationalist symbol,” explains Stein. “The military is using it in new ways to meet the needs of the digital moment.” All of these thirst traps can create a disorienting experience for a young, horny, American progressive with pro-Palestinian sympathies — which, of course, is exactly the point.

@idfofficialהאתגר הרשמי! יום העצמאות ה-73 🇮🇱💙 מחכים לדואטים שלכם✌🏻#להלהלה #תמידעולההמנגינה♬ original sound – צה”ל

Still, even if many people do not feel a surge of Zionist patriotism at the sight of comely soldiers brandishing guns, plenty of people are into it. “No one wants to see these clowns,” says one comment on an official IDF TikTok featuring a montage of Israeli men making the heart sign and pointing to the IDF logo. “Show us the pretty girls with rifles please.”

From Rolling Stone US