'Rolling Stone' IDF 'thirst trap' article slanders Israel - analysis

Article says IDF uses women as "thirst traps" to wins hearts and minds during the last war with Hamas

Female Israeli soldiers on duty at the IDF observation post next to the Dead Sea, overlooking the Israeli border to Jordan. September 06, 2012. (photo credit: MOSHE SHAI/FLASH90)
Female Israeli soldiers on duty at the IDF observation post next to the Dead Sea, overlooking the Israeli border to Jordan. September 06, 2012.
(photo credit: MOSHE SHAI/FLASH90)
It was just one of many articles criticizing Israel and the IDF during and after Operation Guardian of the Walls.
But who could resist clicking on a Rolling Stone article titled: “Why Are Israeli Defense Forces Soldiers Posting Thirst Traps on TikTok?
Propaganda, or hasbara (public diplomacy) as it is known in Israel, is one of the many tools that militaries use during wartime.
The IDF and Hamas are no different. Both sides fought not only with rockets and bombs, but also with social-media posts, including TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
It’s the 21st century, after all, and the war for winning hearts and minds has moved online.
Both sides published hundreds of media posts during the fighting. But the aforementioned May 27 article stands out.
Written by American journalist EJ Dickson, a staff writer at Rolling Stone, the article accuses the IDF of using women’s bodies to win the propaganda war.
“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,” Dickson wrote.
“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,” he added.
The Rolling Stone story was “baseless” and “slander,” according to a senior IDF officer.
“The whole premise of the story is clickbait and factually incorrect,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “It is misleading, dishonest and very unprofessional. None of the content they provided is on any IDF platform in any language.”
Along with “beautiful female soldiers lip-syncing to Dua Lipa’s ‘Levitating’ or marching in fatigues and doing dances to military music,” the Rolling Stone feature used the example of influencer Natalia Fadeev as being a “thirst trap.”
Like most Israelis, Fadeev is an IDF reservist and has uploaded pro-Israel content to her personal Instagram page. But being a reservist in a Border Police unit does not make her an active soldier. The IDF cannot control what she posts on her account.
“There’s no law against a woman posting on her social media of her in a bikini, but it’s not something that is promoted or organized by the IDF,” the senior officer said. “It’s not something that we sponsor or support; it’s not something that is shared or retweeted by our pages.”
He said he “stands behind every piece of content” uploaded to official IDF accounts.
Private accounts, on the other hand, are another story. Such accounts are not monitored or regulated by the IDF, the senior officer said, adding: “It’s not our business and nothing we control.”
The IDF has had its fair share of controversies in which soldiers, both female and male, have uploaded pictures of themselves half naked or in underwear holding their weapons.
Those pictures, though, were uploaded on private accounts, not on official military channels.
“We are not using women or men in any unfitting circumstances; that’s very easily proven,” the senior officer said.
A search of IDF social-media channels on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat and Twitter did not find photos of half-naked female soldiers with weapons.
This is not to promote any propaganda by either side. But in the era of the Me Too movement, it is surprising to see such a big international magazine publish an article in which a female journalist accuses an entire military of sexual harassment.
That is especially clear since some easy fact-checking on social media shows it is not the case.