Tel Aviv — The war in Gaza, known in Israel as Operation Strong Cliff, may have wound down. But memories still linger of the parallel Facebook campaign called Girls Keeping the Cliff Strong.
The Facebook campaign, which drew tens of thousands of clicks during the fighting, highlights the often troubling implications during war time of the relationship between sex and violence.
Girls Keeping the Cliff Strong offered photographs of anonymous young Jewish women from Israel and around the world, appearing with “I ♥ IDF” written over their scantily clad or sometimes naked bodies. The social media campaign went viral within minutes of its introduction in late July.
The social media campaign’s name is a sexual pun on the military campaign’s Hebrew name; Israeli officials gave the military operation the English name Operation Protective Edge in an effort to project it to the world as a defensive action.
Girls Keeping the Cliff Strong was taken down from Facebook after about four days, apparently because of objections by scores of women. But it succeeded in generating passionate discussions, as well as dozens of spin-offs, such as Standing with the IDF, Russian Girls for the IDF and Gays for the IDF.
Soldiers on the battlefield commented on the photos and shared them by the thousands; anti-Israel Internet users flooded the pages with exhilarating hate comments; feminists reached a blogging boiling point, and Israeli news outlets were handed a patriotic excuse to publish racy photos during wartime.
Most large Israeli news outlets — such as Mako and Walla — covered the trend positively, and the curiously articulate uploader of the page, Gavriel Bio, was interviewed everywhere.
When asked by an Israeli journalist, “Would you publish photos submitted by ugly women?” Bio replied: “I don’t understand your question. There are no ugly women.”
As a matter of fact, in most cases there is no way to determine what the women in Girls Keeping the Cliff Strong even look like: Few of the pictures show the girls’ faces.
And this aspect of the campaign — the women’s facelessness — seems somehow related to a broader phenomenon evident in Israel’s current atmosphere: political misogyny.
This round of war has seen an extremely harsh reaction to female public figures. Beloved female Israeli celebrities, such as Orna Banai, Orly Weinerman, Gila Almagor, Rona Keinan and Shira Geffen, have all — in one way or another — spoken out publicly about their concern for the cost the war has taken on civilian lives.
Most of them took care to stress that they were making a nonpolitical statement of humanitarian concern and showed equal concern for both the Israeli side and the Palestinians.