Israeli Soldier Lip Syncs ‘Kill Everyone’ as Wartime Shitposting Surges
From sharing supervillain quotes to passing a Russian child model off as a deceased Palestinian child—misinfo and shitposts are aggravating an already devastating conflict.
The discourse around the most recent round of fighting between Israel and Hamas was already toxic. Then, while Gaza was burning, an IDF soldier posted a video last week on TikTok lip-syncing the quote, “Huh? What was that? I should kill everyone and escape?”
The soldier, who has been featured on the IDF’s Tiktok page, was sharing a quote from Harley Quinn, the unhinged supervillainess from the 2016 film Suicide Squad, based on the DC comic. “Sorry, it’s the voices,” the quote continues, “Ahaha, I'm kidding! Jeez. That's not what they really said.”
Yael Deri, the TikToker in question, has posted other videos that drew backlash on social media, including one in which she danced and smiled to a patriotic Palestinian song, plastered with emojis of the Israeli flag.
“Now I’m not going to get into the fact that this song is obviously not meant for you,” one TikTok user said in a post responding to the clip. “But the fact that you’re smiling and dancing to this song right now when your people are killing kids, innocent kids, innocent mothers, fathers, and you have a smile on your face?”
An IDF spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast asking for confirmation about Deri’s position with the Israeli military. But a video on the IDF’s official TikTok account describes her in the caption as “a fighter from the crossing battalion ‘Ta’oz’ of the military police.”
Deri, who posted sporadically on Facebook in the years before she joined Tiktok, is seen in the video wearing patches from Israeli military police and the Ta’oz battalion, which carry out law enforcement functions among IDF troops and staff checkpoints. Deri is often seen in videos on her account filming at apparent checkpoints.
Since the start of the conflict, Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 212 Palestinians, including 61 children in Gaza, according to Palestinian officials. Ten Israelis have been killed from Hamas rockets launched from Gaza into Israel. Tensions are running understandably high. Shitposts and misinformation from all sides are making it worse.
Other clips posted before and during the ongoing hostilities appear to feature Deri dancing with IDF soldiers in a group, making finger-gun gestures to soundbites of gunshots, and lip-syncing to the song “Stand Up” from the movie Harriet, based on the life of the political activist Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery and helped liberate dozens of slaves in the American Civil War.
But Deri isn’t the only one whose social media posts have helped inflame tensions in the current conflict. The Israeli government itself has used its official state Twitter account to spread misinformation, including a tweet aimed at Palestinian supermodel Bella Hadid, falsely claiming that she advocated for “throwing Jews into the sea” and “for the elimination of the Jewish State” after she had attended a protest against the Israeli offensive in Gaza.
“What we’re seeing is the use of disinformation targeting civilians to cause chaos and instill fear,” Lisa Kaplan, founder of the disinformation tracking firm Alethea Group, told The Daily Beast. “The abdication of norms underscores that our ecosystem relies on users to adhere to an ethical standard that continues to erode.”
Other, non-official social media accounts, including the “idftweets” Instagram page, have been churning out one inflammatory post after another, including a photoshopped image of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posing as the “Salt Bae” meme, “sprinkling” airstrikes over an image of Gaza’s landscape engulfed in smoke and flames.
Social media pugilists on both sides of the conflict have, wittingly and not, recycled footage from previous wars between Hamas and Israel and recast those depicted in footage of different conflicts altogether as Israelis and Palestinians in order to rally support to their cause.
The most high-profile example came from Ofir Gendelman, an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who tweeted footage purporting to show Hamas launching rockets at Israel. “1/3 of these 250+ rockets fell inside the Gaza Strip, killing Palestinians,” Gendelman said alongside the video. But the footage, as numerous observers pointed out, showed artillery rocket launches not from Gaza but from Syria’s civil war in 2018.
Another viral video tweeted by an Israeli government adviser purports to show Palestinians staging a fake funeral for propaganda purposes during the fighting in Gaza. BBC investigators traced the clip back to well before the recent conflict to young men in Jordan engaging in an apparent effort to skirt coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
Dozens of posts on Facebook and Twitter have also shown the image of a little girl, variously named Malak Al Tanani and Buthaina Ubaid, swaddled in a blanket and described as killed by Israeli bombs in Gaza. In a since-deleted tweet, Iran’s state-run English-language TV channel posted the picture on Tuesday with the caption, “The world is not the same place since this morning when this 3yo girl stopped breathing after Israeli missiles targeted her home.”
Dozens of children have been killed in Gaza over the past week, but the child depicted in the photo is not one of them. The picture of the girl was taken from a 2018 Instagram post of a Russian child model based in Moscow who is alive and not in Gaza. Some posts casting her as Buthaina Ubaid appear to be taken from reporting about a 7-year-old Palestinian girl by that name who was killed in the Israeli bombing of Gaza over the past week.
Other social media users used recycled footage taken in places far away from the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict to push their own narratives. In one example, posters recast footage of Swedish police arresting a youth in 2015 into a video that falsely claimed to show how an Israeli policeman “strangles a Palestinian child to death” after a protest over Israel’s threats to evict Palestinian residents of Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
Just like the current explosion of violence taking place in Gaza, the toxic cycle of disinformation and incendiary posts sweeping social media shows no signs of slowing down.
“Actors have always used propaganda to confuse their enemy or build rapport with local populations, and norms have developed around use during wartime,” said Kaplan. “However, those norms are not translating to the disinformation landscape and continue to be ignored.”