With photos of women in black bikinis striking provocative poses, Maxim magazine devoted five full pages in their July 2007 issue to answer the single most pressing question in the Middle East: "Are the women in the Israeli Defense Forces the world's sexiest soldiers?"
Commended for their ability to "take apart an Uzi in seconds," Maxim featured four "drop dead gorgeous" former Israeli soldiers scantily clad in military garb and swimwear.
"My job was top secret," said Nivit Bash, who wore a black army cap and not much else for her picture. "I can't talk about it other than to say I studied some Arabic."
What also wasn't talked about was that the feature was actually part of a branding campaign by the Consulate General of Israel in New York to improve Israel's public image. The consulate apparently believed that using women in Maxim would make readers forget Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine and use of hundreds of thousands of cluster bombs in Lebanon in the conflict last summer. It was Maxim's decision to use the ex-soldiers, whose photo shoot was partly funded by the American-Israel Friendship League and Israel21C.
While some female members of the Israeli parliament denounced the feature as "pornographic," there was little outcry about the magazine's decision to promote and celebrate an army that has been accused of war crimes by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
"When people view Israel, for the most part they view it as a land of conflict anyway," says David Saranga, a spokesperson for the consulate. "Maxim knows what its readers like, and they wanted to stylize it as girls of the IDF. Look, we're a democracy, we're a free society, we invited them to do something in Israel and they chose what to do."
Maxim refused an interview request and only issued a brief statement saying it was "pleased" with its work. There is no word if Maxim will be doing a feature on the "Girls of Hamas" or "Hizbullah Girls Gone Wild" anytime soon.