Anti-Israel sentiments have been a recurring theme in mainstream media. The demo release of a video game for the Steam platform entitled “Fursan al-Aqsa: The Knights of the Al-Aqsa Mosque” allows its users to play as Palestinian freedom fighters designed to eliminate IDF soldiers and take control of the world’s only Jewish state. Steam is the largest gaming site. Concocted over the past decade by veteran developer Nidal Nijm, a Brazilian of Palestinian heritage whose father fought with Fatah, its makers wanted to change “the cliché of portraying Arabs as Terrorists.” Its instructions read: “You will play in missions across Palestine with many objectives to accomplish, epic battles, powerful guns, vehicles to drive, and more.”
After urging from the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce and its CEO Duvi Honig, Facebook has removed the vile game. Honig was dismayed that the game addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a violent Palestinian perspective. Prior to being pulled, there was a heightened level of concern in the Jewish community. “Besides for the game itself, Nijm’s website serves to legitimate terror and inspire children to murder Jews to become ‘martyrs,’” said Honig.
Following an uproar, Honig contacted Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, informing her of the dangers the game poses to world peace, and urging her to intervene and have the company remove the hateful content from their platform.
Sandberg thanked Honig and the Chamber for bringing the game to Facebook’s attention and took immediate action to remove all links and promotions of Fursan Al-Aqsa from their social media platforms. Ms. Sandberg went on to say that she is glad Facebook was able to do the right thing. “We all stand with you and against this – and all hate,” she told Honig.
In a statement, Facebook said the game was removed from their platform for violating their community standards, adding that the company is grateful for working together with the Chamber to make their platform a safer, more inviting space for everyone.
“We are very thankful to Sheryl Sandberg for taking immediate action and for their partnership to fight the plague of hate and anti-Semitism on their platform,” said Honig. “Moreover, social media has a crucial role to play in helping to prevent the spread of terror and violence. Taking the stand of not allowing this game to be promoted on their platform will no doubt protect families and lives and most of all strengthen world peace.”
The game’s tale follows Ahmad al-Falastini, who it claims was “unjustly tortured and jailed” by the IDF for five years. Now free from prison, Falastini is out for revenge and to “free Palestine” by joining the supposed Fursan Al-Aqsa, a new Palestinian resistance movement that operates similarly to the terrorist organizations of the Middle Eastern region.
Nijm went so far to incorporate screams of “Allahu Akbar” – “G-d is Great,” Palestinian flag-colored fists, declarations of “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and a multiplayer mode with a split-screen to revive the golden era of ‘90s shooters. Amongst the game’s missions are to infiltrate an Israeli Army installation in order to destroy the mainframe computers which control the Launch System, sabotage the Iron Dome, eliminate all Zionist Soldiers, and escape. Nijm credits his father with his interest in video games as he seeks to bring light to his father’s struggle and the resistance of the Palestinian people. The production of the game about the Palestinian Resistance was his failed attempt at completeing his father’s mission. Nijm claims that Arabs are not terrorists, rather they are fighters for the freedom of their people.
True evil is seen on the death screen of the game with a depiction of a bloodied hand, handgun and knife on a Palestinian flag with the caption “YOU BECAME A MARTYR. Rejoice, O mother of the martyr, rejoice! Prepare your son for his marriage (in paradise). Tie the band on all your pain and spread his wedding handkerchief. Spread your anger against the oppressor, his injustice must be stopped.” Nijm maintains that the game is fictional and is in no way antisemitic or biased.
“In this game, the player does not shoot Israeli civilians, women, children, elderly – only soldiers. Also in this game, there are NO images of explicit content, illicit drugs, religious desecration, hate speech against any group, ethnicity, or religion, [antisemitic] propaganda against Jews, Nazi propaganda, or boasting of any terrorist groups and/or other unlawful acts. This game only contains the virtual representation of the Palestinian Resistance Movement against the Israeli Military Occupation, which is officially recognized by the United Nations,” according to its website.
Yet in promotional material, the game calls out, “You brave hero! Get your knife and seek your revenge. The blood of the oppressed is calling you. Resistance is not terrorism.” For a game that portrays masked Palestinian militants stabbing and shooting Israeli soldiers as well shooting rocket-propelled grenades and blowing up servicemen with grenades near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, an end all must be met.
In a statement, The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an antisemitism watchdog group, called for boycotting Steam over outrage surrounding this game. “There is no question that this game glorifies Palestinian terror against Jews and is not a neutral exercise,” Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, said publicly.
Steam’s parent company, Valve, gave up on most content moderation back in 2018 when it decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for illegal items.
The game was set for a full release in December of this year in America and remains to be released in Brazil. See more for yourself at www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTF75tzRGK4.
By Shabsie Saphirstein