October 28, 2021 | Washington Examiner

The joystick intifada

October 28, 2021 | Washington Examiner

The joystick intifada

Fursan al-Aqsa: The Knights of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a new game in which players murder Israeli soldiers in an attempt to “free Palestine,” disappeared from Facebook and video game distribution service Steam last week. Nidal Nijm, the game’s developer, tweeted that he removed the game from Steam due to copyright and technical issues.

Nijm tweeted his frustration: “For ALL ZIONISTs… YOU WILL NEVER STOP #FursanAqsaGame.” Steam, Facebook, and other platforms should not readmit this glorification of violence, which sets back the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace and might even inspire actual attacks.

The game, which was slated for release in December 2021, “addresses the Israel x Palestine conflict from a Palestinian perspective, breaking the cliché of representing Muslim and Arabs as Terrorists, Bandits, Villains and the Americans/Israelis as the ‘Good Guys’ and ‘Heroes’ of History,” according to Nijm, a Brazilian of Palestinian descent. Nijm explained that the recollections of his father, a former Fatah fighter, inspired the video game.

The game’s storyline follows Ahmad al Falastini, a recently freed prisoner and Palestinian student who, according to the game’s website , was “unjustly imprisoned and tortured for five years, had all his family killed by an Israeli airstrike, and now, after getting out from the prison, seeks revenge against those who wronged him, killed his family and stolen [sic] his homeland, by joining a new Palestinian Resistance Movement.”

The game’s trailer declares: “We Never Surrender,” “We Resist Until Death,” and “Resistance is not Terrorism.” Nijm tweeted last month, “My game is not about murdering Israelis,” though that is the central focus of the game. In fact, Nijm goes to great lengths to claim his video game does not promote terrorism.

But Nijm’s attempts to defend his game have taken an antisemitic turn. In June 2020, he wrote on Twitter, “I am against the crimes Israel Army does against Palestinian Civilians, just like what nazist did against jews [sic].” According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, by drawing “comparisons to contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis,” Nijm meets the working definition of antisemitism. IHRA is a joint initiative of dozens of governments, mainly European, committed to Holocaust education and combating antisemitism.

Nijm has also advocated ethnic cleansing. This month on Twitter, he used the common pro-Palestinian battle cry “FROM THE RIVER TO THE SEA PALESTINE WILL BE FREE.” This chant , found in Hamas’s 2017 policy document , calls for replacing the Jewish state of Israel with an Arab one. In case there was any uncertainty about what this would entail, Hamas clarified such an outcome in a recent conference titled “Promise of the Hereafter — Post-Liberation Palestine.”

The conference recommended creating rules delineating which Jews Hamas should kill and which Jews Hamas should keep as slaves. Hamas, the conference suggested, should kill anyone considered a “fighter,” while the terrorist group should force “educated Jews and experts” in certain fields to remain and transfer their knowledge to the new Palestinian state.

Fursan al-Aqsa’s gore is part of a Palestinian penchant for promoting attacks on Israelis. Palestinian textbooks distributed for grades 1-12 glorify violence , according to the monitoring group IMPACT-se. The European Parliament recently moved to condition aid to the Palestinians on removing such incitement.

Sources of invective even include senior Palestinian leaders such as Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who stated in 2015, “We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem.” Abbas’s Fatah party celebrated its anniversary in 2016 by having children wear suicide belts, carry mock RPGs, brandish Molotov cocktails, and bear firearms.

Such incitement to violence helped inspire the “Stabbing Intifada” in 2015, a series of lone-wolf attacks that left 42 Israelis dead . Just last month, Palestinians carried out several stabbing attacks in Israel . Echoing Nijm’s sentiment, a spokesperson for the U.S.-designated terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad said , “Acts of resistance are the legitimate right of the Palestinian people.”

The estimated average age of attackers during the stabbing intifada was between 19 and 20 years old. A 2018 study across several Arab countries found that 55% of those in the 18-24 demographic play video games, while 45% of Arabs aged 25-34 play. Fursan al-Aqsa may inspire some of these gamers to live out their video game fantasies and murder Israelis.

But the danger will not be limited to Israel. During the latest round of Israel-Hamas fighting in May 2021, thugs in Los Angeles, New York, and elsewhere attacked Jews in retribution. If Steam or others provide a platform for this game, they will be complicit in putting a target on the backs of Israelis and Jews in Israel and abroad.

David May is a senior research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Jack Gibson is an intern. Follow David May on Twitter at @DavidSamuelMay. FDD is a Washington, D.C.-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.


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