The world's largest video game streaming site has drawn ire over a new Palestinian third-person shooter depicting the killing of Israeli soldiers.
The game, entitled Fursan al-Aqsa: The Knights of the Al-Aqsa Mosque was developed by independent Brazilian-Palestinian programmer Nidal Nijm and uploaded to Steam, where it is slated to go on sale starting December.
According to its promotional materials, it showcases "the bravery of the Palestinian resistance” and includes missions such as infiltrating 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.”
“You brave hero! Get your knife and seek your revenge. The blood of the oppressed is calling you. Resistance is not terrorism,” one promotional video exhorted, calling on viewers to “join the resistance” on Windows, Xbox, and Playstation.
Pre-release gameplay footage shows masked Palestinian militants stabbing and shooting Israeli servicemen as well shooting rocket-propelled grenades and blowing up soldiers with grenades near the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Luc Bernard, a Jewish game developer who created Imagination Is the Only Escape, a controversial Holocaust-themed game set in France, panned Nijm’s game, stating that while games should engage with “ongoing real world issues, [it] should not encourage violence.”
“As video game creators we are the biggest pillar of the entertainment industry, so we are responsible for what could inspire real world violence. And I don't think this is the right kind of video game companies should be promoting,” he said.
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The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an antisemitism watchdog group, called for the boycotting Steam, the world's largest online market for video games, after it revealed it was planning on offering the 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 in an interview.
“This is something that praises and glorifies the worst type of terror and basically promotes a result which would cost hundreds of thousands of people their lives,” he said, adding that if Steam is “not willing to take it off then they should be boycotted.”
Nijm disagreed with such criticism, saying in an interview that he was not antisemitic. Instead, he explained that he had “decided to create this game of mine to show that Arabs are not terrorists.”
Stating that he is the son of a former Fatah fighter, Nijm explained that he wanted to show people in the west that “the armed struggle of the Palestinian people is not terrorism, as shown in video games, where the USA Soldiers are the heroes and the Arabs are the enemies and terrorists.”
“I want to make it very clear, that in this game there are no Jewish, Israeli civilians for the player to attack. In addition, all scenarios/missions take place in military areas, such as army bases, bunkers, military fields, etc.”
In 2018, Steam’s parent company Valve gave up on most content moderation, explaining in a blog post that it had “decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling.”
“So what does this mean? It means that the Steam Store is going to contain something that you hate, and don't think should exist,” the company explained at the time.
Valve did not reply to a request for comment regarding Knights of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.