Steam sells terrorist propaganda as a video game

Propaganda for terrorist groups: a screenshot of the video game “Fursan al-Aqsa”. The poster in the background shows PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled.Source: Nidal Nijm Games

Beheading Israeli soldiers begging for mercy with a sword; Run over the “Zionists” with a tank; how Hamas invaded Israel with a paraglider on October 7 and blew itself up at a military base.
Terrorist Propaganda as a video game not only exists in the dark corners of the Internet, but can also be purchased openly on Steam, the world’s largest PC gaming platform, for just under US$15. The multibillion-dollar American company behind Steam apparently has no problem with this.

The video game promotes martyrdom

“Fursan al-Aqsa – the Knights of the al-Aqsa Mosque” is the name of the shooter by Brazilian-Palestinian developer Nidal Nijm. According to his own statements, he only wants to show the Palestinian perspective in the conflict. “This game does not spread hatred against Jews,” he says on the Steam sales page.

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In fact, the game guides users to join Islamist terrorist organizations and die fighting against Israel. If the player dies, an exclamation appears on the screen that can also be heard at the funerals of Hamas fighters: “Rejoice, mother of the martyr! Prepare your son for his wedding in heaven.” Just before killing himself and a group of Israeli soldiers with an explosive belt, a character says to the player character:

Either we win or we become martyrs: both are a victory!

Line of dialogue from “Fursan al-Aqsa”

Anyone who kills at least ten “Zionists” with a knife will be rewarded with the Steam achievement “The Sword of Allah.” In one mission you are supposed to fire rockets towards Israel, in another you are supposed to feed a captured Israeli commander to a shark. Finally, an animation shows how people pray before a pile of corpses of Israeli soldiers on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, while the Quran is recited: “Fight them! Allah will punish them at your hands (…)”.

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More attention since Hamas attack on Israel

Steam does not publish precise sales figures; The game has not been a bestseller so far. Compared to well-known series like Call of Duty, it is amateurishly produced. But if you read the fan comments on Steam over the past few weeks, it seems like some players are allowing others to live out their personal terrorist fantasies.

“Are there paragliders in the game? I want to know how realistic it is before I buy it,” one user asked on October 9, two days after Hamas attacked Israel with those paragliders. Another player with Wehrmacht soldiers in his profile photo answers: “Yes, and they are very realistic and cool.” Game developer Nijm reacts with a smiley face.

The game has been officially available on Steam since April 2022 and a third of the almost 300 user reviews were added in the last 30 days. They are 98 percent positive. “May the Zionists perish.” EITHER:

The first game that is not just Western propaganda and features real heroes.

Steam User Review for “Fursan al-Aqsa”

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Steam makes money with every game sold

For gamers, Steam is like Amazon and Facebook in one: here you can buy games and also the social network where you can play with friends and exchange ideas about games. Up to 33 million people are active on Steam every day and in 2022 they will invest almost $8.8 billion in the coffers of Valve, the American company behind the platform. From each game sold, between 20 and 30 percent of the revenue goes to Valve, so the company also makes money from this advertising game for terrorist groups. Valve did not respond to a lengthy request from ZDF.

Most gamers just want to pursue their hobby, but experts say Steam has long had a problem with its lax approach to extremism on the platform. Far-right content and even content glorifying National Socialism can often be spread there without consequences. According to an investigation by ZDFheute, the group “Nordadler”, banned in Germany in 2020, also logged on Steam and openly displayed its ideology there.

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“Especially in areas where users have a voice, we have been seeing huge amounts of inhumane content for years,” says Mick Prinz, who researches extremism in the gaming sector at the Amadeu Antonio Foundation. Explicit videos of violence against Jews can be found on Steam with just a few clicks, Prinz says.

Anti-Semitism has long been an issue on the platform. Since October 7, the defamation of Jewish life and the delegitimization of Israel have increased.

Mick Prinz, Amadeu Antonio Foundation

Developer thanks Steam for continuing to offer his game

When asked by ZDF, developer Nidal Nijm denied that his game spread anti-Semitic and terrorist content. Being against the Israeli army has nothing to do with rejecting the Jewish religion, he says. “I don’t see the Palestinian resistance as terrorism. I see the Israeli soldiers as the biggest terrorists in the entire world.” He had already posted a statement on his Steam page on October 10:

You all know that many pro-Israel groups want to ban my game at any cost. (…) I thank Steam and Valve for not giving in to the pressure of these groups that want to censor my right to freedom of expression and creativity.

Nidal Nijm, game developer

“Yes, I support the Palestinian struggle against Israel, but I do not support any specific political group. (…) I do not agree with many of the things I am seeing now (…), especially the murder of civilians. a both sides.” This distancing from the latest Hamas terrorist attack could simply be a protection claim to avoid being banned from Steam.

On the game’s official social media channel, Nijm wrote on November 11: “Whenever we kill Zionists, we have the moral right to do so.” Nijm justified himself to the ZDF by saying that this statement also referred to “Israeli soldiers.” “They deserve to be killed without mercy,” says Nijm. He was “glad” that the Hamas terrorists came flying on paragliders like in his game because “this generated a lot of funny memes about my game,” Nijm said, without any sympathy for the victims.

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Steam has its eye on the game but continues to sell it

Steam must be aware of the content the game distributes. Valve has officially removed it from sale to customers in Germany, “at the request of the German authorities,” says Nijm. “This product is currently not available in your country,” the store page says. But this limitation can be overcome with minimal technical effort. The title is available for free outside of Germany.

“Especially for those affected and those who have had to deal with the terrorist videos of recent weeks, it is difficult to bear that such a propaganda game is available on Steam,” says expert Prinz. This is not a supposed debate about killer games: the games could deal with serious topics and also address the atrocities of war. “This game definitely doesn’t belong in that category,” Prinz said. It is riddled with inhumane depictions and anti-Semitism.

What we see here is a glorification of terrorism that should not be offered on Steam or anywhere else.

Mick Prinz, Amadeu Antonio Foundation

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