Steam sells terrorist propaganda like a video game

Propaganda for terrorist groups: a screenshot from 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; Drive 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 does not only exist in the dark corners of the Internet, but you can purchase it openly on Steam, the world’s largest PC gaming platform, for just under 15 US dollars. Apparently the billion-dollar US company behind Steam 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 murderer of the Brazilian-Palestinian businessman 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,” the Steam sales page reads.

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In fact, the game guides users to join Islamist terrorist organizations and die fighting against Israel. If the player is killed, 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 “Sword of Allah”. One mission you’re supposed to fire rockets at Israel, another time you’re supposed to feed a captured Israeli commander to a shark. Finally, an animation shows how people pray in front of a pile of corpses of Israeli soldiers on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, while the Quran is recited: “Fight against them! Allah will punish them at your hands (…)”.

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Greater attention after the Hamas attack on Israel

Steam doesn’t publish precise sales figures; so far the game has not been a best seller. Compared to famous series like Call of Duty, it is amateurishly produced. But if you read fan comments on Steam over the past few weeks, it seems like some players are allowing some players to live out their own 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 such paragliders. Another player with Wehrmacht soldiers in his profile photo replies: “Yes, and they are very realistic and cool.” Game developer Nijm reacts with a laughing face.

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

The first game that isn’t just Western propaganda and features real heroes.

Steam User Review for “Fursan al-Aqsa”

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Steam earns money from every game sold

For gamers, Steam is like Amazon and Facebook at the same time: here you can buy games and also the social network where you can play with friends and exchange ideas about games. There are as many as 33 million people active every day on Steam and in 2022 they paid almost 8.8 billion dollars into the coffers of Valve, the US company behind the platform. For each game sold, 20-30% of the proceeds go to Valve, so the company also makes money from this advertising game for terrorist groups. Valve did not respond to an extensive ZDF request.

Most gamers just want to indulge in their hobby, but experts say Steam has long had a problem with its lax approach to extremism on the platform. Right-wing extremist content and even content glorifying National Socialism can often be spread there without consequences. According to research by ZDFheute, the “Nordadler” group, which was banned in Germany in 2020, also connected online on Steam and openly expressed its ideology there.

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

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

Mick Prinz, Amadeu Antonio Foundation

The developer thanks Steam for continuing to offer his game

When questioned 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 published 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 who 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 don’t support any specific political group. (…) I don’t agree with many of the things I see at the moment (…), especially the killing of civilians on both sides.” This distancing from the latest Hamas terrorist attack could just be a pretense of protection to avoid being banned from Steam.

On the game’s official social media channel, Nijm wrote on November 11: “Every time 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 mercilessly,” says Nijm. He was “happy” that Hamas terrorists came paragliding in like in his game because “it led to a lot of funny memes about my game,” Nijm said, without any sympathy for the victims.

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Steam is keeping an eye on the game but continues to sell it

Steam should be aware of the content distributed by the game. Valve has officially withdrawn it from sale to customers in Germany – “following a request from the German authorities”, says Nijm. “This product is not currently available in your country,” the store page states. But this limitation can be overcome with minimal technical effort. The title is freely available outside Germany.

“Especially for those affected and those who have had to deal with the terrorist videos of the last few 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 a killer game: games could deal with serious topics and even address the atrocities of war. “This game definitely doesn’t belong in that category,” Prinz said. It is full of inhumane representations and anti-Semitism.

What we see here is a glorification of terrorism that should not be offered on Steam or any other site.

Mick Prinz, Amadeu Antonio Foundation

Escalation with Hamas : Current news on the situation in Israel and Gaza

The conflict in the Middle East has intensified with the attack on Israel by the radical Islamic group Hamas. Israel attacks targets in the Gaza Strip following the terrorist attack. Current news in the blog.

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