Not So Make Believe

08.05.14

‘Bomb Gaza’ Game Maker: ‘F**k Them All’

‘Bomb Gaza,’ a game that allowed players to re-enact Israeli airstrikes, was removed from the Google Play store on Monday. Its designer says it was a “joke.”

The conflict between Israel and Gaza is still being waged, at least in a series of mobile phone games.

The Google Play store has about half a dozen games available for download that incorporate storylines and gameplay related to the ongoing hostilities in the Middle East.

“Bomb Gaza,” one of the games on the site, drew unanimously unsavory media attention on Monday and was subsequently taken down. It offered the user opportunities to “drop bombs and avoid killing civilians,” according to the description.

When one of the developers behind “Bomb Gaza” finally returned a request for comment from the Daily Beast, about 24 hours after the game had been taken down, he told me that the “game was a joke made in 2 hours.” But he didn’t leave it at that.

“It is based on avoiding killing civilians,” Roman Shapiro, the developer said in an email exchange. “As usual, Jews are demonised by everyone. Not surprised. Fuck them all.”

Shapiro has not responded to my request for clarification on his comment.

Prior to being taken down, the game had a rating of 4.1 out of five stars with a total of 61 reviews. One user simply complained that the game was only available on Android and not developed for IOS, the most hyperbolic example of a first world problem.

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More recent reviewers had expressed outrage at the notion that a game like this could even exist.

“Real people, many of them children, are dying in Gaza. Many of those who haven’t been killed face life with debilitating injuries, bereavement and without homes,” George Coote wrote. The game had been active on the site since late July. For their part, Google Play assured that the game had been taken down but remained vague about the reasoning.

“The app is no longer available on Google Play,” a spokesperson for the company told The Daily Beast. “We do not comment on specific apps.” Rather, they take down apps that violate certain content policies including the presence of sexually explicit material, theft of intellectual property and promoting hate speech.

This is, perhaps unsurprisingly, not the first time someone has made a game of the calamitous political crisis between Israel and Gaza. “Raid Gaza!” created in 2008, is still available for online play at NewGrounds.com. It includes a quote from Ehud Olmert, the interim Prime Minister of Israel in 2003, as a precursor to gameplay.

“The parameters of a unilateral solution are to maximize the number of Jews, and to minimize the number of Palestinians,” the opening screen reads.

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At least one developer of a Gaza-related game on Google Play has political intentions behind his work. Ashar Jamil, a 25-year-old IT administrator from Pakistan (currently living in Saudi Arabia) created “Gaza Defender” to “give the perfect reality of the Gaza situation.”

“As usual, Jews are demonized by everyone.”

“The basic inspiration was from the children of Gaza,” Jamil told The Daily Beast via email. “Everyday you see their helpless, sad and empty eyes on television, newspaper, facebook [sic] and so on. Wives are losing their husbands, children are losing their parents, all in the name of war?”

As Jamil describes it, the game gives players the opportunity to defend Gaza by destroying Israeli jets and eliminating bombs.

“You can shoot bombs before they fall to the city and you have 20 seconds to save the city,” Jamil said.

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He is encouraged by the plethora of games available on Google Play that can shed light on the situation but adamantly criticized “Bomb Gaza,” as “disturbing.” This perspective speaks to the inescapable politicization of all things related to Israel-Palestine in the past month, even hook-up apps.

When one of the developers behind “Bomb Gaza” finally returned a request for comment, about 24 hours after the game had been taken down, he told me that the “game was a joke made in two hours.” But he didn’t leave it at that.

“It is based on avoiding killing civilians,” Roman Shapiro, the developer said in an email exchange. “As usual, Jews are demonized by everyone. Not surprised. Fuck them all.”

Shapiro has not responded to my request for clarification on his comment.

On Monday, before Israel ceased its current ground operations in Gaza, there were two separate attacks on Israeli civilians in Jerusalem killing one person and injuring four others. Israel announced a unilateral truce Monday, after receiving some of the harshest condemnation for its action from the US State Department as a result of an airstrike Sunday that killed 10 people near a U.N. school.

“Bomb Gaza” players were able to re-enact such an airstrike in the game, which had recently been updated to include “Israel’s theme music,” according to the product description.

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But, obviously it was all just a joke right?

The current conflict has resulted in the death of over 1,800 Palestinians, some of whom were children like those depicted in the image above. An 8-year-old boy named Saqer al-Kashif was killed in Sunday’s airstrike after he allegedly walked outside to buy ice cream.

Google Play is trying to avoid the appearance of political favoritism in their policing of apps.

“We are always in the process of reviewing apps to ensure there are no violations of our policies,” the spokesperson said.

Jamil sees no problem in compressing the complex and bloody battle into the confines of a mobile game, alleging that it is just another vehicle to show what is really going on in Gaza.

“Many may argue that it is irresponsible, many may argue otherwise,” Jamil said. “In my stand point I think it is extremely necessary to support what is necessary on every front. I think by introducing this game I have shown my support for Gaza, a way to stand up for all the wrongdoings Palestinians have to face.”