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Computer game gives Palestinians a way to win

TJI Pick
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Published: 6 June 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

Young Palestinians and Israeli Arabs are turning to video games to role-play a version of the conflict which gives them the upper hand.

Most Israeli Arabs tend to opt out of military service, if not out of political resentment, then to avoid finding a cousin at the other end of a barrel. Boyish fantasies of military heroism are infused with political stakes. In these parts, only Jews are soldiers.

But on social media, many Arabs have begun acting out fantasies of a different world online in the game Grand Theft Auto Roleplay (GRA RP), a setting in which Arabs can man Israeli checkpoints in broken Hebrew, join the ranks of a beefed-up Palestinian Authority, or set off on terrorist rampages without the prospect of jail time.

Within the world of GTA RP, numerous Israel-Palestine servers have sprung up, which do their best to imitate the contorted reality of the conflict. Users recently began flooding social media platforms with clips documenting some of the conflict role-play — featuring, for example, digital copies of Israeli checkpoints, rows of cement blocks with Israeli flags and spray-painted Stars of David set along the barren outskirts of the game’s virtual California.

Zain is a 23-year-old resident of East Jerusalem and the GTA enthusiast responsible for the production and publication of many, if not most, of the Israeli police vehicles available across online servers. A poorly adapted Kia Sorento, widely used within the Israeli police forces, caught his attention in real life, and Zain eventually began producing digital copies for the role-playing servers, with the aim of representing the actual vehicles as faithfully as possible.

His first step was adding metal window-cages to the generic Israeli police vehicles. Most Israeli vehicles are not equipped with metal cages, but the fact that Zain’s image of one necessarily includes them is an indication of an East Jerusalem childhood.


Grand Theft Auto in the West Bank (Tablet)


Extremists use online gaming platforms to spread their opinions – study (Jerusalem Post)
The study defines gaming as more than just entertainment as many of these platforms facilitate conversations for people all over the world.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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