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Grand Theft Caliphate / Daesh

Friday, October 24th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- an oriental carpet video game, would you believe it? -- and one from IS ]
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GTA Daesh headlights

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The intersection of war and games is a fascinating one. You may recall the Stone Throwers game, built at the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, and set against the backgrop of the al-Aqsa mosque:

The Stone Throwers Game 2000

It’s a pretty primitive pro-Palestinian game built by a sympathetic Syrian, and you can still play it here.

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Far more sophisticated — and utterly unrelated to propaganda, unless and until malicious UFOs attack us in droves — is the 2002 Carpet Invaders game devised by artist Janek Simon:

janek simon carpet invaders game

An Eastern prayer rug ‘lies on the floor’. As opposed to real prayer rugs, its design is not fixed. Using a gamepad, the beholder can fight against the rug by attacking parts of its design. Those who manage to destroy them all go on to a higher level. Playing this game could prompt reflection; this is, after all, a new battle against a rug whose design was once full of significances that have, in the meantime, been suppressed and degraded to the role of decoration. In a perverse way, the game restores life to this ornamentation by turning it into a hostile being that must be destroyed in combat.

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Then there’s Hezbollah‘s game, Special Force, from 2003. Shown here is a screen shot from Special Force 2, 2007:

specoial Force 2 Hezbollah Game

There’s an interesting article about this game by a video game designer with a degreee in Arabic studies, and you can play the various parts of his explanatory walkthrough here.

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Countering it, there’s Amir Lotan‘s far simpler game Nasralla, which uses a Google Earth map of Southern Lebanon as the backdrop for a whack-a-mole game in which the player takes out the head of the head of Hezbollah:

Amir Lotan's game Nasralla

You can play it here.

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  • Craig Detweiler‘s book, Halos and Avatars, has a chapter on Islamogaming.
  • The Israeli Center for Digital Art has collated a fine set of introductions to “Forbidden Games” with Middle Eastern implications.
  • **

    Ah, but past is prologue, as the spear-shaker noted. Here’s about the Caliphate game as promised in the title. The story seems to have broken about a month ago…

    GTA Daesh

    It is not clear to me yet whether the YouTube video of Grand Theft Auto: Salil al-Sawarem which is going the rounds is simply a machinima made from a game of GTA, or video of an actual IS / Daesh game —

    Here’s Fiona Keating in IB Times:

    The Isis video is entitled “Grand Theft Auto: Salil al-Sawarem”, which roughly translates in Arabic as “the sound of swords coming together”.

    According to Arabic journalists, Isis’s media wing stated that the game aims to “raise the morale of the mujahedin and to train children and youth how to battle the West and to strike terror into the hearts of those who oppose the Islamic State.”

    “It’s ironic that they are using Western games to demonstrate their wrongly guided hatred towards them,” said Mufaddal Fakhruddin, an editor at the Middle Eastern branch of video games and entertainment site IGN.

    Ironic? Not unless flying western jetliners into western skyscrapers is ironic — or capturing weapons we’ve supplied to their “moderate” opponents, and using them against us.

    GTA Daesh 1

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    Source:

  • Al-MonitorThe Islamic State’s media warfare:
  • IS even produced a game that resembles all aspects of its war against its enemies featuring similar terrain to areas the group is fighting in and audio that reflects its ideology. The game that Al-Monitor inspected is a modification of “Grand Theft Auto” and still has the original logo on it.

    “These materials are essential for IS’ recruitment campaigns,” Kayed said. “It’s the best propaganda for their ideas.”

    Mentions:

  • Al Arabiya, Grand Theft Auto: ISIS? Militants reveal video game
  • News.com.au, Islamic State adapt Grand Theft Auto game into ‘virtual jihad’ recruitment drive for kids
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    Infinity Journal on the Strategy of Operation Protective Edge

    Thursday, September 18th, 2014

    [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]

    Infinity Journal has an exclusive review up of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge campaign against HAMAS by LTC Ron Tira. Colonel Tira is the author of The Nature of War: Conflicting Paradigms and Israeli Military Effectiveness.

    Operation Protective Edge: Ends, Ways, Means and the Distinctive Context  (Free registration required)

    ….Much of Hamas’ history has been spent under Iranian foster parenthood, even though Iranians are Shiites and Hamas is a member of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood. But, in 2011, the outbreak of the civil war in Syria presented the relations with an impossible test: Iran backed the Alawite (non-Sunni) Syrian regime in its bloody war against the rebels – many of whom are theological and ethnic brothers of Hamas. Hamas had to break ties with the Shiites.

    Luckily for Hamas, in November 2011 the Muslim Brotherhood won Egypt’s parliamentary elections and, subsequently, Egypt elected a Muslim Brotherhood president. An improved replacement for Iran was found. But on July 2013, the Egyptian army ousted the Muslim Brotherhood government. The new military rulers of Egypt regard the Muslim Brotherhood as their archenemy – Hamas included.

    Running out of options, Hamas looked to its nemesis Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a last financial and political resort. After years of disengagement – following the brutal killing of Fatah personnel in Gaza in 2007-8, the Hamas take-over of Gaza and divorce from the PA-run West Bank – Hamas eventually approached the PA and in April 2014 signed the Palestinian Unity Agreement. “Show me the money” demanded Hamas as the ink dried; yet the PA declined to finance Hamas-run Gaza.

    With almost no allies and a financial inability to run Gaza or pay salaries, Hamas was at the brink of collapse. From its perspective, it experienced a near-existential threat. From Hamas’ side of the hill, it had no alternative but to fight its way out of the corner. This hardly resembled the context of the earlier Operation Pillar of Defense.

    Israel’s lack of clarity regarding this unique context was followed by a lack of clarity in defining the enemy. Was it Hamas’ military wing, its exiled political leadership, the organization as a whole, or the Gaza Strip as a de facto state? And in this distinct context, what were the relevant centers of gravity? Hamas’ offensive capabilities, its center of combatant mass and leadership in the inner neighborhoods of Gaza City, the nod between Gaza’s military leadership and Hamas’ political leadership in Qatar, or the popular support of Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants? 

    Read the rest here.

    Tira has an astute appreciation for the disadvantages HAMAS labors under as a 4GW/Hybrid/Irregular/Whatever entity also trying to assume the panoply of prerogatives and obligations of a legitimate state.

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    David, Goliath, and Art Spiegelman

    Thursday, September 11th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- contrasting perspectives, asymmetric warfare, and a bible story ]
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    Art Spiegelman, the creator of the acclaimed graphic treatment of the Holocaust, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, has now posted a visual DoubleQuote of his own, along with a comment on Israel:

    Spiegelman Goliath David

    From today’s Jewish Daily Forward article, Art Spiegelman Breaks His Silence on Israel:

    Captioned “Perspective in Gaza (The David and Goliath Illusion),” the Biblical-style art image consists of two panels. On the left is a traditional rendering of David facing Goliath. The right-hand panel presents a shrunken Goliath brought closer to the foreground. Using the tricks of size and perspective to make what is surely not an original political point, it’s a clever play on Spiegelman’s life’s work as an illustrator.

    Spiegelman’s own comment, accompanying the image on his FaceBook page, reads:

    I’ve spent a lifetime trying to NOT think about Israel—deciding it has nothin more to do with me, a diasporist, than the rest of the World’s Bad News on Parade. Israel is like some badly battered child with PTSD who has grown up to batter others.

    That’s Spiegelman: I’m not in the business of psychologizing nations, so I won’t comment one way or the other.

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    In Koan 1 — Bibi, Walt, and the concept of buffer zones, I asked:

    Is Israel best seen as a Goliath towering over the Palestinians, or as a David caught between a swathe of Islamic states and the deep blue Mediterranean sea?

    I see some truth in both views, which is why I call the Israeli / Palestinian question a koan.

    A while earlier, in Numbers by the numbers: two, I wrote:

    The second is that within the asymmetries, it is not uncommon to find a reversal of polarities by which the lesser outsmarts and defeats the greater force. I’m thinking here of David and Goliath as the archetypal version, and of Nigel Howard, in Confrontation Analysis: how to win operations other than war, writing:

    the problem of defense in the modern world is the paradoxical one of finding ways for the strong to defeat the weak.

    A different aspect of asymmetry emerges when one can think of Israel as both the powerful high-tech occupier of a poorly-equipped and stateless mass of Palestinians, and a tiny emergent Jewish democracy surrounded on all sides (except the sea) by Arab and or Muslim once and future foes… a Goliath seen one way, a David the other…

    What’s intriguing here is that in some ways everybody wants to be David, right?

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    In an ideal world..

    .. but that’s not the world we live in, is it?

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    Gaza and the CAR: War and Peace

    Saturday, August 16th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- different beauties ]
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    The faces:

    The quotes:

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    The upper face is that of Knesset member Ayelet Shaked, and the upper quote is one she quoted on FaceBook a few weeks back, from an unpublished piece written 12 years ago by Uri Elitzur, a Netanyahu advisor, which Shaked endorsed saying it was “as relevant today as it was at the time”.

    The lower face is that of Fr. Patrick Nainangue, and the lower quotes is from a report by Alexandra Zavis in the LA Times titled A plea for peace: conflict in the Central African Republic.

    The beautiful Ms Shaked shows me one aspect of what humans are capable of, while the no less beautiful Fr. Nainangue shows me another.

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    Here is the uncropped photo from which that portrait of Fr Nainangue was taken:

    Its legend reads:

    Father Patrick Nainangue, left, talks with imam Mamadou Goni, who found refuge from the killings at the church compound in Bossemptele. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

    Beautiful.

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    DoubleQuoting hashtags on Gaza

    Friday, August 15th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- don't be fooled by the pretty colors, what you see is just a mass of data points artfully displayed ]
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    Here’s a fascinating graphic from the quantitative mode of analysis:

    I really don’t have much to say about this, except that if a prayer is fired off each time the hashtags #prayforgaza and #prayforisrael are posted, the divine listening apparatus must be a stereo system.

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    Source:

  • Gilad Lotan, Israel, Gaza, War & Data: Social Networks and the Art of Personalizing Propaganda
  • Lotan’s article is worth reading. Here’s the point that interested me most:

    Haaretz accommodates the most connections on both the pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli sides of the graph, having the highest betweenness centrality. Compared to all other nodes in the graph, Haaretz is most likely to spread throughout the wider network. It has the most potential for bridging across biases and political barriers.

    Lotan closes with a plea for us all to “be more thoughtful about adding and maintaining bridges across information silos online”. May it be so.

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