Is it satirical or anti-Semitic? An online game on the site of Dutch public broadcaster VPRO has come under discussion. It’s based on the popular board game Settlers of Catan – only in this version the players have to establish colonies on the West Bank.
The VPRO has now taken The Settlers of the West Bank offline because its “satirical aim is now overshadowed”.
Players are required to assume the role of a Jewish settler. The aim of the game is to build as many settlements as possible on Palestinian territory.
'Anne Frank House cards' and 'Wailing Wall cards' can be used to acquire extra points. Players are also required to apply the stereotypical 'traditional Jewish trading mentality' and trade in diamonds.
The game is not satirical but anti-Semitic, say both the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, a watchdog for anti-Semitism, and the Dutch-based pro-Israeli Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI).
The Simon Wiesenthal Center has written a letter about the matter to European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding, hoping she could put pressure on the Netherlands to make sure the game is taken offline.
According to Shimon Samuels from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the game is anti-Semitic and racist. As the VPRO is a public broadcaster, he claims the Dutch state is guilty of hate speech using public money.
It’s not as simple as that, says Dutch Minister of Culture Marja van Bijsterveldt, who doesn’t intend to interfere in the case. The VPRO is a public broadcaster but that doesn't mean the government has anything to do with the content.
Chair of the CIDI Joël Serphos doesn’t think the game is merely satirical. In the Dutch press he said that “use is made of traditional anti-Semitic views”. According to him, they might just as well have been put on the extreme right website Stormfront.
The VPRO says that the game – which is the focus of discussion after being online for longer than a year – was intended as an ironic commentary on the Middle East conflict. The makers hadn’t really intended it as a game. “It should be considered a visual column. It’s oozing satire.”