‘Whack Hamas’ app developer: Google gave me a raw deal

Avishay Segal says that his company’s relatively innocuous app got caught up in a sweep of ‘violent’ apps about Gaza war

Whack the Hamas screenshot (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Whack the Hamas screenshot (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Google may have been a little too conscientious in its “cleanup” of the Play app store this week, according to Avishay Segal, VP of Marketing at HitsNapp, creators of the Whack the Hamas app, which Google dumped along with several other Gaza war-themed apps. “We are pretty sure Google was contacted by anti-Israel groups that pressured them to remove our app,” Segal told The Times of Israel. “There was nothing in our app that had to do with violence or bombing people.”

Whack the Hamas was one of three Israeli-developed Gaza-themed games removed this week by Google from its Android Play app store. They are Gaza Assault: Code Red, which lets users control a drone that drops bombs on Hamas terror targets in Gaza; Bomb Gaza, in which players need to target terrorists while avoiding civilian casualties; and Segal’s Whack the Hamas, a version of Whack-the-Mole, in which players need to knock down the Hamas “operatives” that pop up on the screen.

Segal complained, “What’s especially unfair is that Google only took down the apps having to do with Gaza — but they left up an app that let players fire missiles at Israel and avoid Iron Dome rockets, so they could hit Israeli civilian targets.” A Google spokesperson said that the anti-Israel app was later removed.

The Hamas figures in Segal’s game look a lot like moles. “They don’t look like terrorists, and they don’t even look like people,” Segal said. “If we had called the game something else, nobody would have made the connection with the war. And there is no violence involved, no buildings, no avoiding civilians, and none of the features that characterized the other games.”

Of course, Segal did want the game to be associated with Operation Protective Edge — as a way of helping supporters of Israel build solidarity with Israel’s fight against Gaza terrorists, he said. “We wanted to show that Jews are not going to sit idly while they are being attacked,” Segal said, adding that there was no reason not to produce an anti-Hamas app, as Hamas is considered a terrorist group in Europe and the US.

According to Segal, Google did not inform him in advance that the app was to be taken down. “We got an automated response saying that we violated their terms of service. I have been trying to contact them since, but to no avail,” he said.

“It makes no sense to take down our very innocuous game when there are far more violent ones that are never touched, like Call of Duty, in which you have to kill Nazis, Russians, and Americans. Our app doesn’t advocate for any type of violence against groups of people based on anything, be it on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity. We developed the app only for fun and relaxation, for the people who are being killed every day by a terrorist group,” Segal insisted.

Most galling, he said, was that while Google took down the anti-Hamas apps, it left an anti-Israel one up. Rocket Pride, by an outfit called “Best Arabic Games.” In that game, “resistance fighters” have to lob missiles at “the enemy,” while avoiding pitfalls “like the Iron Dome rockets” that could prevent a successful attack. “This is blatant discrimination against Israelis and Jews,” said Segal.

A Google spokesperson said that Rocket Pride was on the list for removal as well, and was removed on Tuesday night. Referring to the Google Terms of Use, the spokesperson said that “Google removes apps from Google Play that violate our policies, and that includes all apps.”

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed