With Israel’s West Bank settlement moratorium about to expire and new Israeli-Palestinian negotiations possibly in jeopardy, Americans for Peace Now (APN) is using a slick bit of technology to dramatically highlight the explosive issue.
The question is, who, exactly, is going to actually use APN’s “Facts on the Ground: The APN Map Project,” which is an “app” for iPhones and iPads as well as an interactive website (www.peacenow.org/map.php).
“The honest answer is, we’re not sure,” said Ori Nir, APN’s press secretary.
The community of Middle East “policy wonks,” journalists and political activists “will find this extremely useful,” he said. “But we also think there is a broader audience of people who we have not tapped into this, who want to learn more. This could be a tool for them to connect to this issue.”
The apps and website use a sophisticated interactive map to show the distribution of West Bank settlements; users can sort by different “layers” to customize the view.
Click on an individual settlement and you can view information about its history, geography and population. There will also be links to relevant news stories.
One goal is to show the extent of Israel’s presence throughout the West Bank. The map is dense with the blue house icons depicting individual settlements.
Another is to provide users with up-to-date information on settlement construction and expansion after Israel’s six-month freeze expires next week, Nir said.
“It will provide a mechanism for showing past Sept. 26 what’s happening on the ground,” he said. “It will highlight where construction is taking place and what the magnitude is.”
Nir said there’s another group that may be attracted by the technological allure of the new apps and website.
“There’s a new generation that uses its hand-held devices as a window to the world,” he said. “We don’t always know how that generation operates. This is an interesting journey for us in trying to connect to them. This is part of APN’s broader effort to connect to new groups.”
Nir didn’t say it, but you can bet one more group of users will be paying close attention to APN’s new technological gambit: administration officials who sometimes rely on the extensive settlement watch activities of Israel’s Peace Now — and the group’s extensive mapping of West Bank building activity.