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iPhone app explores, reveals Israeli settlements

by Jonah Lowenfeld

September 20, 2010 | 1:20 pm

Want to know exactly where in the West Bank the city-sized settlement of oft-discussed Ariel is located? How about when it was established, or how many Israelis live there? There’s an app for that.

On Monday, Sept. 20, Americans for Peace Now (APN) unveiled “Facts on the Ground,” a new mobile application focused on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, offering extensive demographic and on-the-ground information on an easily navigable map of the region. The app is available as a free English-language download for the iPhone, iPad, and soon will be available in Hebrew and for cell phones running the Android platform. It is also already available on the APN website, peacenow.org.

“We used to have to sit down with a map,” said David Pine, APN’s west coast regional director. APN has briefed American politicians on the state of West Bank settlements in the past, but with “Facts on the Ground,” APN has created a new, publicly accessible and easily updatable tool to track and disseminate information about the settlements and outposts being built, expanded or dismantled within the West Bank.

Israeli settlements have long been the source of controversy. The latest dispute over a nearly completed performing arts center at Ariel, in the West Bank, is just the latest round in a debate that started immediately following the 1967 Six-Day War.

The app, which Pine said will be able to zoom in close enough to display images of an individual home, should feel familiar to users of Google Maps, but also allows users to add a variety of overlays onto the satellite image—Israeli settlements in blue, Palestinian municipalities in brown, and Israeli settlement outposts (established without any legal authority) in red. The composite picture illustrates the settlements from APN’s perspective.

The Green Line—the border of Israel prior to the 1967 Six-Day War—and the West Bank Barrier can also be viewed using the map.

APN has long tracked settlements as they are being built, dismantled or disputed. “We are, in a sense, the experts in Israel, the nongovernmental experts on settlements,” Pine said. “In fact, the Israeli government often calls on us to go over things, because things can change day to day.”

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