iPhone App Monitors Israeli Settlement Building
LINDA WERTHEIMER, Host:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Just days from now, Israel reaches a milestone. For the moment, Israel has imposed a partial ban on West Bank settlements. That ban is about to expire. So Israel is under intense pressure to extend it. If Israel doesn't, Palestinians say they'll walk out of peace talks. Today, people are using new technology in this decades-old conflict, as NPR's Deborah Amos reports.
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DEBORAH AMOS: There is a new protest generation in Israel - organized through Facebook - with rallies posted on YouTube. In this East Jerusalem neighborhood, the protestors oppose the court ordered eviction of long-time Arab residents, hold vigils against Jewish settlers who've moved into the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
MICHAEL SALISBERY: It's a struggle over our future as youth, as people who are tired of fighting.
AMOS: That's Michael Salisbery, an Israeli who comes each week to join with Palestinians.
NASSER RAWI: My name is Nasser Rawi, and this is my house. The settlers occupied the house with Israeli special force.
AMOS: Rawi and his family were ordered out a year ago. Weekly protests here have been drawing larger crowds, especially in recent weeks, says Ruthie Victor.
RUTHIE VICTOR: I think the Israeli people are more open to hear about the solution.
AMOS: Peace Now leaders have monitored the settlements for years and warned of illegal growth. Now powerful mapping technology and extensive data are available for the first time for anyone with an iPhone or a computer, says Hagit Ofran, who heads the research team.
HAGIT OFRAN: We want the Israeli public to know, and if it's visual, it's much easier for people to connect to it.
AMOS: Just look at the map, says Ofran. She argues if settlement growth continues, a two-state solution is dead.
OFRAN: If Israel is building on the lands of this future state, then there is no two-state solution. So it is a crucial time now.
AMOS: Resident Tamara Ashraf wants to convince the Israeli public that Psagot is too important to give up. She's running a workshop to teach other settlers how to counter the negative images that she says dominate the international media and the Israeli press.
TAMARA ASHRAF: I think for many years the people who live here didn't work with the media. They didn't want to play the game with the media. I think it was a mistake, a very big mistake.
AMOS: Now there are tours for politicians and journalists - a new strategy across the West Bank settlements, tailored to the interests of the guests. The emphasis is less on security, more on the Old Testament history written in these hills. Also featured in Psagot: the fine wines produced for the Israel market.
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AMOS: Do you think, though, it's a bit of a hearts and minds campaign that you have to get into? Are you feeling that you have to get into this fight?
ASHRAF: I think we have to get into this field, into this territory, because if you're not inside, you automatically lose.
AMOS: The settlers have strong government backing, says Peace Now's Hagit Ofran. But now, she says, they see a reason to fight for public opinion.
OFRAN: I think it shows that they know that they're in real trouble, that the Israeli public do not see them as integral part of Israel.
AMOS: Deborah Amos, NPR News, Jerusalem.
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