The launch was timed to coincide with 66th anniversary of what Palestinians remember as the “Nakba” or “catastrophe” that befell them when Israel occupied their homeland and announced itself as a new state in 1948.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced into exile, many were killed or imprisoned and there are still many palestinains who see their houses attacked and destroyed by Israeli forces who don’t let them live in their own lands.
The app, called “iNakba,” features an interactive map and photos of buildings and houses that Palestinians fled during the fighting that erupted after the occupation regime of Israel declared itself independence.
“Many Palestinians have difficulty locating their home towns and villages [in the occupied territories and the West Bank], because cities or Jewish settlements have been built on top of them,” said Raneen Jeries of Zochrot, the NGO that developed the app.
“There’s a file on each of hundreds of Palestinian villages or cities, and you can find information and see old and new user-uploaded photos about the locality,” she said.
“Our aim is to make Israeli Jews aware of the Nakba, which uprooted hundreds of thousands of Palestinians,” said Liat Rosenberg, director of Zochrot.
Palestinians in the diaspora can “follow” their own villages to watch for new information or pictures posted by those who are able to visit them inside the occupied territories, Jeries said.
“Refugees living in Lebanon, for example, can follow their village and each time someone uploads a photo of it or writes a comment, they’ll see an update.”
Zochrot uses maps from British Mandate Palestine (1920-1948) to locate the villages, Jeries said, and marks them on the interactive Google Maps-based app with virtual “pins.”
Rosenberg admitted iNakba might not have the desired impact on most Israeli Jews, but insisted that “left-leaning Israelis will be interested in the app.”
Zochrot, based in Tel Aviv, campaigns for Israelis to recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, along with their descendants.
The right of return for Palestinian refugees has long been a key sticking point in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the latest round of which collapsed in late April after Israeli regime defied to accept basic needs of the Palestinian side.
Palestinians mark Nakba Day every year on May 15.