On February 28, 2015, the Israeli NGO Zochrot launched iNakba, a trilingual mobile app based on GPS technology that would allows users to locate and learn about Palestinian localities destroyed during, and as a result of, the Nakba since 1948. The app shows a Google map of Israel covered with hundreds of pins, each representing “one of the depopulated Palestinian villages that exist today as … an empty hilltop, a rubble pile, an olive grove, a prison, a ruin or an Israeli town.” When a user taps one of the pins, the name of the old village appears, online with photographs and a screen of information, including the estimated Palestinian population in 1948, the Israeli military unit that occupied the village, its fate and so forth.
The application is not the first of its kind. Many scholars working in the digital humanities have taken to digital mapping technologies to share the violences of the past with wider audiences. Whereas projects like Bomb Sight which map out the bombs dropped during the London Blitz in World War II have been heralded by all, other projects like Drone+ (later relabelled Metadata+) have been banned by Apple over “objectionable content” for giving the public insight into the magnitude and intensity of drone warfare in our present moment. The politics of witness quickly become clear–or does it?
Allan Feldman explains that mass media, truth-claiming procedures and expert-knowledge coalesce to produce a "theatre of witness." Like the work of scholars, NGOs and solidarity workers, the iNakba app compels us to look toward the violent history of 1948 in order to understand the trauma of Israeli settler colonialism. Yet, as Diana Allan eloquently explains, this approach only works by "obscuring from view seemingly more mundane—though no less devastating—everyday forms of suffering in the present." In the face of digital mapping technologies that concretize the hierarchies of violence that have been authorized in the global neoliberal march toward (western) democracy, freedom and human rights, we should not forget Ann Cvetkovich's reminder to unpack and challenge "the incommensurability of large-scale events and the ongoing material details of experience."
Allan, Diana. "The Politics of Witness: Remembering and Forgetting 1948 in Shatila Camp." Nakba: Palestine, 1948, and the Claims of Memory. New York: Columbia UP, 2007. Print.
Dredge, Stuart. "Apple Removed Drone-strike Apps from App Store Due to 'Objectionable Content'" The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 30 Sept. 2015
Cvetkovich, Ann. Depression: A Public Feeling. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2012. Print.
Feldman, Allen. Archives of the Insensible of War, Photopolitics, and Dead Memory. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2015. Print.
"iNakba App." Zochrot. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.