2 New Apps Warn PA Arabs about IDF Checkpoints

November 24, 2015

2 min read

Two new mobile apps have appeared online to help Palestinian Authority Arabs navigate around the traffic jams that often accumulate in front of IDF checkpoints, especially following a terrorist attack—a frequent event these days. “Azmeh“—Arabic for traffic jam, and “Qalandiya”—named after a refugee camp and a major checkpoint, now provide a GPS solution to those inconvenient restrictions on Arab travel every time a Jew gets stabbed, Gulf News reported.

The two free apps, launched a few weeks ago, use the technology normally associated with avoiding rush hour traffic to address the predominant complaint of Arabs in the territories. They’ve only seen a few hundred downloads each—which could mean that Arab users don’t trust them and may suspect that they’re a gimmick invented by those crafty Zionists to track them using their own smartphones. But if they grow in popularity, their developers hope the crowdsourced apps may actually offer a solution to the checkpoint jams.

Basel Sader, 20, an Arab resident of eastern Jerusalem who is a law student at the Hebrew University, developed Azmeh to give fellow Arab travelers “the freedom of movement … it can make things easier for them.”

The IDF maintains several permanent checkpoints, to which are added temporary points in response to security alerts. Restricting travel for Arabs on the roads helps security forces catch up with the perpetrators of terrorism and prevents others from joining spontaneous riots quickly. When tensions are high, the 120-mile stretch from the southern to the northern tips of Judea and Samaria can take Arab motorists many hours. This often includes PA Arabs who work and study in Israel or visit relatives receiving quality treatment in Israeli hospitals and clinics.

Azmeh users can post updates about the status of the waiting line at a given checkpoint, using green for free flow of traffic, orange for moderate and red for heavy—so fellow motorists can try less clogged options. The app only tracks about six checkpoints, which may also explain why it’s more a political statement than a useful, popular tool.

Qalandiya users mark traffic at the checkpoint with green, yellow or red car icons. They can also report checkpoints which have been shut for the day.

However, neither app is able to estimate the wait time at a given checkpoint, or suggest a different route — that part, the “recalculating,” is left up to each users to do.

Former Palestinian minister of telecommunications and information technology Mashhour Abu Dakasaid the apps were a good idea but said “it would be even more helpful if we didn’t have checkpoints.”

He did not mention if he was for or against reducing the number of stabbing incidents as well.

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