GPS App Leads Israeli Soldiers into Palestinian Enclave

GEOGRAPHY

An apparent error on a satellite navigation app led two Israeli soldiers into a Palestinian village. The ensuing skirmish left at least one person dead. (Washington Post)

Use our great activity to get an introduction to GIS and its impacts on our everyday lives.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

A faulty GPS app allegedly directed non-combat Israeli soldiers into Qalandiya, a village just southwest of the Jerusalem Airport. The clashes that erupted left at least one Palestinian dead and 10 injured, one seriously. At least 10 Israeli soldiers also were wounded during the hour-long operation. Map by Wickey-nl, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-3.0

A faulty GPS app allegedly directed non-combat Israeli soldiers into Qalandiya, a village just southwest of the Jerusalem Airport in the city’s northeast. The clashes that erupted left at least one Palestinian dead and 10 injured, one seriously. At least 10 Israeli soldiers also were wounded during the hour-long operation.
Map by Wickey-nl, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-3.0

Discussion Ideas
Read through our activity “Introduction to GIS,” and adapt its questions to the situation in Jerusalem.

 

  • What is GIS?
    • GIS stands for geographic information system. GIS describes a system or tool for displaying and analyzing data related to positions on Earth’s surface. While GPS provides users with geographic data, GIS allows users to display and analyze that data.

 

  • Does Waze, the Google-owned app used by the Israeli military, use GPS or GIS technology?
    • Both. Waze is a GPS-based app that provides traffic information and suggested routes. The data displayed on Waze are crowdsourced, meaning local users continually input and update data about traffic patterns.

 

  • How might Jerusalem residents and law-enforcement personnel use geospatial information from Waze? Take a look at this great video series for an introduction to the “Geospatial Revolution.”
    • Waze provides updated information on road closures, construction zones, vehicle accidents, and things like garbage collection routes and where police are issuing parking or speeding violations. (That last bit is very controversial.)
    • The key setting used by law enforcement in Jerusalem, however, navigates around “areas ‘dangerous or prohibited for Israelis to drive through’.” This information is crowdsourced by local Jerusalemites.

 

  • How did this analysis go wrong?
    • Authorities are not entirely sure. Here are three major theories:
      • Because Waze relies on users for updated information, “in places where the app is not widely used—such as the Palestinian villages surrounding Jerusalem and in the West Bank—the service could face limitations.”
      • Waze officials say the police had the “avoid dangerous areas” setting turned off.
      • The Israeli army says the setting was turned on, but malfunctioned and directed the soldiers into Qalandiya by mistake.

 

The Qalandiya checkpoint, separating Jerusalem from the West Bank, has three security-screening stations for cars and four for pedestrians. Photograph by ’Amer 'Aruri and B'Tselem, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-4.0

The Qalandiya checkpoint, separating Jerusalem from the West Bank, has three security-screening stations for cars and four for pedestrians.
Photograph by ’Amer ‘Aruri and B’Tselem, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-4.0

 

  • What crowdsourced settings do you think law-enforcement personnel might use to avoid these clashes in the future?
    • Some critics have suggested that law-enforcement personnel should limit crowdsourced input on certain layers.
    • Some critics have suggested that law-enforcement personnel be required to input data in certain places or at certain times.

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Washington Post: Israeli troops who relied on Waze blundered into deadly firefight with Palestinians

Nat Geo: Introduction to GIS activity

Nat Geo: Geospatial Revolution video series

Nat Geo: The Conflict Zone video series

One response to “GPS App Leads Israeli Soldiers into Palestinian Enclave

  1. Pingback: Why Are There So Many Conflicts in Mountainous Regions? | Nat Geo Education Blog·

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