I have to say I’ve been disappointed at the N.Y. Times coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lately, especially some of the work of its new bureau chief, Ethan Bronner. But today’s report (not written by Bronner) on an Israeli-Palestinian internet startup, was delightful and produced this wonderful, incisive image portraying computer geek graffiti slamming Israel’s Separation Wall.
I especially enjoy the way in which the computer-speak has been transferred from the technical realm to the political. You’ll note that the actual purpose of the technical command Ctrl-Alt-Del has nothing to do with the political commentary. But if you return the actual words to their English meanings it sharpens the satire: control (the purpose of the Wall); alt (alter the status quo); delete (self-evident). Kudos to the graffiti artists.
Here’s some color about the company, G.ho.st, and the difficulties it faces in having Israeli and Palestinian computer engineers collaborate on this project:
The Palestinian office in Ramallah, with about 35 software developers, is responsible for most of the research and programming. A smaller Israeli team works about 13 miles away in the central Israeli town of Modiin.
The stretch of road separating the offices is broken up by checkpoints, watch towers and a barrier made of chain-link fence and, in some areas, soaring concrete walls, built by Israel with the stated goal of preventing the entry of Palestinian suicide bombers.
Palestinian employees need permits from the Israeli army to enter Israel and attend meetings in Modiin, and Israelis are forbidden by their own government from entering Palestinian cities.
When permits cannot be arranged but meetings in person are necessary, colleagues gather at a rundown coffee shop on a desert road frequented by camels and Bedouin shepherds near Jericho, an area legally open to both sides.
I especially enjoyed the fact that the actual product being developed mirrors in technological terms the project’s attempt in political terms to transcend the barriers erected to defeat such cooperation:
The goal of G.ho.st is not as lofty as peace, although its founders and employees do hope to encourage it. Instead G.ho.st wants to give users a free, Web-based virtual computer that lets them access their desktop and files from any computer with an Internet connection. G.ho.st, pronounced “ghost,” is short for Global Hosted Operating System.
“Ghosts go through walls,” said Zvi Schreiber, the company’s British-born Israeli chief executive, by way of explanation…
“I felt the ultimate goal was to offer every human being a computing environment which is free, and which is not tied to any physical hardware but exists on the Web,” he said. The idea, he said, was to create a home for all of a user’s online files and storage in the form of a virtual PC.
Instead of creating its own Web-based software, the company taps into existing services like Google Docs, Zoho and Flickr and integrates them into a single online computing system.