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The Significance of Expunging Palestinian Place Names and Blotting Out the Arabic language

January 24, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Nawaf al-Zrou

There is obvious and substantial evidence that Israel has recently launched successive, deliberate and systematic campaigns against Palestine, Palestinians and the Palestine Question in its entirety in an effort to realize what they view as the yet unaccomplished aspects of the Zionist project; absolute Judaisation.

With respect to the land, the Occupation has indeed succeeded in the Judaization of both Palestinian geography and its places. While, in terms of demography, Israel ceaselessly campaigns against and attacks Palestinian demographics with the aim of curtailing and shrinking the population to the lowest levels possible; at the very top of their Judaization agenda, are plans for population transfer.
By the same token, the occupying state has launched a vast and comprehensive assault on Arab Palestinian culture and cultural memory; on Jerusalem [Al-Quds] and on sacred landmarks and features within Palestine while veiling its attack in religious rhetoric. In recent days and since the announcement of its intent by the minister of transportation, the assault has intensified extending to include the Arabic language as well as the names of historic Arab monuments across Palestine.

There is no doubt that this current campaign of Judaization targeted at the Arabic language and its place names is indicative of dangerous ideological escalation and is a political step aimed at expunging the Arabic names of Palestinian places from memory while forcing Arab citizens of the state to adopt these new Zionist names as replacements for the historic Arabic ones.

This campaign brings us one step closer to the implementation of a law passed by the Israeli government in June 2007 when the Knesset ratified a draft law that would bind authorities to writing commercial adverts in Hebrew. This law has been a source of great concern among Arab politicians and human rights activists alike who consider it part of the campaign targeting the Arabic language. According to the Jewish newspaper Maariv, ‘the Knesset has ratified the first reading of a draft law which orders that all signboards be written in clear Hebrew. Shop, restaurant and company owners who do not abide by these directives face having their trading licenses revoked.’

Arab member of the Knesset, Muhammad Baraka asserts that ‘this law consolidates the already widespread and consistent targeting of the Arabic language by giving absolute priority to Hebrew.’ He highlights that the campaign sometimes manifests itself in relation to commercial adverts and at other times to the changing of street, town and village names whose Arab populations have been displaced and the like; the names of all crossroads have been changed to Hebrew and regrettably the younger generations do not know their Arabic names.’

Aavi Larnar, spokesman for Knesset member Aavi Itam of the National Union Party (MIVDAL); the man responsible for proposing that all signboards be written in Hebrew says: ‘I have absolutely no doubt that Israeli society has to consolidate the Hebrew language if  it wants to safeguard its Jewish nature.’ He continues: ‘as a society and a state, the Hebrew language constitutes the continuity of an ancestry stretching back generations and thousands of years ago.’

This current Israeli attack on the Arabic language and Arabic place names in Palestine reveals a colossal and flagrant truth: the Zionist state has in the past and continues until this day to destroy and wipe away the Arab character of Palestine in terms of history, culture and heritage. It has and continues to displace the Palestinian people and judaise their native soil by transforming it into a ‘Jewish homeland.’ It is no longer a secret that the Jewish state has carried out the worst types of ethnic cleansing. It has destroyed Arab sites all over Palestine including sanctuaries, and has destroyed or wiped out in the order of 600 Palestinian villages; some with their inhabitants still in them.

What is novel in this context, are the documents being brought to light one after another which reveal that this demolition, destruction and ethnic cleansing was carried out according to the orders of Israel’s supreme leadership; they were planned, supervised and premeditated. The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reveals that ‘what has been happening in Palestine is the annihilation of an entire civilization – both its past and present; the destruction of towns and villages; of landmarks stretching back 3,000 years and even the vestiges of churches in the Arab districts.’ The newspaper affirms that ‘the destruction was aimed at wiping away the remnants of Arab existence that irritated Israeli leadership.’

This then is how the story goes and with the documents recently released from Israeli army archives, it becomes clear that ‘the Israeli Army has, since the establishment of the Hebrew state in 1948, worked towards erasing from existence the remnants of Arab towns and villages whose inhabitants have been displaced. It carried out campaigns ordered by the then commander of the Southern Front, Moshe Dayan, which turned Palestine into a desert wasteland with the aim of wiping out pre-existent Arab civilization and establishing the state of Israel in its place.’

In a report by the Israeli writer Zafrir Rinat published in Ha’aretz under the title ‘Out of sight maybe, but not out of mind’ we read: ‘Historians who are very critical of the Zionist movement, such as Dr Ilan Pappe, claim that disregarding the existence of Palestinian villages is part of a deliberate effort to erase their history in favor of creating a new one that suits the Zionist narrative – that of a barren country which only flourished thanks to the activities of groups like the JNF.’

The crux of the matter is that not only has Palestinian geography and place names fallen under the hammer of judaisation, but Arab civilization, history, heritage, culture, literature and language in Palestine are all targets of Zionist attack in a new and more virulent stage of the assault. Alas, this process is taking place before the very eyes of both the Arab world and the international community. It is therefore, extraordinarily bizarre and astonishing that some people today still engage in the discourse of peace processes, negotiations, settlements and normalization of relations with the Zionist entity; that Arabs still importune the benefit of negotiations and the Road Map while running into massacres, the building of settlements and the usurping walls of judaisation.  

Even so, we are enormously confident that the identity of this occupied country, with its heritage, its history, its sacred monuments and its lengthy story are stronger and more enduring than the occupation… and we trust that all plans to eradicate Arab history in order to construct a Zionist narrative and myth clash with the legendary Palestinian will to survive and resist.

Nonetheless, Palestine needs a true Arab presence as well as a true Arab sense of responsibility… just as it needs influential Arab and Islamic action in the face of Zionist plans and attacks.

Al-Bayan, the Emirates


The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.