The Israeli government has approved the formation of a committee to “Judaise” the names of Palestinian towns and historical sites. According to one Arab member of the Knesset (parliament), this is “part of a project to eliminate Palestinian identity”. MK Ahmed Al Tibi claimed that such a move indicates that the Israelis lack confidence in the veracity of their own historical and cultural narrative.
“On the one hand, the Israelis are trying to Judaize Jerusalem, the Galilee and the Negev, eliminating the Palestinians’ memory with the Nakba revival law. On the other, they are changing names into Hebrew,” he said. The suggestions include changing Jerusalem/Al Quds into Yerushalayim; An-Naserah/Nazareth into Natzaret; Yaffa/Jaffa into Yafo; and Al Bahr Al Mayet/the Dead Sea into Yam Ha-Melah. They will not, claims the MK, succeed in reinforcing the Zionist narrative at the expense of the Palestinians’. “As the prominent poet Mahmoud Darwish said, ‘This sea is mine… This humid air is mine.’ The minister who came up with the idea of forming the committee, Yisrael Katz, will go as he came, but An-Naserah, Yaffa, and Al-Quds will remain in the conscience forever; they won’t take their names and go away.”
The Israeli government agreed to form a special ministerial committee following the suggestion of Katz. It has been delegated to transcribe the names of towns, junctions and historical sites across 1948-occupied Palestine (Israel) into Hebrew, so that names will be identical in all languages, based on the Hebrew names. The Hebrew spellings will appear on official maps, road signs and text books. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his full approval of the idea, describing the step as “blessed” and very important.