In a direct challenge of the Transport Ministry’s decision to give only Hebrew names on all public signs inside Israel, on Thursday a sign in the northern city of Acre had its Hebrew name scratched off and replaced with the Arabic one.
According to the new policy, endorsed by Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, all roads and cities will be called only by their Hebrew names on official signs. Although the names will also be written in English and Arabic, the names will be transliterated from Hebrew rather than using the English and Arabic names as the did previously.
Acre's new sign was designed accordingly. Acre is pronounced Akko in Hebrew and was written as such in both Arabic and English letters. However, unknown people scraped off the Arabic transliteration and wrote next to it the original Arabic name, pronounced Akka.
Palestinian historian Dr. Johnny Mansour called upon all Arab-Israelis to form a committee to resist the implementation of the decision on Hebrew.
"We have to protest in order to preserve the identity of the place," he told Al Arabiya. "This could be done through the parliament. Arab members of the Knesset should veto the decision and we all have to take our protests to the Arab and international levels."
Mansour called for forming a specialist committee whose mission would be giving Arab names to all streets in Arab cities and towns.
"These new street names should be inspired by Arab, Palestinian and Islamic heritage. A name is not just a name -- it is identity, culture, and history. We are currently engaged in the cultural battle."
In the same vein, lawyer Omar Khamaisi with al-Mizan Center for Human Rights, called for annulling the decision and stressed in a letter to the Transport Ministry that Arabic is an official language in Israel and thus should be used in all public signs.
Al-Mizan Center issued a statement stressing the right of Arabs to use their language and preserve their identity, especially in Arab cities that are regarded as a symbol of Palestine and of Arab existence in this land.
"This is part of Palestinian history and it cannot be scraped or tampered with," he wrote.
Acre is the latest city to be targeted. In many of Jerusalem's neighborhoods, the Arabic writing has been pasted over with Israeli ultranationalist stickers.
Activists have launched a grassroots effort to restore Arabic to signs, posting names on signs throughout Jerusalem and launching several campaigns on Facebook to build support for their caused. Many lashed out at the decision and called for Arab and international action against the erasure of Arab identity.