Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 September 2012
On the evening of 30 May 2007, the municipality of the city of Acre – one of the few mixed Jewish-Arab cities in Israel – removed metallic Arabic letters spelling Akka, the city's name in Arabic, from the official sign at the east entrance to the city. These had been inlaid the previous day by leftist activists in response to the municipality's omission of the Arabic inscription on the official sign. A week after the event, the activists returned and placed another sign, at the same site, with the caption, ‘Acre For All Its Inhabitants’, in Hebrew and Arabic, as well as the Arabic letters for Akka. This, too, was immediately removed by local police – but a few days later the municipality finally inscribed the name Akka in Arabic, as well as an English transliteration of the Hebrew name, Akko. A small victory was achieved in the struggle for recognition of the Arab presence in Israel. But why did the municipality of Acre not prepare a signpost that respected all the city's inhabitants in the first place?
At first glance this episode is about deliberate and blatant disregard of Arab sensibilities, but closer inspection reveals the fundamental drives that produce these characteristic practices of symbolic disregard. I believe the Acre municipality did not deliberately set out to ignore the Arab-Palestinian inhabitants of the city, and moreover, the municipality does not assume Arab-Palestinians in Acre are undeserving of symbolic representation as part of the city.
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