• thawra abukhdeir

Arab Representatives to Be Appointed to the Naming Committee


© Engin Korkmaz | Dreamstime.com

The Government Naming Committee is a public committee whose role is to determine the names of localities, historic sites, and various points on the map of Israel. The committee has 26 members, including public representatives, government representatives, a representative from the Jewish National Fund, and a representative from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Only one of the members is of Arab descent. Throughout most of the committee’s years of operation, there were no Arab representatives whatsoever.

On January 7, 2019, we asked the chair of the committee to work to make sure that Arab society was well represented on the committee. ACRI Atty. Sana Ibn Bari noted that Arabs’ under-representation in the committee is not merely a formal issue but also has far-reaching implications for the committee’s role in selecting the names of localities, infrastructure, and national sites, as well as in shaping public space throughout the country; ensuring Arab minority rights to language and culture; and the presence of the Arabic language in the public sphere.

On January 20, 2022, we appealed to the Attorney General and Legal Adviser to the Prime Minister's Office regarding the matter, yet again. Atty. Abir Joubran Dakwar stressed that Arab citizens’ lack of adequate representation among the members of the Names Committee is illegal and unacceptable, violating the obligation for adequate representation of Arab citizens in public and government bodies, which is an integral element of the right to equality. The appeal further noted:

“The lack of adequate Arab representation in the Naming Committee not only violates Arab society's right to equality and adequate representation, but also impairs its capacity to be present in the public sphere, influence its design, and feel a sense of belonging as part of it. The lack of adequate representation effectively disregards Arab society’s history and culture and its close connection to the public sphere in the process of selecting names for historic sites, nature reserves, geographic objects, and various localities. It emphasizes the sense of alienation and lack of belonging among Arabs, thus harming their dignity as humans and a minority group in Israel."

On January 23, 2022, we received a response from the Legal Advisor to the Prime Minister's Office, which indicated that the government intends to increase the number of committee members from 24 to 30, and that three Arab representatives are expected to serve therein. Such a decision was indeed made at a cabinet meeting held that same day.