A third of the Israeli government websites provide no content at all in the Arabic language, which is one of the two official languages in Israel. Only one website, that of the Knesset, presents information in Arabic that covers more or less the content presented in the Hebrew version. All this is being seen as the result of a comprehensive study conducted by the Abraham Fund Initiatives and published April 21.
The study explored 34 different websites of the [Israeli] government and various other authorities and agencies – 25 websites of the government and government authorities, four websites of the judiciary, the Knesset website and four websites of mixed Jewish-Arab municipalities (Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Haifa, Misgav and Gilboa). The study checked not only whether the said websites had an Arabic version, but also the quality of the website content and its scope, focusing on features such as the availability of online services and their accessibility through the website, as well as the extent to which input by and interaction with the [Arabic speaking] public were enabled.
When is the branch open? Ask a Hebrew-speaking friend
The study found that 11 of the websites researched did not include a version in Arabic — among them those of the Ministry of Finance, Israel Tax Authority, the Administration of Border Crossings, Population and Immigration, the Ministry of Religious Services, the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee and even the Gilboa Regional Council. A significant gap was found between the scope of the Hebrew version and that of the Arabic version of 13 other websites, including those of the Ministry of Transport and Road Safety, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme Court and the Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Haifa municipalities.
The gap is particularly evident in the vital area of input by and interaction with the public, which involves information relating to tenders, proposed laws and government and Knesset resolutions, as well as guidelines for establishing a business and other issues. Considerable gaps were found even with respect to basic information — the location and opening hours of branches of various authorities and agencies, their administrative structure and the services offered by each of these bodies.
Likewise, significant gaps were identified in areas such as the relevance of the information presented and its scope, accessibility and usability, as well as the linguistic quality of the text.
The Knesset website …
At the same time, the authors of the study favorably note the Knesset website, where information gaps between the Hebrew and Arabic versions were found to be minimal and, in fact, infinitesimal on the compatibility scale devised by the researchers. Other noteworthy websites, where relatively small information gaps were found between the Hebrew and Arabic versions, are those of the Prime Minister's Office, the Employment Service, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Tourism and the Misgav Regional Council.
“At present, a decade after the government passed a resolution on the translation into Arabic of public sector websites, the online services of government ministries, authorities and agencies are still not fully accessible to all Israeli citizens,” the authors of the study write in conclusion.
“The situation in Israel is far from that prevailing in the developed countries, like Canada, Switzerland and the European Union, where all public-sector websites are translated into all the official languages and provide information on the general level, at least, in all relevant languages. It turns out, however, that no reasons of principle are behind the failure to translate government or other official websites into Arabic, as demonstrated by the Knesset website, whose Arabic version is on par with the Hebrew version in terms of scope, quality and relevance. The obvious conclusion, then, is that it can be done.”
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