Make Government Websites Fully Accessible to Arabic Speakers
In recent years, online government services in Israel have undergone significant development. In 2013, the government decided to establish the "National Digital Israel Initiative,” which was designed to formulate a national policy for the use of information and communication technologies. The "Digital Israel National Bureau" was later established, which currently operates under the Ministry of Economy and Industry. However, the steps taken by government ministries and authorities to develop and promote digital channels primarily aimed to serve Hebrew-speaking citizens of the country. Arab society, which constitutes about 20% of the country's population, has access to limited, extremely poor, and only partially online services, and has been left behind without suitable and sufficient access to basic information and services in the Arabic language. The Israel Internet Association recently published a study indicating that only 10% of the content on government websites is accessible in Arabic, and that accessibility is significantly less than that for many ministries and authorities.
On August 31, 2021, ACRI appealed to the Prime Minister and Government Ministries, demanding that they work toward making government websites fully accessible in Arabic, including all the informational pages and online services that appear on those same websites in Hebrew. We requested that, in response to our appeal, reference be made to the government plan regarding this matter, including details on the budget for language accessibility in Arabic; schedules for implementation; the type and scope of content to be translated into Arabic; and the government body responsible for implementing language accessibility.
In her appeal, Attorney Gadeer Nicola, Director of ACRI’s Arab Minority Rights Unit, noted that many among the Arab population in Israel do not speak Hebrew fluently, especially among already disadvantaged populations such as women or people aged 65 and over. Attorney Nicola emphasized that the authorities' long-standing failure to provide basic information and services to Arabic speakers is a violation of the rights of Arab residents and citizens of the country to equality and dignity, and their ability to exercise other basic rights including the right to health, dignity, family life, objection, and more. The inaccessibility of online services and information in Arabic is also inconsistent with the duty of government ministries, as public authorities, to act properly, fairly, reasonably, equitably, and respectfully toward all those who they serve.