For Immediate Release – January 4, 2011
January 4, 2011—Today, HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual submitted an petition to the High Court of Justice arguing that a new policy forcing Palestinians to submit applications in Hebrew is a violation of Palestinians’ human rights, as well as Israeli and international law.
According to a letter from the office of the head of the Civil Administration in the West Bank received by HaMoked on December 2, 2010, Israeli authorities in the Occupied Territories have established a new policy that requires Palestinians to submit applications in Hebrew only; otherwise they will not be processed. This comes in response to HaMoked's inquiry regarding the Civil Administration’s refusal to process a Palestinian woman's application to travel abroad. The Civil Administration’s response stated that the woman “was requested to fill out the application form in the Hebrew language, as part of security officials’ policy.”
HaMoked has available dozens of similar applications which the Civil Administration and the Israel Security Agency had processed despite their being filled in Arabic, proving this is indeed a new policy. It is also worth noting that the forms themselves are printed in both Arabic and Hebrew, as the Palestinian population must not be required to read, understand, or complete forms that are not in their own language.
Further, on December 16, 2010, Captain Matan Solomash, from the office of the Military Legal Advisor, stated in a telephone conversation that his office intended to hold a thorough inquiry into the matter and that this should take a few days. There has been no response since, and HaMoked has no knowledge of such an investigation proceeding.
Head of HaMoked’s Legal Department, Adv. Ido Blum: “Arabic is both the mother tongue and official language of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. To demand that they submit applications in Hebrew is a flagrant violation of both international and Israeli law.”
In its initial letter, the Civil Administration attempted to present the new policy as a simple and easily resolvable issue, stating that “as for the technical feasibility of submitting the application in Hebrew, a Palestinian typing office operates in the reception area of the District Coordination Office [DCO], providing typing services to the residents.”
The “service” referred to by the Civil Administration is a private initiative of Palestinian typists, equipped with typewriters, who wait outside the DCO offices and offer their services in filling out forms—for a fee. The state’s reply fails to mention the involved cost, or that the typists are untrained and their translations often riddled with errors.
The petition follows a letter submitted by HaMoked on December 16, 2010 to the head of the Civil Administration. The letter, which has received no formal reply, asserted that the demand to fill out applications in Hebrew is illegal, and that HaMoked would take legal action unless this policy is revoked. “The severity of this new policy cannot be overstated,” HaMoked wrote. “Not only does it lack any legal basis, but it causes intolerable harm to the residents of the Occupied Territories and constitutes a complete breach of the duties of the military commander and the civil administration toward them.”