Following a request by Gisha, COGAT adds Arabic to Gaza entry permits issued to Israeli citizens
On May 4, 2015, Gisha contacted the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) (Hebrew) regarding a serious flaw in Gaza entry permits issued to Israeli citizens/residents, that being the complete omission of the Arabic language in the text of the permits. The permits, an example of which can be found here (Hebrew), are issued to every Israeli who wishes to enter the Gaza Strip in accordance with 2005 Implementation of the Disengagement Plan Law 5765-2005.
While most Israeli citizens applying for Gaza stay permits speak Arabic, the permits, which set down the conditions for entry and remainder in Gaza and include a declaration applicants are required to sign, have been issued in Hebrew and English only up until now. Thus, thousands of Israeli citizens/residents entering the Gaza Strip for family unification and other matters, stay in Gaza on the basis of a permit whose details they do not know. We note that Israeli citizens/residents entering the Gaza Strip are required to deposit their identity cards or passports before being allowed in, so that the only document they carry while in Gaza is the permit. Gisha protested the fact that this important document contained no Arabic and asked that the lacuna be corrected immediately.
One June 16, 2015, COGAT replied (Hebrew) that following our request, the document would be translated into Arabic promptly. However, COGAT incomprehensibly added that the correction would be implemented “without expressing an opinion regarding the arguments” raised by Gisha, even though all of its arguments had to do with COGAT’s obligation to publish all its documents in the language spoken by the population with which it comes into contact. This obligation is stronger when it comes to a document that contains instructions and the terms for remaining temporarily in the Gaza Strip and requires the applicant to sign a declaration of consent to the terms.
On August 20, 2015, Gisha received, for the first time, a copy of a Gaza stay permit written in three languages – Arabic, Hebrew and English.
Gisha welcomes this development, which indicates COGAT has to some extent internalized its obligation to guarantee that all its orders, forms and permits which the civilian population is required to fill out and fulfill in its relations with the authorities, are available in the relevant language – Arabic.
Thanks to this achievement, today, for the first time, hundreds and thousands of Israeli citizens/residents entering the Gaza Strip will be able to understand the contents of the permit they are signing.