Even if you happen not to know Arabic, it’s easy to tell that something is completely wrong with this document. The first clue might be the small circles floating all over the page, not connected to anything, and the huge gaps between words. This is how an official document of the State of Israel is published. It’s an Arabic translation of one of the most important documents posted on the website of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT): Permission Status for Entry of Palestinians into Israel, Exit Abroad and Travel between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The document, as the name implies, lists the protocols governing Palestinian travel between Gaza, the West Bank, Israel and the world. It explains, for instance, who may enter Israel from Gaza, what times the crossings are open and how many Palestinian workers can enter Israel. In other words, the document’s main audience is the Palestinian population, who just happen to speak Arabic.
The circles we mentioned are just the first clue. The document is full of errors: erased lines, spelling mistakes, dropped letters, meaningless sentences and paragraphs, misplaced punctuation marks, symbols that have no meaning in Arabic, dates that oddly appear multiple times and more. We sent a letter about this to COGAT back in May, but the document remained on the site. The letter we sent to the Military Advocate General in early October hasn’t helped either. The document is still there.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, COGAT is obliged to publish the protocols governing Palestinian travel in an appropriate, intelligible and accessible manner. This translation shows deep disrespect not only for the law, but also for the Palestinians whose lives are circumscribed by the policies described in the document.
Update: Just today, COGAT removed the reference to the document on the website, though not the document itself. Perhaps they are avid readers of Gaza Gateway? This post was published in Hebrew last week.