Education Minister Blasted Over Failure to Translate Israeli Arab Pupils' Diplomas Into Arabic

Naftali Bennett says the ministry cannot translate the diplomas because of the difficulty in getting Arabic names correct; Israeli Arab lawmaker calls his explanation 'outrageous.'

Education Minister Naftali Bennett.
Emil Salman

An Israeli Arab lawmaker blasted Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday over the failure to translate Israeli Arab pupils’ high school diplomas from Hebrew to Arabic, which makes it harder for them to go to college in Arabic-speaking countries. Lawmaker Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) called Bennett’s explanation for the policy “outrageous,” adding that it “expresses a disregard for the rights of Israeli Arab pupils and the status of their mother tongue.”

Responding to Jabareen’s query in the Knesset, Bennett said the ministry cannot translate Israeli Arab pupils’ diplomas into Arabic because of the difficulty in getting the Arabic names correct. “The pupil roster is based on what appears in the Population Registry, and that registry isn’t in Arabic,” Bennett said. “There’s a difficulty in writing the Arabic names without the authority of the Population Registry.”

He added that the issue had been previously discussed in the Education Ministry and various possibilities were examined, but said, “There are many difficulties with implementing this request because of the lack of data and documents in Arabic.”

Jabareen submitted the query to Bennett two weeks ago, noting that “Arabic is an official state language and is the mother tongue of more than a fifth of the pupils in the educational system. Yet both the matriculation eligibility certificates and the matriculation certificates [high school diplomas] themselves are issued solely in Hebrew.”

He noted, “Eligibility and matriculation certificates are crucial nowadays to the thousands of pupils who continue their education in Jordan and the Palestinian Authority areas. The lack of a certificate in Arabic poses difficulties for the pupils, and requires them to personally arrange for translating the certificates and getting the translations notarized, with all the hassle and financial outlay this involves.”

Jabareen told Haaretz, “The education minister’s response is outrageous, and expresses a disregard for the rights of Arab pupils and the status of their mother tongue. Some 25 percent of all Israeli pupils study in the Arab education system and it’s inconceivable not to issue them matriculation certificates in Arabic.

“The fact that until now the ministry hasn’t issued certificates in Arabic is itself scandalous, and the minister’s response expresses the continuation of a policy that denies Arabic any status in the educational system,” he said. “The minister’s priorities are distorted. It isn’t clear why he’s in such a hurry these days to invest resources in employing an ‘intelligence officer’ instead of maintaining the basic rights of Arab pupils.”