Study: Israel's National Insurance Institute Website in Arabic Is Substandard

Some pages of the Hebrew website had never been translated into Arabic at all, including important information on benefits ■ NII: Problems will be fixed in two months

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National Insurance Institute offices in Rishon Lezion, March 23, 2018.
National Insurance Institute offices in Rishon Lezion, March 23, 2018.Credit: Ilan Assayag

The National Insurance Institute’s website in Arabic provides only partial and confusing information about the benefits to which people are entitled and how to obtain them, a new study has found.

In response, the NII admitted to “mistakes in grammar and phrasing,” for which it blamed its previous translation company. It promised to fix the errors in the coming weeks.

The study was conducted by Arabic-speaking students at Hebrew University’s legal aid clinic for minorities. The clinic began looking into the matter after receiving complaints about the website from callers to its hotline.

The students discovered that some pages of the Hebrew website had never been translated into Arabic at all. These include the one describing what benefits recipients of NII stipends are entitled to receive from other agencies, one on patients’ rights and one on benefits earmarked for certain segments of the population.

Moreover, even the pages that were translated into Arabic lacked important material that did appear on the Hebrew site. For instance, the pages on unemployment benefits didn’t include either the section on the penalties for failing to show up regularly at a government employment office, or the section on the rights of women fired because they gave birth.

The website’s problems “undermine Arabic speakers’ ability to determine their rights and realize them,” wrote one of the clinic’s attorneys, Ohad Amar, to NII director general Meir Shpigler. “As a result of the language barrier, applicants who don’t speak Hebrew depend on translation services that often require high payments.”

Alternatively, people have to go physically to an NII office to determine what their rights are, he added.

Amar charged that in building such a flawed website, the NII was guilty of “severe negligence in doing its job,” and was also contributing to the Arab community’s high poverty rate by making it harder for Arabic speakers to get the benefits to which they are entitled.

In a response sent to the clinic a few days ago, the NII acknowledged that “there are still pages awaiting translation. We maintain several internet sites with limited resources, and therefore, there’s been a delay in finishing the translation.”

Regarding the poor quality of the translation, it said, “Two years ago, we switched translators, and the current translator is trying to review the site and rewrite the content that you, too, identified as in need of correction.”

Asked for comment by Haaretz, the NII said, “We’re aware of mistakes in grammar and phrasing and non-uniform terminology in some of the site’s pages in Arabic and are therefore re-editing all the content to create a uniform language.” It added that Shpigler had demanded that the problems be corrected within two months.