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The New Arab

Israel hospital bans staff from speaking Arabic in latest attempt to silence official language

Palestinian citizens of Israel make up a fifth of the country's population [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 April, 2018

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An Israeli hospital has effectively banned staff from speaking Arabic in the latest attempt to silence the country's minority national language.
An Israeli hospital has effectively banned staff from speaking Arabic in the latest attempt to silence the country's minority national language.

Authorities at Rambam Health Care Campus in the northern city of Haifa have ordered employees to only communicate in Hebrew, local news website Arab48 reported on Monday.

"I want to reaffirm that the working language between staff at Rambam… is Hebrew, both in writing and professional conversations," Rambam Director Rafi Beyar told staff in an internal communique last week.

"This applies to all languages and is mandatory. I would like this to be applied at all professional meetings and in all public spaces of the hospital," Beyar said.

He added that staff could only speak in languages other than Hebrew if patients or their families request to do so.

Both Hebrew and Arabic are Israel's national languages.

According to the report, of the 4,000 employees of the hospital at least a third speak Arabic or Russian as a first language.

The move has angered Arabic-speaking employees at the hospital in the mixed city, which has an Arab population of around 20 percent.

"Arabic is still an official language in Israel. There is no reason why Arab staff should not be allowed to speak their language while standing in the lobby," said one hospital employee.

The ban is just the latest attempt by a business to silence the Arabic language.

Arab48 reported on Tuesday that a coffee shop in the city of Arad similarly banned workers from speaking Arabic to customers.

Israeli lawmakers are expected to soon pass controversial legislation that will demote the status of Arabic so that it is no longer an official language alongside Hebrew.

The bill states that Hebrew would be the lone national language and downgrades Arabic to "a special status in the state" whose "speakers have the right to language-accessible state services."

Palestinian citizens of Israel make up a fifth of the country's 8.4 million people and have long complained of institutionalised racism.

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