An Israeli politician and ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu caused a stir in the country’s parliament on Wednesday when she said that there is no such thing as a Palestinian people because there is no letter “P” in the Arabic language.
Speaking in an Israeli parliament (Knesset) debate on the two-state solution, Anat Berko, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, said that the word “Palestine” was not a real word and was borrowed from the Romans who named the area of the Middle East Palestina.
“I want to go back to history, what is our place here, about Jerusalem, about Palestine, when like we said, Arabic doesn’t even have ‘P’, so this loan-word also merits scrutiny,” she said.
“But there is a Palestinian Authority next to us; we don’t deny it,” she added.
The word “Palestine” is pronounced “Falastin” in Arabic, the same as in Hebrew. She made her point by saying: “There is no puh sound!”
Berko’s comments were met with ridicule from fellow lawmakers, specifically those from the left-wing Meretz party and the Arab Joint List.
“What? Did everyone hear this? Are you an idiot?” Meretz politician Tamar Zandberg shouted out, according to Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz. Joint List politician Osama Sa’adi left the debate in protest at Berko’s comments.
She responded to Zandberg: “These are the facts. I’ll send it to you, everything’s alright.” Berko is a professor of criminology with an expertise in extremism. She was selected by Netanyahu to run as a candidate in the 2015 general election, entering the Israeli parliament after Netanyahu’s Likud party secured victory to lead a minority coalition.
While the absence of the letter “P” in the Arabic alphabet is used by some in Israeli society to delegitimize Palestinian aspirations for their own state, it is not viewed as a serious point in the debate over Palestinian and Israeli territory by the Israeli media.