Likud Knesset member Anat Berko ruffled a few feathers and raised a few brows at the plenum on Wednesday when she called into question the veracity of the Palestinian claim to regional territory, by citing the absence of the “P” sound in the Arabic alphabet.
“As we’ve noted, the letter ‘P’ doesn’t even exist in Arabic, so the borrowed term (Palestine) is worth looking into,” Berko said from the podium during a discussion called by opposition parties on the status of the two-state solution. The lawmaker began to add that Israel did not deny the existence of “a Palestinian entity” alongside the Jewish state, and wished for peace with it, when a hubbub broke out among left-wing MKs.
“Did you hear that?” Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg cried out in astonishment, repeating Berko’s statements to her fellow lawmakers.
“Yes,” Berko answered her. “There’s no ‘P’.” She added in exaggerated pronunciation for emphasis: “‘Pah, pah, pah,’ there’s no ‘Pah.’ There’s ‘Fah.'”
Zandberg shot back incredulously: “Are you an imbecile?”
As further voices of dissent were raised around her, Berko replied: “Those are the facts, I’ll send them to you. It’s fine.”
Several Arab lawmakers then left the hall in anger, while Zandberg laughed incredulously at Berko’s words.
Arabic indeed does not have an equivalent to the letter “P.” The “F” sound is denoted by the letter “Fa,” and “Palestine” is pronounced “Fah-lah-steen.”
While the absence of the letter “P” in the Arabic alphabet has been used as an occasional point of ridicule by those who oppose Palestinian self-determination, it is not generally considered a serious political argument.