More than a dozen Palestinian members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, were ejected from the chamber for protesting a speech by Vice President Mike Pence on Monday.
The legislators, who represent Palestinians living inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders, stood at the start of Pence’s address and held up signs with the slogan “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine” over an image of a mosque and a church in the city. The placards signaled dissent from the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. embassy there next year, despite international consensus that the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967 was illegal.
Video posted online by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz showed Knesset ushers racing to rip the signs from the hands of the 13 members of parliament who took part in the protest, and forcing them from the hall. Jeers for the protesters, mixed in with applause for Pence, could be heard in another clip of the legislators being forced from the hall, shared on Twitter by the Israeli correspondent Tal Shalev.
The spectacle struck the visiting American correspondent Andrea Mitchell as out of tune with Israel’s boast about being the region’s only true democracy. “Can you imagine,” she wrote on Twitter, “Capitol Police dragging members of the Congressional Black Caucus off the House floor?
Israel’s far-right culture minister, Miri Regev, directed a personal insult at one of the protesting members, Jamal Zahalka, according to Gil Hoffman of the Jerusalem Post.
Outside the chamber, Zahalka proudly displayed the poster for the media.
Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List of Arab parties in the Knesset, tweeted immediately after they were ejected that the protest was a stand “against the Trump-Netanyahu regime’s exaltation of racism and hatred.”
Proud to lead the Joint List in strong, legitimate protest, against the Trump-Netanyahu regime's exaltation of racism and hatred, who speak of peace solely as lip service.— Ayman Odeh (@AyOdeh) January 22, 2018
Our protest today in the plenum is in honor of all who oppose the occupation and dream of peace.
Ahead of the Pence speech, Odeh reportedly called the evangelical vice president “a dangerous man with a messianic vision that includes the destruction of the entire region.”
Pence’s address, in which he promised that the new embassy in Jerusalem would open in 2019, was so littered with biblical references that it was widely mocked by Israeli journalists and dissidents on social networks.
At end of Pence speech, Four Horsemen of Apocalypse will surround Knesset, then Seven Trumpets will sound and finally Gog and Magog will do their bit— Chemi Shalev (@ChemiShalev) January 22, 2018
Following the vice president’s speech, Israeli journalists recorded video of a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, Oren Hazan, shouting insults at Zahalka, calling him and the other the Arab lawmakers “terrorists.”
Pence, who is known to be an advocate of the evangelical Christian position that Jewish control of Jerusalem is ordained by scripture, has been a focus of Palestinian anger over the Trump administration’s concession to Israel on the status of the city, which is a holy site for Muslims and Christians, as well as Jews.
Following the decision, Palestinian leaders made it clear that Pence was no longer welcome to visit Bethlehem or other areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank under their administrative control. Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian Christian and veteran negotiator, rejected Pence’s comments on the city in a blistering interview with BBC News last month.
“Look, Mike Pence has been talking about God’s will; he’s not talking politics, he’s talking biblical dogma and exegesis,” Ashrawi said. “My God did not tell me what his God tells him. I belong to the oldest Christian tradition in the world, and I don’t believe that God ordained that the world has to be unjust to the Palestinians.”
Daniel Seidemann, director of Terrestrial Jerusalem, an Israeli non-governmental organization that focuses on conflict resolution in the holy city, called the vice president’s speech a deeply unhelpful provocation.
Had you come to me 48 hours ago and said: "the Jerusalem recognition turmoil is dying down, what can we do to fan the flames"?— Daniel Seidemann (@DanielSeidemann) January 22, 2018
I would have come up with a script similar to Pence's.