Last updated: 20 January, 2014

Arabs heckle and Jews applaud Canadian in Israel Knesset

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was shouted down by Arab lawmakers at the Israeli Knesset on Monday in a speech which won him a standing ovation from Jewish MPs.

Arab Israeli MP Ahmed Tibi hurled mostly inaudible comments at Harper before walking out with another lawmaker as the Canadian premier delivered a 20-minute speech which was markedly pro-Israel on his first-ever visit to the Jewish state.

Shortly afterwards, most of the remaining MPs in the 120-member parliament rose to their feet to give Harper a standing ovation, in an unusually lively episode in the house.

“We refuse to single out Israel for criticism on the international stage,” Harper said, lashing out at the international community for criticising Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians, particularly over settlement construction.

“As once Jewish businesses were boycotted, some civil society leaders today call for a boycott of Israel,” he said, decrying the shunning of academics.

“Most disgracefully of all, some openly call Israel an apartheid state,” he said, at which point Tibi yelled out “Settlements!” drawing a chorus of boos and hissing.

Israel’s ongoing announcements of new construction on land seized during the 1967 Six Day War has drawn the ire of Palestinians, the European Union and the United States as Washington tries to coax the two sides towards an elusive peace deal.

Canada has remained firmly supportive of the Jewish state in its foreign policy, and was one of the few countries that opposed a successful Palestinian bid for upgraded status at the United Nations in 2012.

Arab Israelis are Palestinians who remained after Israel was founded in 1948, along with their descendants they now make up some 20 percent of the population.

They are currently represented by 12 of the 120 Knesset members.