On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence addressed the Israeli Knesset. In typical Israeli fashion, he was met with protests. As he began, Arab members of the Joint List party whipped out signs declaring “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine” and proceeded to heckle the American speaker. Having broken the Knesset’s rules of order, they were quickly ushered out. Some foreign journalists, unfamiliar with both Israel’s rambunctious politics and parliamentary procedure, breathlessly reported the incident as a singular and shocking event. But in fact, getting one’s self kicked out of Knesset to make a political point is a time-honored tradition in Israel.
Like many parliamentary democracies, from Britain to Canada, the Knesset forbids any props, signs, or disruptions when it is in session. As the Rules of Order for the Canadian House of Commons state:
Speakers have consistently ruled out of order displays or demonstrations of any kind used by Members to illustrate their remarks or emphasize their positions. Similarly, props of any kind, used as a way of making a silent comment on issues, have always been found unacceptable in the Chamber.
…Which means there is no better way to score serious exposure for one’s cause than to purposely flout this rule and generate a viral publicity stunt. The Joint List, which originally announced it would boycott Pence’s speech, before opting to attend and spring their protest, undoubtedly intended to accomplish just this—and certainly succeeded. In doing so, they followed in the footsteps of decades of Israeli Knesset members who have employed an array of antics to get themselves deliberately ejected from the body.
Here are some of the highlights from these displays over the years:
Show Me The Money
In May 2010, Kadima MK Yoel Hasson chose a novel way to protest what he charged was Netanyahu’s wasteful use of public funds. The left-wing Knesset member printed up a stack of Monopoly money featuring Netanyahu’s face, which he then produced from inside his jacket and proceeded to throw around like confetti before being removed from the plenum.
In February 2014, then-European Parliament president Martin Schulz addressed the Knesset. His generally friendly address was marred by protest, however, when he made an inaccurate claim about the disparity between the water supplies of West Bank Israelis and Palestinians. The German politician’s remark prompted outrage from several right-wing lawmakers, some of whom erupted in vocal admonition. “Shame on you, you support someone who incites against Jews,” shouted MK Moti Yogev, before being escorted from the floor.
In the 1980s, the Knesset was rocked by a national debate over whether to permit Brigham Young University to open a Jerusalem campus. The ultra-Orthodox parties bitterly opposed the move, fearing the Mormons would use the school as a base for proselytizing, despite Church assurances to the contrary. In December 1984, MK Avraham Shapira of the Haredi party Agudath Israel brought a motion of no confidence against the governing coalition—of which Agudath was a part—in protest of its support for the campus’s construction. Awkwardly, Agudath’s spiritual head, Rabbi Eliezer Shach, had instructed Shapira’s fellow MK Menachem Porush to support the government on this matter, leaving Porush in a tough spot. So, as the Jerusalem Post recounted at the time, he improvised:
When the debate was beginning to die down, Porush began to shout at Shahal over his assertion that Agudah did nothing to stop BYU. Seconds later, several ushers were ordered to throw Porush out. Porush quickly picked up his things, gave a little bow to the Knesset gallery and with a big smile said, “Thank you.”
The chamber roared with laughter. Porush, on order from Rabbi Eliezer Shach, had been told to support the government in opposition to Shapira’s motion. Being thrown out of the Knesset was the best way out of voting against his own colleague.
Off The Chain
It would seem such stunts run in the Porush family. 29 years after his father engineered his own ejection to avoid an uncomfortable vote, MK Meir Porush did one better. In 2013, to protest impending legislation to draft ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students into the Israeli army, the younger Porush declared that these students would not serve “even if you put them in handcuffs” … and then proceeded to handcuff himself to the podium before anyone realized what was happening. By the time they did, the ultra-Orthodox lawmaker was entirely chained to the stand, having conveniently forgotten to bring along the key. He was ejected after security finally disassembled part of the lectern and freed him.
One thing is for certain: the Joint List members protesting Pence may have been latest parliamentarians to get themselves ejected from the Knesset, but they will not be the last.