MK Anat Berko
MK Anat BerkoMiriam Alster/Flash 90

An Israeli parliamentarian has drawn ire and ridicule after suggesting "Palestine" is a borrowed term that Palestinians themselves cannot pronounce.

"The letter P doesn't exist in Arabic, so the borrowed term Palestine is worth debating," MK Anat Berko (Likud) said during a parliamentary debate on Wednesday night.

"There is no 'puh' sound (in Arabic)," she repeated several times.

In Arabic, the word is written with an F and is pronounced "Falesteen." Palestinian Arabs not fluent in English often use the letter B as a substitute for P when speaking the language.

Berko reportedly said later she was alluding to the fact the Romans referred to the region as Syria Palaestina, but her comments were ridiculed.

"Don't you have a brain?" MK Tamar Zandberg, from the left-wing Meretz party, shouted during the session.

Jamal Dajani, a spokesman for the Palestinian prime minister's office, said it was an attempt to "dehumanize Palestinians."

Israeli media on Thursday quoted Berko defending herself, asserting "The Romans called this place Palaestina."

"The Palestinians who took the name borrowed it, but could not pronounce it properly. They distorted it. No one said that there is no Palestinian people."

AFP contributed to this report.