Labour MP Kim Johnson has apologised for describing Israel’s recently-formed coalition government as “fascist”.
The Liverpool Riverside MP made the comment in Parliament, as she asked Rishi Sunak about “human rights violations” against Palestinians.
She apologised shortly afterwards, after being ordered to do so by party bosses.
The MP said she acknowledged using the term ‘fascist’ was “particularly insensitive” given Israel’s history.
“While there are far-right elements in the government, I recognise that the use of the term in this context was wrong,” she added.
The BBC has been told she was told to apologise by party whips for the remarks, described as “unacceptable” by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s spokesman.
Israel’s new government, formed after elections in November, includes senior ministers from the ultranationalist far right.
There is domestic and international concern it will inflame the conflict with the Palestinians, damage the judiciary and restrict minority rights.
Benjamin Netanyahu, who has returned as prime minister after his Likud party formed a coalition with ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies, has promised to pursue peace and safeguard civil rights.
Ms Johnson also apologised for saying, during her intervention during Prime Minister’s Questions, that rights group Amnesty International had described Israel as an “apartheid state”.
“Whilst I was quoting accurately Amnesty’s description, I recognise this is insensitive and I’d like to withdraw it,” she added.
In his initial response to Ms Johnson’s question, Mr Sunak did not directly criticise her use of the word “fascist,” but said she had “failed to mention the horrific attack on civilians inside Israel as well”.
“It’s important in this matter to remain calm and urge all sides strive for peace, and that’s very much what I will do as prime minister,” he added.
‘Abuse of power’
Fellow Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge criticised Ms Johnson’s remarks, calling them “unacceptable and dangerous”.
She added that the comments were an “insult” to the legacy of Dame Louise Ellman, Ms Johnson’s predecessor as Liverpool Riverside MP who temporarily quit Labour over the party’s handling of antisemitism allegations under former leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Before Ms Johnson’s apology, Sir Keir’s spokesman told reporters that Labour wanted to have “strong relations with the government of Israel”.
“Obviously there are always issues in any bilateral relationship where you have disagreements between countries, but fundamentally the relationship between Britain and Israel is one that we value.”
“I don’t think using the sort of language that was used in Prime Minister’s Questions today is helpful in achieving that,” the spokesman added.
However, the spokesman’s decision to denounce Ms Johnson’s language was criticised by Momentum, the Corbyn-supporting left-wing pressure group.
The group accused Sir Keir of an “outrageous abuse of power,” and wanting to “silence wholly legitimate criticism of the Israeli government”.
Momentum is calling for the reinstatement of Mr Corbyn, whom Sir Keir suspended as a Labour MP in 2020 after a long running row about antisemitism.
Mr Corbyn was suspended for saying the scale of antisemitism within Labour had been “dramatically overstated” by opponents, in his reaction to a watchdog’s report on how the party had handled allegations of anti-Jewish prejudice within the party.
Source : BBC