Labour MP sparks outrage by branding Israeli government 'fascist'

Labour MP Kim Johnson sparks outrage by branding Israeli government ‘fascist’ and referring to country as ‘apartheid state’ in ‘disgraceful’ comments at PMQs

  • Labour’s Kim Johnson sparks outrage by branding Israeli government ‘fascist’
  • Liverpool Riverside MP also refers to country as ‘apartheid state’ during PMQs
  • She later returns to the Commons to apologise for her ‘intemperate language’

A Labour MP was forced to apologise today after she sparked outrage by branding the Israeli government ‘fascist’ and referring to the country as ‘an apartheid state’.

Kim Johnson, MP for Liverpool Riverside, was also hauled in for a dressing down by Labour’s chief whip after making the comments during Prime Minister’s Questions. 

Her remarks were branded ‘unacceptable and dangerous’, as well as ‘deeply disturbing’ by fellow MPs.

Tories also questioned whether Labour had moved on from the regular controversies that dogged the party under former leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon, Ms Johnson said: ‘Since the election of the fascist Israeli government in December last year there has been an increase in human rights violations against Palestinian civilians, including children.’

After her words prompted disquiet among other MPs in the Commons chamber, Ms Johnson added: ‘Can the Prime Minister tell us how he is challenging what Amnesty and other human rights organisations are referring to as an apartheid state?’

Labour MP Kim Johnson branded the Israeli government ‘fascist’ and referred to the country as ‘an apartheid state’

Rishi Sunak, responding to Ms Johnson, called for ‘calm’ as the PM urged ‘all sides to strive for peace’

In response to Ms Johnson, Rishi Sunak replied: ‘She also failed to mention the horrific attacks on civilians inside Israel as well.

‘It is important in this matter to remain calm and urge all sides to strive for peace, and that is very much what I will do as Prime Minister and in the conversations that I have had with the Israeli prime minister.’

Ms Johnson later returned to the Commons to offer an apology for her ‘insensitive’ remarks.

‘I would like to apologise unreservedly for the intemperate language I used during PMQs,’ she said in a point of order.

‘I was wrong to use the term “fascist” in relation to the Israeli government and understand why this was particularly insensitive given the history of the state of Israel.

‘And while there are far-right elements in the government, I recognise that use of the term in this context was wrong.

‘I would also like to apologise for use of the term “apartheid state”.

‘While I was quoting accurately Amnesty’s description, I recognise this is insensitive and I’d like to withdraw it.’

Ms Johnson, an ally of Mr Corbyn, had earlier been swiftly criticised for her PMQs comments by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s office, as well by fellow MPs.

A spokesman for Sir Keir told reporters after PMQs: ‘Kim Johnson’s words were completely unacceptable… as a first step we would want her to withdraw the remarks that she used.’

The spokesman added, if Sir Keir had been answering Ms Johnson’s question as PM, he would have ‘made it clear that he regards that language as unacceptable’.

‘We see the relationship with Israel as an important one for us, bilaterally,’ he continued.

‘We want to have strong relations with the government of Israel. Obviously there are always issues in any bilateral relationships where you have disagreements between countries.

‘But fundamentally the relationship between Britain and Israel is one that we value.’ 

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer branded Ms Johnson’s comments as ‘completely unacceptable’ and she is set for a dressing down by the party’s chief whip

Dame Margaret Hodge, Labour MP for Barking, condemned Ms Johnson for her ‘unacceptable and dangerous’ language

Dame Margaret Hodge, Labour MP for Barking, condemned Ms Johnson for her ‘unacceptable and dangerous’ language.

‘With violence escalating in recent weeks, this careless remark only makes it harder to bridge the divide,’ she posted on Twitter.

Dame Margaret also said it was a ‘complete insult’ to the legacy of Louise Ellman, who is Ms Johnson’s predecessor as Liverpool Riverside MP and who temporarily quit Labour under Mr Corbyn’s leadership amid her concerns at antisemitism in the party.

Brendan Clarke-Smith, Tory MP for Bassetlaw, branded Ms Johnson’s remarks as ‘absolutely disgraceful’.

‘For all the PR and promises, it’s clear Labour haven’t changed,’ he added on Twitter.

Scott Benton, Tory MP for Blackpool South, tweeted: ‘Deeply disturbing language. A disgraceful insult to our great ally.’

Sir Keir’s decision to reprimand Ms Johnson over her comments prompted a new rift between the Labour leader and left-wing group Momentum.

They hit out at ‘another outrageous abuse of power by Starmer, this time to silence wholly legitimate criticism of the Israeli government’.

‘Israel has been termed an apartheid state by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Its new far-right government has been widely condemned. Facts,’ the group added on Twitter.

‘What does it say about free speech in the Labour Party, when MPs face *disciplinary action* for citing internationally-renowned human rights organisations on the atrocities being committed against the Palestinian people?’

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