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Kim Johnson (left) PA
Apology

UK MP apologises for describing Israeli government as ‘fascist’

Kim Johnson also said she recognised the use of the term, ‘apartheid state’, was ‘insensitive’.

A UK LABOUR MP condemned for describing the Israeli government as “fascist” has apologised for her “intemperate” language.

Kim Johnson was criticised by Labour leader Keir Starmer’s spokesman for her “unacceptable” remarks during Prime Minister’s Questions.

The MP for Liverpool Riverside later returned to the Commons to apologise and also withdrew her use of the term “apartheid state” following a request from the Labour leadership.

Johnson said there are “far-right elements” in the Israeli government but noted she was wrong to use the term “fascist” and said it was “particularly insensitive given the history of the state of Israel”.

She added she recognised the use of “apartheid state” was “insensitive” although she said she was “quoting accurately Amnesty’s description”.

Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn in as leader of the most right-wing and religiously conservative government in Israel’s history at the end of December.

The region has seen an alarming spike in Israeli-Palestinian violence in recent weeks.

During PMQs today, Johnson had 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 disquiet from across the Commons, 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?”

UK Prime Minister 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.”

After the session, the Prime Minister’s spokesman was asked whether Johnson’s language had been appropriate.

The official replied: “No, that’s certainly not the UK Government’s position. The Prime Minister highlighted that the killing of innocent civilians…

“The important thing, as the Prime Minister said, is for people to remain calm and to use moderate language and take an appropriate and considered approach in dealing with what is a very difficult issue.”

Starmer’s spokesman denounced the use of both the terms “apartheid” and “fascist”, saying many will have taken offence at the latter in particular.

He told reporters: “As a first step we would obviously want her to withdraw the remarks that she used for sure.”

Johnson returned to the Commons around two hours later to apologise.

She said: “I would like to apologise unreservedly for the intemperate language I used during PMQs.

“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.

“While there are far-right elements in the government, I recognise the use of the term in this context was wrong.

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

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

Labour earlier said that, while there are “specific disagreements” in any relationship between countries, the party values a strong working relationship with Israel.

“We obviously see the relationship with Israel as an important one for us bilaterally. We want to have strong relations with the government of Israel,” said the spokesman.

He added: “I don’t think using the sort of language that was used in PMQs today is helpful in achieving that.”

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Press Association
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