Fury as Labour MP brands Israeli government 'fascist' during PMQs

1 February 2023, 14:55 | Updated: 1 February 2023, 19:07

Labour MP Kim Johnson has apologised for her comments
Labour MP Kim Johnson has apologised for her comments. Picture: Parliament TV

By Emma Soteriou

A Labour MP has sparked fury after branding the Israeli government "fascist" during Prime Minister's Questions.

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MP for Liverpool Riverside Margaret Hodge made the comments during Wednesday's PMQs, asking Rishi Sunak how he was "challenging" the new Israeli government.

Near the end of the session, Ms Johnson said: "Since the election of the fascist Israeli government last December there has been an increase in human rights violations against Palestinians including children.

"Can the Prime Minister tell us how he is challenging what Amnesty and other human rights organisations refer to as an apartheid state."

She later apologised "unreservedly" in the Commons, saying: "I was wrong to use the term 'fascist' in relation to the Israel government and understand why this was particularly insensitive given the history of the State of Israel."

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Disquiet in Commons as Labour MP grills Prime Minister on 'fascist' Israel's human rights

At the time, Mr Sunak immediately shut down the MP, saying she had "failed to mention the horrific attack on civilians inside Israel".

"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," he said.

After the session, the Prime Minister's spokesman was asked whether Ms 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."

Dame Louise Ellman brands Labour MP Kim Johnson 'unwise' for language towards Israeli government

Labour leader Sir Keir 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 said: "As a first step we would obviously want her to withdraw the remarks that she used for sure".

It is understood that the party's chief whip spoke to her about her controversial language.

Labour MP Margaret Hodge said: "This language is unacceptable & dangerous. With violence escalating in recent weeks, this careless remark only makes it harder to bridge the divide.

"Not to mention a complete insult to Louise Ellman's legacy."

Speaking on LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr, Dame Louise Ellman, vice president of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: "If Kim Johnson repeats that I think she should lose the Labour whip and I’m pleased to see Keir Starmer and the chief whip acted so promptly and secured that apology and withdrawal.

"The test has to be what happens next and I think Kim should be very careful what she says next.

"She should recognise that she should never have said that and she should be part of Keir Starmer's party not hark back to the days of Jeremy Corbyn when the Labour party became unelectable."

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