British Labor MP Kim Johnson has apologized for describing Israel’s newly formed coalition government as “fascist”.
The MP for Liverpool Riverside constituency made the comment in Parliament, when she asked Prime Minister Rishi Sunak about “human rights abuses” against Palestinians.
She apologized shortly afterwards, after being ordered to do so by party leaders.
The lawmaker said she acknowledged that the use of the term “fascist” was “particularly inappropriate” given Israel’s history.
“While there are far-right elements in the (Israeli) government, I understand that using the term in this context was a mistake,” she added.
He told the BBC that party disciplinary officials had asked her to apologize for the remarks, which a spokesman for the Labor leader described as “unacceptable”.
The new Israeli government was formed after the elections last November, and includes senior ministers from the extreme national right.
There is local and international concern that it may fuel conflict with the Palestinians, harm the judiciary and restrict the rights of minorities.
Benjamin Netanyahu – who returned as prime minister after his Likud party put together a coalition, including ultra-nationalist allies and ultra-Orthodox Jews – promised to pursue peace and protect civil rights.
Ms Johnson also apologized for saying, in her intervention during a parliamentary session to ask questions to the Prime Minister, that Amnesty International had described Israel as an “apartheid state”.
“While I was accurately quoting Amnesty International’s description, I acknowledge that this is inappropriate and I would like to withdraw it,” she added.
In his initial response to Mrs. Johnson’s question, Sunak did not directly criticize her use of the word “fascist”, but said she “failed to mention the appalling attack on civilians inside Israel as well”.
He added, “It is important in this regard to remain calm, and urge all parties to strive for peace, and this is what I will do as prime minister.”
“Abuse of power”
MP Margaret Hodge criticized Johnson’s remarks, her colleague in the Labor Party, calling them “unacceptable and dangerous”.
She added the comments were an “insult” to the legacy of Ms Louise Elman, Johnson’s predecessor and MP for Liverpool Riverside, who temporarily quit Labor over the party’s handling of allegations of anti-Semitism under former leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Shortly before Johnson’s apology, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer’s spokesman told reporters the party wanted to have “strong relations with the government of Israel”.
“It is clear that there are always problems in any bilateral relationship where there are differences between countries, but the relationship between Britain and Israel is mainly a relationship that we value,” he added.
“I don’t think using that kind of wording in the prime minister’s questions today helps that,” the spokesperson said.
However, the spokesman’s decision to convict Johnson was criticized by a left-wing pro-Corbyn lobby group, Momentum.
The organization accused Sir Keir of “outrageous abuse of power” and of wanting to “completely silence legitimate criticism of the Israeli government”.
The organization is calling for the reinstatement of Corbyn, who was suspended from his job as Labor MP by Sir Keir in 2020, after a long-running row over anti-Semitism.
Corbyn has been suspended for saying the extent of anti-Semitism within Labor was “grossly exaggerated” by opponents, in his reaction to an oversight report on how the party handled allegations of anti-Jewish bias within the party.
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