A Labour MP has apologised in the Commons after calling the Israeli government “fascist”.
Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions, Kim 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.”
She 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?”
Politics live: PM doubles down after attacks over Zahawi and Raab
The remark was deemed “unacceptable” by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, his spokesperson said, and it is understood the party’s chief whip told her to withdraw it.
Two hours later, the Liverpool Riverside MP returned to the Commons and told the House she wanted to “apologise unreservedly for the intemperate language”.
Ms Johnson added: “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 the use of the term in this context was wrong.”
She also apologised for using the term “apartheid state”, saying: “While I was quoting accurately Amnesty’s description I recognise this is insensitive and I would like to withdraw it.”
In December 2022, Benjamin Netanyahu returned to office as prime minister of Israel for the sixth time – but his coalition government has caused controversy, with religious hardliners and ultranationalists taking posts.
Tensions have been rising between Israel and the Palestinians in recent weeks, with escalating violence in the region.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken arrived in the country earlier this week and appealed to “everyone to take steps to calm tensions rather than inflame them”.
Labour grandee Dame Margaret Hodge called Ms Johnson’s language “unacceptable and dangerous”, adding: “With violence escalating in recent weeks, this careless remark only makes it harder to bridge the divide.”
The Jewish former minister also said the remarks were “a complete insult” to Louise Ellman – the Jewish MP who held Ms Johnson’s seat before stepping down over issues of antisemitism within the Labour Party.