Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson apologized “multiple times late Monday” after the Washington Free Beacon reported in detail on his vicious comments likening Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria to “termites” during a speech to a pro-Palestinian Authority group.
Johnson is a Democratic “superdelegate” who said Israeli Jews steal land from their Arab neighbors in the Palestinian Authority. He was clearly pandering to the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation prior to the start of the Democratic National Convention.
“There has been a steady [stream], almost like termites can get into a residence and eat before you know that you’ve been eaten up and you fall in on yourself, there has been settlement activity that has marched forward with impunity and at an ever-increasing rate to the point where it has become alarming,” he said.
A member of the House Armed Services Committee, Johnson has been a supporter of Hillary Clinton throughout the primary season. But he encountered a virtual tidal wave of outrage over his words flooded the media from the Jewish community and elsewhere.
Both the New York-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) tore into the lawmaker as well, evoking an apology via Twitter, with Johnson citing a “poor choice of words.”
In response, Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted back:
Yes there was apology but no “point” justifies referring to human beings in such an abhorrent, inappropriate manner https://t.co/XX7hVRYIWg
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) July 26, 2016
Two other users also commented: “So Jewish settlements which take up less than 2% of WB are major obstacle?” and “2% is irrelevant argument. This is the Heartland of Israel, not a bargaining chip for deal making.”
Further on, Johnson tweeted a link to his website showing his “full apology.”
“We must work to promote policies that support a two-state solution and encourage trust between both sides,” said Congressman Johnson. The congressman regrets his comments. He did not intend to insult or speak derogatorily of Israelis or the Jewish people. When using the metaphor of termites, the Congressman was referring to the corrosive process, not the people. “Poor choice of words – I meant no offense. The point is settlement activity has slowly and deliberately undermined Palestinian land claims.”
The reference to “termites” touched a raw nerve for Jewish voters who remember their history of World War II, and how the European Jewish population was dehumanized by early Nazi references to “vermin.”
One Jewish voter suggested in a blistering response to Johnson’s remarks that perhaps the lawmaker has forgotten history — or is this another way to echo Adolf Hitler’s sentiments?” Sara Z. told JewishPress.com in an exclusive interview, “It seems like nothing changes. In the era of ‘Black Lives Matter’ it seems that once again, the Jews are the world’s scapegoats, the disposable ones. Do we never learn from history?”Hana Levi Julian