“And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.” Exodus 1:7 (The Israel Bible™)
U.S. Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA) spoke out against Israel on Monday, comparing the Jewish state’s natives to teeming, crawling creatures often associated with destruction.
“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,” Johnson griped.
The representative’s remarks came amid an event sponsored by the pro-BDS organization US Campaign held on the sidelines of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
“It has come to the point that occupation, with highways that cut through Palestinian land, with walls that go up, with the inability or the restriction, with the illegality of Palestinians being able to travel on those roads and those roads cutting off Palestinian neighborhoods from each other,” the congressman continued. “And then with the building of walls and the building of checkpoints that restrict movement of Palestinians. We’ve gotten to the point where the thought of a Palestinian homeland gets further and further removed from reality.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) immediately blasted the congressman on Twitter, calling his statements “offensive and unhelpful”, requesting the legislator “apologize and retract this offensive, unhelpful characterization.”
“Demonization, dehumanization of settlers doesn’t advance peace,” the ADL tweeted.
This is an offensive and unhelpful characterization. Demonization, dehumanization of settlers doesn’t advance peace https://t.co/m4rus9nuqk
— ADL (@ADL_National) July 25, 2016
— ADL (@ADL_National) July 25, 2016
About an hour later, Johnson apologized through the social media channel, tweeting “it was a poor choice of words” and that he was “sorry for the offense.”
However, the lawmaker emphasized his anti-settlement agenda, saying “Point is settlement activity continues (to) slowly undermine 2-state solution.”
@ADL_National Poor choice of words – apologies for offense. Point is settlement activity continues slowly undermine 2-state solution.
— Rep. Hank Johnson (@RepHankJohnson) July 25, 2016
The congressman’s comments were initially reported in the right-wing newspaper Washington Free Beacon under the headline “Congressman: Jewish Settlers are Like Termites.” Though Johnson has thus far not challenged the article’s accuracy, his office did argue against the use of the disturbing headline in a statement made to the local newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Further, the office emphasized, “Congressman Johnson did not call Israelis termites but did say the settlement policies threaten peace and the two-state solution,” as evidenced by the representative’s follow-up tweet.
Attempting to reassure horrified audiences, the statement continued saying, “Congressman Johnson did not intend to insult or speak derogatorily of the Israelis or the Jewish people.”
“When using the metaphor of termites, the Congressman was referring to the corrosive process, not the people,” the statement read, in a final bid to clarify Johnson’s intentions.
The Republican Jewish Coalition questioned how long it would take for Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party to officially denounce Johnson for his comments. As of the time of reporting, no such statement has been made.
Hank Johnson’s latest statements are not altogether surprising as the congressman has in the past shown evidence of his anti-settlement sentiments through his backing of the left-wing organization J Street, notorious for its blatant anti-Israel rhetoric while operating under the guise of appearing to support the Jewish state.
Concern over Palestinians living under Israeli rule has sprung to the forefront of Democrats’ minds amid the convention this week. Yellow stickers proclaiming support for Palestinian rights were distributed at the entrance to Senator Bernie Sanders’ (D-VT) Monday afternoon address to his delegates. Later in the day, activists laid Palestinian flags on convention’s main floor while delegates participated in a voice vote to approve the party’s platform.