Georgia Congressman Denounces Reports That He Called Jews Termites

Cierra Bailey
A liberal Georgia lawmaker received backlash for a metaphorical statement about Israel’s settlement policy that was taken out of context.

Hank Johnson

Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson was scrutinized for using a crass choice of words that sounded like he was comparing Jews to termites while trying to shed light on a serious moral issue.

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During an event sponsored by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Johnson said:

“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.”

The Democratic lawmaker was speaking out against Israel’s policies toward Palestinians. In addition to his “termites” remark, he reportedly compared Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump — which others in attendance agreed with.

The Anti-Defamation League did not receive Johnson’s remarks well, they demanded an immediate apology.

"This is an offensive and unhelpful characterization. Demonization, dehumanization of settlers doesn’t advance peace,” they wrote in a tweet directed at Johnson.

“we [sic.] call on you to apologize and retract this offensive, unhelpful characterization," they continued in a separate tweet.

Johnson responded, admitting that he used a poor choice of words and clarifying his point surrounding settlement policy.

His office later issued a more detailed statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in which they further elaborated on what he meant.

“The article (Free Beacon) headline is wrong. Congressman Johnson did not call Israelis termites but did say the settlement policies threaten peace and the two-state solution. 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 point that Johnson was actually trying to make in the first place is that, “The corrosive settlement policies undermine the ability of all citizens in the region to enjoy healthy, peaceful lives in safe communities. We must work to promote policies that support a two-state solution and encourage trust between both sides.”

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Johnson has made a name for himself as one of the most liberal members of Georgia’s congressional delegation and has received support from Jewish voters in the past.

This incident was clearly blown out of proportion by conservative news site, The Washington Free Beacon —which originally broke the story.

They likely had an agenda to slam the liberal politician because he represents opposing views. But, this just goes to show how important it is to choose one’s words wisely, especially as they relate to race, religion, and culture. 

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