The ripple effect continues for U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson a week after the Lithonia Democrat was quoted comparing Jewish settlement policy in the disputed West Bank to “termites.”
The Atlanta Jewish Times has an editorial out this week blasting the five-term congressman for infuriating the city’s Jewish community “short of going full Cynthia McKinney.”
The newspaper acknowledged Johnson’s Jewish outreach following his initial comments and said the lawmaker's apologies have been “genuine.” But the outlet also said “there’s no way to parse the comparison without concluding that it involves, intentionally or not, the equation of Jewish settlers with termites”:
“That’s a particularly vile association because the Nazis justified their attempts to exterminate Jews by portraying us as vermin. Anyone who compares Jews to termites, or Jewish construction to termite construction, is just begging to be accused of anti-Semitism.”
Johnson has caught flak for remarks at an event sponsored by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation last week in which he likened Israel's settlement policy in the West Bank to "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."
The Anti-Defamation League called Johnson’s comments “offensive and unhelpful” and asked the lawmaker to retract his remarks. Meanwhile, Georgia Republican Party Chairman John Padgett called on Johnson to resign. Johnson's office apologized and said the lawmaker "did not intend to insult or speak derogatorily of Israelis or the Jewish people."
“…We fear that the congressman offers much more to worry about than one careless, stupid remark. Unlike McKinney, the woman he defeated 10 years ago to win his seat in Congress, Johnson doesn’t hate Jews, many of whom have been crucial supporters, and he doesn’t spout conspiracy theories accusing Jews or Israelis of carrying out false-flag terrorist attacks.
But his attitude toward Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has changed in recent years, and he spoke July 25 as someone who has earned a reputation as a leading congressional critic of Israel.”
(Read our latest on McKinney, Johnson's predecessor, here.)
The editorial argues that if Johnson wants to receive votes from the pro-Israel community in the future, he’ll need to answer questions about what he was doing speaking at an event sponsored by a pro-Israeli-boycott group in the first place.
Meanwhile, Johnson’s apology tour continues. He met with the Atlanta chapter of the advocacy group the American Jewish Committee on Tuesday.
The Atlanta Jewish Times said it’s also meeting with Johnson in the days ahead.
Johnson faces Republican Victor Armendariz in November in the deep-blue 4th Congressional District.