(JNS.org) A Democratic member of Congress on Tuesday expanded his apology for comments comparing Jews who live in Israeli settlements to “termites.”
During a speech on Monday at a Philadelphia event hosted by the U.S Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) was quoted by the Washington Free Beacon as saying, “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.”
Following the Washington Free Beacon report and a request from the Anti-Defamation League to retract his statement, Johnson's initial apology on Twitter stated, “Poor choice of words—apologies for offense. Point is settlement activity continues slowly undermine 2-state solution.” The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) argued that Johnson’s initial apology fell short, tweeting at the lawmaker, “@RepHankJohnson, To refer to Jews as ‘termites’ is deeply offensive and dehumanizing. Not just a ‘poor choice of words.’ It’s dangerous.”
On Tuesday, Johnson's office expanded the lawmaker's apology, stating in a press release, “We must work to promote policies that support a two-state solution and encourage trust between both sides. 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. ['Termites' was a] poor choice of words—I meant no offense. The point is settlement activity has slowly and deliberately undermined Palestinian land claims.”
The NJDC subsequently tweeted, "Props to @RepHankJohnson for a fuller apology for his offensive comments comparing Jewish settlers to termites."