It’s wrong for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to have failed to condemn as blatant anti-Semitism Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA)’s “termites” label for Jews living in Judea/Samaria. It’s also wrong for the ADL to have accepted Johnson’s phony apology “tweet.” Congressman Johnson merely tweeted: “Poor choice of words – apologies for offense. Point is settlement activity continues slowly undermine 2-state solution.”
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is not alone in feeling this way.
Prominent Las Angeles Rabbi David Wolpe wrote: “That is not an apology. ‘I am sorry I said something stupid and anti-Semitic’—that would have been a fitting apology. These are not trivial issues. . . . To call Jews ‘termites’ is base and vile.” (Rabbi Wolpe: There Is No Excuse for Anti-Semitic Smears, Time Magazine, July 26, 2016)
Commentary editor John Podhoretz tweeted about ADL’s inadequate tweet: “How about using the term “anti-Semitic,” you cowards? He compared Jews to TERMITES, for f –k’s sake.”
Regarding Congressman Johnson’s initial “termites” statement, the ADL merely tweeted: “This is an offensive and unhelpful characterization. Demonization, dehumanization of settlers doesn’t advance peace.”
The ADL then immediately let the Congressman “off the hook.” In response to Congressman Johnson’s phony apology, the ADL tweeted: “We appreciate @RepHankJohnson‘s clarification here.”
In fact, the “settlements” comprise only 2% of Judea/Samaria, and there has been virtually no building in Judea/Samaria during the past two years. Further, 99% of Palestinian Arabs live in areas governed by Palestinians.
Congressman Johnson’s deplorable comments are also reminiscent of the communities, clubs, beaches and hotels in the U.S. in past decades that posted signs saying “No Dogs, No Colored, No Jews, No Irish.” As a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressman Johnson should be particularly sensitive to the inappropriateness of leveling epithets against religious and ethnic groups, including Jews.
Can you imagine the outrage if a congressperson called blacks living in certain communities “termites”? There would be a demand for the resignation of any congressman who said blacks are like termites ruining white neighborhoods and harming their peaceful atmosphere. Saying that Jews shouldn’t live in Judea/Samaria because Arabs don’t want Jews there is as racist as saying that blacks shouldn’t live in white suburbs because some whites may not want blacks living there.
ADL’s Failure to Condemn The Anti-Israel BDS Forum: The ADL also disgracefully failed to condemn Congressman Johnson’s involvement in the anti-Semitic forum where the Congressman referred to Jews as “termites.” The Congressman was speaking at a side event to the Democratic National Convention sponsored by the “U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.” This notorious anti-Semitic organization calls Israel’s rebirth in 1948 a “catastrophe” and promotes anti-Semitic, anti-Israel boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) aimed at destroying the State of Israel.
Anti-Israel boycotts are blatant anti-Semitic discrimination, harm both Jews and Arabs, and violate the Oslo accords signed by the PLO/PA. Congressman Johnson should apologize for speaking on behalf of an anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, pro-BDS organization.
ADL’s Failure to Condemn Cong. Johnson’s Other Egregious Statements: The ADL also failed to condemn Congressman Johnson’s other egregious statements. During his speech, Johnson also improperly condemned Israel for “the building of walls and the building of check points that restrict movement of Palestinians.”
Johnson omitted the key fact that Israel built the security fence and checkpoints out of necessity – to stop Palestinian-Arab terrorist attacks, after Palestinian-Arab terrorists murdered approximately 2,000 innocent Jews and wounded almost 10,000 innocent Jews in suicide bombings in pizza parlors, on buses and at Passover Seders during the Second Intifada.
Does Congressman Johnson also condemn the checkpoints at the Congressional office building that assure his personal safety? If not, he should also apologize for his remarks about the security fence and checkpoints that Israel had to build solely to stop terrorist attacks.
ADL’s Failed to Address Congressman Johnson’s Denials: ADL also failed to address the congressman’s false denials of his “termites” label for Jews. Congressman Johnson falsely told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution that he did not call Jewish Israelis termites, and that he did not intend to insult or speak derogatorily of the Israelis or the Jewish people, and that instead, his termite metaphor was intended to refer to the “corrosive settlement process.” In fact, the congressman did analogize Jews to termites, when he spoke of termites “getting into” and eating up residences. The congressman was referring to Jews who are living in (“getting into”) their homes in Judea/Samaria.
(Congressman Johnson’s 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.”)
Moreover, “settlements” have nothing to do with a lack of peace. The causes of the lack of peace are Palestinian-Arab terrorism and the Palestinian Arab leaders’ continuing incitement of Jew hatred, payments to Palestinian-Arab terrorists for murdering Jews, and the unrelenting genocidal goal of destroying Israel. The Palestinian-Arab leadership repeatedly rejected generous proposals for a state because those proposals would have required them to end their goal of destroying Israel.
The ADL does not speak for us, or for other Jews and pro-Israel groups and individuals. We do not appreciate Congressman Johnson’s offensive “clarification.”
Congressman Johnson owes Israel and the Jewish people a full and sincere apology for speaking on behalf of an organization that promotes anti-Israel boycotts and Israel’s destruction, and for calling Jews living in Judea/Samaria “termites.”
Morton A. Klein is the President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).