ZOA Op-Ed in Exponent: ADL’s Acceptance of Johnson Apology Unconscionable
Op-Ed ZOA in the news
August 9, 2016

It’s wrong for the Anti-Defamation League to have failed to condemn as blatant anti-Semitism Rep. Hank Johnson’s “termites” label for Jews living in Judea and Samaria. It’s also wrong for the ADL to have accepted Johnson’s phony apology tweet. Johnson, a Georgia Democrat, merely tweeted, “Poor choice of words — apologies for offense. Point is settlement activity continues slowly undermine 2-state solution.” 

The Zionist Organization of America is not alone in feeling this way.

Prominent Los 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.”

Commentary editor John Podhoretz tweeted about ADL’s inadequate response: “How about using the term ‘anti-Semitic,’ you cowards? He compared Jews to TERMITES, for f –k’s sake.”

Regarding Johnson’s initial “termites” statement, the ADL merely tweeted: “This is an offensive and unhelpful characterization. Demonization, dehumanization of settlers doesn’t advance peace.” It let the congressman off the hook.

The Palestinian-Arab leadership repeatedly rejected generous proposals for a state, because those proposals would have required them to end their mission of destroying Israel.

In fact, the “settlements” comprise only 2 percent of Judea/Samaria, and there has been virtually no building in Judea/Samaria during the past two years. Further, 99 percent of Palestinian Arabs live in areas governed by Palestinians.

Johnson’s deplorable comments are also reminiscent of the communities, clubs, beaches and hotels in the United States in past decades that posted signs saying, “No Dogs, No Colored, No Jews, No Irish.” As a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, 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.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen weakness from the ADL before.

The ADL disgracefully failed to condemn Johnson’s involvement in the anti-Semitic forum where he 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. 

The ADL similarly failed to condemn Johnson’s other egregious statements. During his speech, Johnson improperly condemned Israel for “the building of walls and the building of checkpoints 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 in suicide bombings in pizza parlors, buses and Passover Seders during the Second Intifada. 

Does Johnson also condemn the checkpoints at the congressional office building that assure his personal safety? If not, he should apologize for his remarks about the security fence and checkpoints that Israel had to build.

It’s interesting to note that 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. Instead, his termite metaphor was intended to refer to the “corrosive settlement process,” he said. 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 their homes in Judea/Samaria. 

The “settlements” have nothing to do with the lack of peace. The blame for the conflict lies with Palestinian-Arab terrorism and Palestinian Arab leaders’ continuing incitement of Jew hatred, payments to Palestinian-Arab terrorists for murdering Jews, and 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 mission of destroying Israel.

The ADL does not speak for us, or for other Jews and pro-Israel groups and individuals. Johnson owes Israel and the Jewish people a full and sincere apology. 

Morton A. Klein is the national president of the Zionist Organization of America.

This article was published by The Jewish Exponent and may be found here.

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