Rep. Hank Johnson admitted it was a “poor choice of words” to use a metaphor Monday that appeared to compare Jewish Israeli settlers in the disputed West Bank to “termites.”
Mr. Johnson, a Georgia Democrat and member of the House Armed Services Committee, made the remarks while speaking at an event sponsored by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
“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,” Mr. Johnson said.
“It has come to the point that occupation, with highways that cut through Palestinian land, with walls that go up, with the inability or the restriction, with the illegality of Palestinians being able to travel on those roads and those roads cutting off Palestinian neighborhoods from each other,” he said. “And then with the building of walls and the building of check points that restrict movement of Palestinians. We’ve gotten to the point where the thought of a Palestinian homeland gets further and further removed from reality.”
During the speech, according to the Free Beacon, Mr. Johnson said that Jewish people steal land and property from Palestinians.
“You see one home after another being appropriated by Jewish people who come in to claim that land just because somebody did not spend the night there,” he said. “The home their [Palestinian] ancestors lived in for generations becomes an Israeli home and a flag goes up,” he said, adding, “the Palestinians are barred from flying flags in their own neighborhoods.”
The Anti-Defamation League called on Mr. Johnson to “apologize and retract this offensive, unhelpful characterization” of Jewish settlers.
“Demonization, dehumanization of settlers doesn’t advance peace,” the organization tweeted.
Mr. Johnson later apologized on Twitter, writing, “Poor choice of words — apologies for offense. Point is settlement activity continues slowly undermine 2-state solution.”
In a statement from Mr. Johnson’s office obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the congressman’s termite metaphor was referring “to the corrosive process, not the people.”
“The corrosive settlement policies undermine the ability of all citizens in the region to enjoy healthy, peaceful lives in safe communities,” the statement said. “We must work to promote policies that support a two-state solution and encourage trust between both sides.”
The Anti-Defamation League said it appreciated Mr. Johnson’s clarification.