U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson apologized to the Jewish community amid calls for his resignation on Tuesday after he reportedly compared Israeli settlers in the West Bank to termites eating a house.
Johnson, D-Ga., made national headlines on Monday after the Washington Free Beacon reported that he made the comparison while talking about the settlement process during an U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation event.
In a statement the next day, Johnson’s office said he regretted the comparison and was not trying to insult Jewish people or Israelis. His office asserted he was talking about the settlement process’ affect on the West Bank, rather than the people who were settling there.
“We must work to promote policies that support a two-state solution and encourage trust between both sides,” Johnson said in the statement. “Poor choice of words – I meant no offense. The point is settlement activity has slowly and deliberately undermined Palestinian land claims.”
Johnson, whose congressional district includes southern Gwinnett County, was also quoted by the Washington Free Beacon as saying the settlement process was “alarming” because of the speed and “impunity” at which it is happening.
The news website also reported that Johnson, who is in Philadelphia this week as a super delegate at the Democratic National Convention, compared Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to controversial Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
After news broke about Johnson’s comments, it drew a swift rebuke from the Anti-Defamation League, who called it an “offensive, unhelpful characterization” while demanding an apology from the congressman on Twitter.
“This is an offensive and unhelpful characterization. Demonization, dehumanization of settlers doesn’t advance peace,” the group wrote in a separate Twitter post.
Meanwhile, Georgia Republican Party Chairman John Padgett called on Johnson to resign over the remarks on Tuesday afternoon, accusing the congressman of damaging the country’s relationship with Israel.
“Congressman Hank Johnson’s comments were wildly offensive and undermine efforts to strengthen ties with our closest friend and greatest ally,” Padgett said in a statement. “Time and time again, Rep. Johnson has proven himself to be an embarrassment to our state.
“He should resign from public office immediately and allow a public servant with a heart for Israel to take his place.”
This isn’t the first time a comment made by Johnson has made headlines. In 2010, he made national news for a gaffe about Guam tipping over because of the number of U.S. troops stationed on the island.