Its always the same story. Normal people make a statement with no intended malice. If they were on the “right” (correct) side of the Israeli/Palestinian divide and used the same word or phrase it would pass by unnoticed. But if your politics is not to the liking of a small group of Jewish American that serve as gatekeepers on any critical discussion of Israel, they will turn your innocuous statement into an excerpt of Mein Kampf.
A few days ago in Philadelphia, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Hank Johnson (D., Ga.) gave his impression of his recent trip to the occupied territories.
“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,”
“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,.. 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.”
To state the obvious, the word “termites” was used as a description of the settlements encroaching on Palestinian territory and is clearly not referring to human beings.
Lets check in on the ADL in the midst of its “Imagine the world without hate campaign.”
The ADL’s response to the description by Rep. Hank Johnson of what’s been happening on the ground in the “occupied territories,” was this:
— ADL (@ADL_National) July 25, 2016
This is an offensive and unhelpful characterization. Demonization, dehumanization of settlers doesn’t advance peace https://t.co/m4rus9nuqk
— ADL (@ADL_National) July 25, 2016
And without Jonathan Greenblatt, the new CEO of the ADL, who replaced the greatest enemy of hatred ever, Abe Foxman, who would even know that that the seemingly-sincere apology made by Rep Johnson wouldn’t be enough to atone for the magnitude of the crime?
@ADL_National Poor choice of words – apologies for offense. Point is settlement activity continues slowly undermine 2-state solution.
— Rep. Hank Johnson (@RepHankJohnson) July 25, 2016
Yes there was apology but no "point" justifies referring to human beings in such an abhorrent, inappropriate manner https://t.co/XX7hVRYIWg
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) July 26, 2016
Perhaps the reality of the situation might be dawning on Rep. Hank Johnson at this point. And he realizes that saying settlement activity undermines the two state solution might even be more “antisemitic” to Jonathan Greenblatt than using the word “termites” in describing settlement activity. Because if the high and mighty Jonathan Greenblatt talks down to Presidential candidate Sen Bernie Sanders like he did when Senator Sanders committed a “blood libel” by being confused about the number of Palestinians killed by Israel during the last Gaza war, how would Mr. Greenblatt treat a lowly congressman from Georgia?
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) April 6, 2016
Best to tell him exactly what he wants to hear:
— Rep. Hank Johnson (@RepHankJohnson) July 26, 2016
But the ADL is just the ADL. Rep. Johnson’s work is not done. The shakedown continues.
Here is Rabbi David Wolpe writing for Time Magazine online. It is worth quoting the Rabbi at length:
On Monday a Democratic U.S. congressman said that Jewish settlers in Israel were “like termites.” Now, you might be tempted to not take Rep. Hank Johnson from Georgia seriously if I explain that this is the same congressman who expressed a fear in 2010 that the island of Guam might capsize if it were overpopulated. But he is on the House Armed Services committee. And a penchant for foolish statements does not excuse an anti-Semitic smear.
Apparently he apologized. Or did he? This was his tweet: “@ADL_NationalPoor choice of words – apologies for offense. Point is settlement activity continues slowly undermine 2-state solution.” The Anti-Defamation League tweeted back that they “appreciate” his clarification. That would have been far more convincing had the congressman apologized, but he did not. To apologize for “offense” is to say you are sorry that someone else feels the way they do. 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. We are a half century away from millions of human beings who were designated as “vermin” and killed. When people say the Nazis “exterminated” Jews they unwittingly appropriate this insect metaphor. To call Jews “termites” is base and vile…
You don’t know a good person by the fact that they never say anything objectionable. Everyone in the public eye, used to speaking rivers of words, will choose badly at times. While it is true that not everyone will make a racist, sexist or anti-Semitic remark, we can try to be generous and allow some leeway. But a good person will be horrified when they realize what they have said. They will not apologize for someone else’s taking offense, but for their own insensitivity and cruelty.
That is what the congressman should have done. That is what he, pointedly, did not do.
Draw your own conclusion.
Yes, let’s take Rabbi Wolpe’s advice and draw our own conclusions. My conclusion is that the first mistake Rep Johnson or anyone else in his spot can make is to apologize. Because as he and everyone else should know by now, it’s not ultimately about the “termites”. His tormentors aren’t looking for an apology. The “crime” for these people is that a congressman from Georgia is too sympathetic to Palestinians, and too critical of Israel. Once found “guilty” of that, you have to be very fortunate not at some point to accidentally walk into one of their “tropes” or “canards” and they will be waiting for you.
Think about how all this came about. One ethically challenged Journalist, named Adam Kredo, decided to create a “blood libel” against a congressman. Why? Most likely because he doesn’t like the Congressman position on Israel/ Palestine, and because why not? Maybe he was bored. His values wouldn’t have stopped him.
He has seen people like Jeffrey Goldberg win all sorts of ADL awards. No journalist ethics are expected when working on behalf of the Jewish people. In fact your unscrupulous, tendentious, and defamatory skills will be roundly celebrated.
Adam Kredo doing the journalism you wish you did https://t.co/EQibQFSUdj
— Ellen L. Carmichael (@ellencarmichael) July 25, 2016
And I have yet to see even one of them show any remorse for the lives and reputations they have successfully and unsuccessfully tried to ruin. But most importantly there has never been a price to pay for the defamation and poison and hate these people contribute to the world.
A shocking and scandalous irony is that these days Jews are very well protected from ancient blood libels, that their loudest and most aggressive “defenders” are always clamoring about. It is their enemies that need protection from them. Rep Hank Johnson will never be able to remove this horrible stain on his name. (See below for examples of this travesty.) It is hard to overstate the Twilight Zone-like reality he now finds himself in.
Let’s see the great “intellectual” journal Commentary’s take on all of this. The ADL is a sell out to the Goyim! Of things like this it is said, “truth is stranger than fiction.”
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) July 27, 2016
You have to read the whole article to fully appreciate the alternative reality these Jewish “intellectuals” live in.
Let me try to put it in a different way how surreal this whole thing is. Say Mr. Johnson upon entering his car after the “termite” roundtable discussion fell asleep from exhaustion, and the good Congressman then dreamt that an angel was telling him that in reward for all his life’s good he would be granted anything he wished, but only under one condition.
And that condition is he had to predict what it was he had said earlier in the discussion about Israel/Palestine that would set off a furor in the next few days. I am a betting man and I would bet Rep. Johnson would not have a clue what the answer to that question is. So what exactly is this man guilty of? On every other “sensitivity” but their own, these Jewish intellectuals show utter condescending contempt.
I volunteer my hotel's ballroom as a safe space for all the progressives being disrespected in the hall. #ConcernedForMyFellowHumans
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) July 26, 2016
Oh but if someone says the word “termites” in relation even to “Jewish structures,” to “Jewish settlements.” It’s a crime against humanity and that person’s life ought to be ruined. This is the actual political correctness run amok in our culture, which all are afraid to contradict.
You called my people "termites." That's not a poor choice of words. That's the revelation of a diseased self. https://t.co/OUrBPc016k
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) July 25, 2016
How about using the term "anti-Semitic," you cowards? He compared Jews to TERMITES, for fuck's sake. https://t.co/sjB7Pmcsfq
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) July 25, 2016
— RJC (@RJC) July 25, 2016
How can such outrages against good people like Rep. Jackson continue to go on and on? I believe Rabbi Wolpe himself supplies us with the answer.
These are not trivial issues. We are a half century away from millions of human beings who were designated as “vermin” and killed.
These issues are indeed not trivial. As soon as some Jewish “authority” waves around the Holocaust card, the rest of the world is intimidated into silence, even at the expense of a totally innocent Congressman. Who in their right mind wants these people as enemies? But there still must be quiet outrage about these people’s behavior. And while many may be intimidated into silence they don’t turn their brains off. They know what Rep Johnson said in that room about settlements has zero to do with the Holocaust. And they see how the Holocaust is obscenely used for political gain; Hank Johnson’s position on Israel/Palestine now has an asterisk attached. “He thinks Jews are vermin.”
And everyone with eyes in their head sees that the quickest and the loudest to accuse the innocent of cheapening the “Holocaust” and “antisemitism” are the biggest cheapeners themselves. This is the world we live in.
Maybe someone like Peter Beinart will want to take this issue up. I know he is very concerned about Donald Trump, but there are a thousand journalists, as one, mocking and ridiculing and judging Donald Trump. There are no journalists, however, as far as i can tell, who have influence in the Jewish community who are coming to the defense of this innocent man. So no indeed Rabbi Wolpe: these aren’t trivial issues.
I guess one can say in Rabbi Wolpe’s defense that he finally forgave Rep. Johnson, which in this witch hunt environment makes Rabbi Wolpe seem almost open minded.
Rep. Hank Johnson reached out to me & offered a full apology for the language, the imagery and the hurt he caused. He was very gracious.
— David Wolpe (@RabbiWolpe) July 26, 2016
As an American Jew, if i didn’t know any better I might be concerned that this type of relentless public unjust defamation of good men by Jews with Jewish agendas, and Jewish organizations with Jewish agendas, and Jewish magazines with Jewish agendas, might create some resentment of Jews. So it’s a great relief to me to know, that nothing Jews do or don’t do causes anti-semitism, and in fact to even consider that anti-semitism is a possible reaction to Jewish behavior is in itself a sign of anti-Semitism. Oops!
And I have this to say to Rabbi Wolpe. I have learnt from your Torah musings.
Maybe you can learn from mine. As I read your Time article about Rep. Johnson and got to the part on Guam, I recalled something I learnt in yeshiva when i was much younger. Baba Mezia is the first tractate most Yeshiva boys start with. Maybe it was so long ago that Rabbi Wolpe forgets its lesson, how serious it is to embarrass someone in public. So let me be helpful and remind you.
The Talmud (Baba Metzia 59a) tells us that it would be better for a person to allow himself to be tossed into a furnace than to willingly embarrass another person. (This is derived from Tamar, who was willing to be burned rather than shame Yehuda in Genesis chapter 38.)
On the previous page (58b), the Talmud says that one who shames another in public, causing the blood to drain from his face, is comparable to a murderer.