Rep. Hank Johnson has one hurdle to clear to win his sixth term in Congress: the 4th District’s Republican nominee, Victor Armendariz, who didn’t miss the opportunity to criticize the Democratic incumbent for his remarks about Israel on July 25.
Armendariz called Johnson’s comments comparing the settlements and termites “despicable and appalling.”
“But it goes beyond words,” he wrote to the AJT. “We the people, voters, must ask the question ‘Why was Mr. Johnson speaking to this anti-Israel group in the first place?’ How can someone who is currently on an apology tour look at the Jewish people in the eye and say that he stands with them or he understands and is on the side of Israel? What he said is not something that can be brushed aside as misspeak. Being a guest speaker at an anti-Israel group is not a mistake his schedulers made.”
Armendariz said he has reached out to Jewish leaders and “been inundated by angry voters in the Jewish community who are reaching out to me to learn more about me and who are volunteering to help my campaign.”
He said he hopes Johnson’s remarks in Philadelphia lead voters to look beyond party affiliation and focus on what the Lithonia Democrat has done in Congress since 2007.
Israeli Consul General Judith Varnai Shorer and Johnson celebrated Chanukah together at a reception at the Indian Consulate in December, but, as of Aug. 5, they had not been in communication about what he said July 25.
“Rep. Johnson’s remarks were very unfortunate and unacceptable. I accept the fact that he has apologized, bearing in mind that words of this nature have deep significance in this region,” Shorer said.
The reception at the Indian Consulate was the work of American Jewish Committee’s Atlanta Chapter, which Johnson visited Tuesday, Aug. 2, as part of his apology tour.
AJC Atlanta Regional Director Dov Wilker put the termites comment in the context of the three types of anti-Semitism current in Europe — from right-wing nationalists, Muslim extremists and far-left activists.
“There’s definitely progress and understanding. I think he will be much more careful about the language that he uses,” Wilker said.
Wilker said that although Johnson believes that the settlements are bad, he always votes in favor of military aid to Israel.