driving the convo

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Holocaust analogy draws ire of Jewish community

Ståle Grut/NRKbeta

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at SXSW 2019

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) came under fire on Tuesday for comparing ICE’s detention facilities to “concentration camps.”

“This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

On Monday, the New York representative echoed the same sentiment in a live video broadcast on her Instagram account. “The fact that concentration camps are now an institutionalized practice in the home of the free is extraordinarily disturbing,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the House Republican conference  chair, condemned Ocasio-Cortez’s comments that “demean” the memory of the 6 million Jews who were “exterminated in the Holocaust.” Cheney advised her House colleague to learn about the Holocaust.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) put out a series of tweets criticizing Ocasio-Cortez for misappropriating history and showing “total disregard” for U.S. sovereignty. “Clearly I need to explain that, in concentration camps, people are unjustly sought out and confined,” the congressman tweeted. “This isn’t what is happening at the border. Migrants are illegally crossing our border. Most are asylum seekers, thus pending trial, so your expert definition doesn’t apply.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), however, offered his backing by retweeting Ocasio-Cortez and adding,” One of the lessons from the Holocaust is ‘Never Again’ — not only to mass murder, but also to the dehumanization of people, violations of basic rights, and assaults on our common morality. We fail to learn that lesson when we don’t callout such inhumanity right in front of us.

Ocasio-Cortez doubled down later in the day, tweeting a video from a year ago as a candidate running for office, and retweeting supporters defending her remark.

Abe Foxman, director of the Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, tells Jewish Insider: “It is sad how many people in positions of influence and power — who decide policy for our country and who should know — are so ignorant of recent history. So maybe before AOC makes comparisons to elements of the Shoah (Holocaust) in the future, she should visit a concentration camp in Europe or at least the Auschwitz exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. Such ignorant comparisons trivialize the Holocaust and thereby undermine the lessons of history we must learn.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, emails JI: “AOC should speak with Holocaust survivors and ex GIs who liberated them from the hell of Dachau. It’s an insult to the victims of the Shoah to make blatant false comparisons. Stop casting Trump as a latter-day Nazi scheming to build concentration camps. AOC and all Congressmen from both parties have a moral obligation to fix the humanitarian disaster at the border. If they don’t, there will be more needless suffering and all of them, including AOC, will be responsible. Stop demeaning memory and start doing your damn job.”

Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt emails: “I think American policy to the people crossing our border is generally mean and vindictive. I think the separation of children from their parents is horrifying and degrades us as a nation and a people. There is nothing good about it. But I think the use of the term concentration camp is misplaced and inaccurate. Something can be horrible and not be like the Holocaust.”

Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple tells JI: “It is baffling why someone would choose a term to condemn cruelty that is guaranteed to make the argument about the term and not about the policy. Analogies that evoke the Holocaust are, with the rarest of exceptions, presumptively offensive and unwise.”

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