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June 19, 2019 8:34 am

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Harshly Criticized for Comparing US Border Detention Centers to ‘Concentration Camps’

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a rally in New York City. Photo: Reuters / Caitlin Ochs.

Jewish groups have criticized US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) for comparing US border detention facilities to “concentration camps.”

In an Instagram video on Monday, Ocasio-Cortez said, “The US is running concentration camps on our southern border, and that is exactly what they are.”

Drawing an apparent parallel with the Holocaust, she added, “I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that ‘never again’ means something.”

In response, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, directed Ocasio-Cortez to a statement made a year ago, saying it “resonates just as strongly today.”

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The statement read, “People need to be extremely careful in drawing comparisons to the Holocaust and the Nazi regime in whatever context it is used. Instead of investing our energy into whether or not a particular comparison crossed a line, the lesson we should learn from that dark time is that all good people need to speak out clearly and quickly when morally abhorrent actions are taken by those in power against any group.”

The statement then noted that the ADL opposed certain border policies, especially child separation.

Top officials from the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York tweeted an open letter to Ocasio-Cortez, saying they were “deeply disturbed by the language” she used.

“The terms ‘Concentration Camp’ and ‘Never Again’ are synonymous with and evocative of the atrocities committed by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany,” the letter penned by President Charles S. Temel, President-Elect Cheryl Fishbein, and Executive Vice President and CEO Michael S. Miller asserted.

“As concerned as we are about the conditions experienced by migrants seeking asylum in the United States … the regrettable use of Holocaust terminology to describe these contemporary concerns diminishes the evil intent of the Nazis to eradicate the Jewish people,” the authors stated.

Noting that New York City had the largest community of Holocaust survivors in the world, the officials said, “We would be pleased to work with you to arrange a visit to a concentration camp, a local Holocaust Museum, hear the stories of local survivors, or participate in other education opportunities in the hopes of a better understanding of the horrors of the Holocaust.”

“Until that time, we urge you to refrain from using terminology evocative of the Holocaust to voice concerns about contemporary political issues,” they concluded.

JNS quoted Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center as saying, “AOC [Ocasio-Cortez’s commonly-used moniker] should ask Holocaust survivors and ex-GIs who liberated Dachau what that charnel House was like.”

“She is insulting victims of genocide,” he charged.

Prominent Jewish historian Gil Troy said, “There is a long tradition of members of Congress saying dumb things; nevertheless, this comment belongs in the Hall of Fame.”

However, he commented, “It’s not anti-Semitic. It’s too sloppy for that.”

“Anyone who compares the complicated set of tensions both Democrats and Republicans have been forced to make around immigration — as leaders of a complicated democracy — with the evils of Nazi concentration camps is both deeply ignorant and instinctively anti-American, shockingly unaware of the moral difference between democracy and dictatorship, and probably unable to distinguish between the two,” he added.

Noted Israeli-American writer Yossi Klein Halevi also said that he did not consider Ocasio-Cortez’s comments antisemitic, but “it’s tricky.”

“‘Concentration camps’ has become a generic term, not only about the Holocaust. (I would argue that ‘death camps’ is unique to the Holocaust.),” he said. “I think this is more an American than a Jewish issue. I am outraged at her slander of America.”

Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America said the comparison of the border facilities “to the horrors of the Holocaust death camps is a sin. AOC must be censured by her colleagues for this mindless and moronic analogy. She doesn’t belong in Congress making decisions on behalf of her fellow American citizens.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition blasted Ocasio-Cortez, saying, “Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. It is disgraceful for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to compare our nation’s immigration policies to the horrors carried out by the Nazis. We would hope that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez knows better, but sadly she does not.”

Progressive Jewish group Bend the Arc, however, defended Ocasio-Cortez, saying of the detention centers, “Whether we call them concentration camps, mass detention centers or cages for children, they are a moral abomination … These policies echo the worst of Jewish history and the worst of American history.”

“Anyone distracting from these clear facts with manufactured outrage is subverting Jewish history and trauma, and that is shameful,” the group asserted. “Jewish Americans overwhelmingly reject the hateful, anti-immigrant policies being perpetrated by the very people pretending to be offended on our behalf.”

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