I have read about, discussed, and written about the Holocaust more in the past seven days than in the past seven years. It’s not only about AOC’s comments about concentration camps, but who agreed with her, who condemned her, and who didn’t have the guts to say anything.
A basic rule of American politics was broken too many times this past week – never use the Holocaust or any of its related terms such as Nazis or Hitler, for political warfare. The Holocaust is a singular event in world history, and not just because of its scale and inhuman horror. Yes, there have been, and sadly will be other genocides of other groups; there have even been other atrocities against the Jewish people. But generally, a genocide is waged to suppress a group, keep them out of a country’s politics, or take their land or some other economic reason. The Holocaust was different. The Jews targeted by Hitler and the Nazis had no land and held relatively little power; they were just hated. The Nazis took Jews from all over Europe and killed them.
Other things that shouldn’t be used for comparison are things like slavery in America, and Apartheid. In their own unique way, they are also incomparable to anything else.
Thankfully, nothing is being done by America or in America that is close to being in the same universe as the Holocaust. That’s one of the reasons it doesn’t make sense to use it in a political comparison. It’s hyperbolic and demonstrates a lack of understanding or compassion for what happened during the Shoah (what the Holocaust is called in Hebrew). It also indicates a deficiency in intelligence that causes an absence of the verbal agility to produce a more accurate comparison.
It’s also a worthless argument that one can’t really win.
I’ve never seen a politician successfully convince another politician, pundit, or voter to come to their side with a tawdry Holocaust citation. Usually, when a politician purposely makes an inappropriate Shoah reference, they face criticism from the mainstream media and politicians from each of the two major parties. They usually don’t get support for the inappropriate comparison. Last week was an exception.
In a now-famous incident, last Tuesday, rookie member of Congress Democratic Socialist Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), also known as AOC, made a gaffe by comparing concentration camps to where the U.S. is housing illegal immigrant children. One of the places being used for the kids is Fort Sill, a 150-year-old U.S. Army base which was once the home of the Army Ground Forces Air Training School, and still trains our military in the combat arms field of artillery. Fort Sill was one of the locations hosting a Japanese Internment Camp, which in itself was a horrible episode of American history. By the way, those internment camps were not in the same neighborhood as the Nazi concentration camps
Fort Sill housed illegal immigrant children during the Obama administration, but no one complained. Neither the Obama or Trump administrations housed the children in the same part of the Fort where the Japanese Americans were held.
The kids are being kept in an array of locations across the country, because of the overwhelming influx of illegals sneaking across our border with Mexico and the lack of adequate funding by Congress to house them or even provide them beds as they (i.e., their attorneys) wait to present their asylum case to a judge. Congress is slow in delivering the funds because it gives them another topic to use against President Trump.
AOC began her comments with:
And for the shrieking Republicans who don’t know the difference: concentration camps are not the same as death camps.
Concentration camps are considered by experts as “the mass detention of civilians without trial.”
And that’s exactly what this administration is doing.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 18, 2019
Sorry, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, but I have a much better Holocaust expert who thinks your comparison is crap (but being a rabbi he said it much nicer).
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The Wiesenthal Center’s mission includes Holocaust remembrance and fighting antisemitism. The center’s Holocaust museum, the Museum of Tolerance, is the largest Holocaust museum in the country. All of which makes the good rabbi a real expert on the Holocaust. Rabbi Cooper wrote an op-ed for the Fox News website saying that AOC’s statement was absurd and insulting:
President Trump’s policy of cracking down on illegal immigration on the border with Mexico and detaining some migrants is certainly a legitimate topic of debate. The conditions under which the migrants are being held can be debated as well. But comparing U.S. detention facilities operating today to the Nazi concentration camps where millions of innocent men, women, and children were tortured, starved, beaten and murdered during World War II in the Holocaust is breathtakingly absurd.
(…) The truth is that the burgeoning disaster at our southern border is not the result not of a monstrous plot by President Trump to build concentration camps, but of a real humanitarian crisis overwhelming the federal immigration bureaucracy and a deep and toxic national political divide.
The Rabbi closed with a “Memo to politicians”:
The images of incarcerated kids and adults who fled other countries desperately trying to gain entry into the U.S. should generate action – not false and incendiary rhetoric. It behooves a divided Congress to rediscover a bipartisan way to solve our immigration crisis, rather than using it for political warfare.
Sadly, too many politicians did not listen to the wise words of Rabbi Cooper.
Example: N.Y. Congressman Jerrold Nadler, whose 10th Congressional District covers parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan. With a 37.6% composition of Jews, his district is one of the most Jewish ones in America. Nadler continued the alienation from the Jewish community that began with his support for the awful Iran Deal and continued with a defense of Rep. Ilhan Omar’s antisemitism. Nadler broke away from his endless investigations of the President, being done for political purposes only, to display his support of AOC:
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. https://t.co/EEBBkVL7FG
— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) June 18, 2019
Maybe Nadler’s change in attitude toward Jewish Issues over the past five years is due to the staple in his stomach cutting off the blood supply to his brain. Just wondering.
The “camps” on our southern border that Nadler and AOC speak of are not places where kids should live, but the children get three square meals, toys, activities, and at some places, they even get TV. Auschwitz, a real concentration camp, didn’t offer any of those amenities to the Jewish children.
The holding sites in the south are nowhere near an ideal place for kids. Many of them sleep on the floor with metallic blankets – partly because after the last budget impasse, House Democrats cut back on the number of beds DHS would be allowed to purchase.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar said on Monday that the holding facilities at the nation’s border were not built “to be housing tens of thousands” of unaccompanied children. The kids are safe, but the system is “overwhelmed,” and “these are not good conditions for kids to be in.” The AP reported that most of the children were removed from a remote Border Patrol station near El Paso after reports that they were understaffed with the kids caring for each other, and without adequate food, water, or sanitation.
Azar also warned that if Congress does not pass funding legislation, his department and Homeland Security will run out of money in July.
The problem that AOC and Nadler won’t talk about is that in recent years, more adults are bringing children with them as they sneak into the country – and the kids are not theirs. A pilot study by DHS revealed that up to 30% of the kids brought over the border are not related to the adults taking them into the country. They are being brought in because the adults know that by bringing a child, they are more likely to get to stay in the U.S.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), famous for her antisemitic comments, weighed in on AOC’s use of the term “concentration camps” to describe holding centers for migrants seeking U.S. asylum.
“There are camps where people are being concentrated,” Omar told Rebel Media on Friday. “This is very simple. I don’t even know why this is a controversial thing for her to say. We have to really truthfully speak about what’s taking place.”
No Rep. Omar, it’s concentration camp, not concentrated camp.
Rep. Jared Huffman(D-CA) also backed up AOC. He said:
This is not meant to be any kind of disrespect or trivialization of the Holocaust, far from it. We’re actually concerned about the slippery slope toward even worse human rights conditions and its already pretty bad.
That “slippery slope” must be the size of Mt. Everest, because, for the detention facilities to become concentration camps, they would have a very long way to deteriorate. Besides, AOC didn’t say anything like that. If Huffman truly believed AOC wasn’t trying to trivialize the Shoah, he would tell her to apologize because that is how her words were taken
House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was also asked about the comments. As she did with the bill condemning Rep. Omar’s antisemitic comments, the Speaker punted. Pelosi simply said members of Congress share their point of view and they take responsibility for the statements that they make. They should? Then why does she criticize every word Trump says?
A search for comments or press releases on Google, YouTube, and the websites of Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand turned up nothing. But they deserve some leeway. After all, Gillibrand is running for the Democratic nomination for President. To appeal to the party’s far-left base, she cannot appear to support Jews. And on the positive side, judging by her place in the polls, New Yorkers won’t have to worry about her campaign for president that much longer – not that her attitude toward Jewish issues will change much, unless, of course, the Democratic Party base changes.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is extra busy. For the past seventeen months, he has obstructed everything that President Trump has done and criticized everything the President has said. He doesn’t have the time to deal with a minor issue such as a member of Congress diminishing the horror of the Shoah with an inappropriate comparison.
On the Republican side, where ad hominem attacks on President Trump are not a priority, the reactions to Ocasio-Cortez’s comparison were more rational than the Democratic ones.
Long Island Republican Peter King showed his compassion for Shoah victims and their family by ripping AOC’s comments and her refusal to apologize.
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s refusal to retract her “concentration camp” and “never again” remarks are indefensible. It is terribly offensive to Holocaust victims and survivors and totally at variance with truth and morality.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, also a Long Island Republican, has become the de-facto protector of Jewish Issues in Congress. So his reaction was not a surprise
.@AOC needs to stop trying to draw these crayon parallels between POTUS & Hitler! Try working WITH your colleagues on BOTH sides of the aisle to secure our border & fix this rather than desperately trying to promote mass hysteria w this disgusting & woefully false comparison. https://t.co/2X2dZvjVQa
— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) June 18, 2019
As for Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, I do not believe her idiotic comparison had an antisemitic intent. We are talking about a woman who posted a video about not knowing what a garbage disposal was. As my Mother of blessed memory would probably say, “She is no kluger” (Yiddish for smart person).
Or as Gene Wilder said about bigots in my favorite movie, Blazing Saddles:
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s concentration camp comments came out of the same general ignorance she has displayed ever since she came to prominence. In this case, it was joined by her ignorance of history and the Holocaust.
She may soon get the opportunity to learn what she doesn’t know – or, at least, what she doesn’t know about concentration camps. Two days after she made her inappropriate comment, Dominik Tarczynski, a member of the Polish Parliament, invited her to put her brain where her mouth is. He extended what he called an “olive branch of education,” inviting her to visit the worst of Hitler’s concentration camps in Poland so she can in learn the why it’s so wrong to inappropriately use the Holocaust for political purposes.
With this letter, I am formally inviting @AOC to come to Poland,where Adolf Hitler set up the worst chain of concentration camps the world has ever seen, so that she may see that scoring political points with enflamed rhetoric is unacceptable in our contemporary Western societies pic.twitter.com/ivOTfmiCfo
— TARCZYŃSKI Dominik (@D_Tarczynski) June 20, 2019
AOC should have jumped at the chance, but as of this writing, four days after the invitation, she has not answered Mr. Tarczynski.
In the end, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s asinine argument did not work. Oh, she is getting some support, but not because of people actually buy her comparison of our border facilities to concentration camps. It’s because the controversy surrounding them gave Democrats one more opportunity to trash the president. If her foolish use of the Holocaust made sense, then rather than being silent, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and Kirsten Gillibrand would have taken the extra opportunity to slam to the President, and the Political Director of the most liberal of networks, NBC, wouldn’t have criticized AOC for making the statement and her fellow Dems for not slamming her comment.
Cross posted at The Lid