Daniel Swindell

Alexandria Versus the Holocaust

As everyone knows, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posted a video saying, “The United States is running concentration camps on our southern border.” And, “I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that we should not — that ‘Never Again’ means something.” And, “A presidency that creates concentration camps is fascist.” In response, the Jewish community revolted against her statements. Every major international Jewish institution in charge of preserving the memory of the Holocaust condemned her statements. In response to the criticism, Ocasio-Cortez stated, “I will never apologize for calling these camps what they are.” In other words, Ocasio-Cortez declared that she was right and the representatives of the Holocaust were wrong.

Ocasio-Cortez was reffering to the Holocaust:

After Ocasio-Cortez made her statements, a battle erupted on social media regarding whether she was referring to the Holocaust concentration camps. This debate did not need to happen, since Ocasio-Cortez used the phrase, “Never Again,” which is an undeniable reference to the Holocaust. In 1961, the expression was used in a documentary film called, “Mein Kampf.” The voiceover said, “It must never happen again—never again.” The expression was made famous by the controversial figure, Rabbi Meir Kahane. He wrote a book called, “Never Again! A Program for Survival.” Ocasio-Cortez piggybacked the same idea.

There is more proof that Ocasio-Cortez’s statements were obviously in reference to the Holocaust. A member of Poland’s Parliament wrote an open letter inviting Ocasio-Cortez to visit the concentration camps. All totaled, Ocasio-Cortez said that Trump is a fascist, who is building, concentration camps, and people must never again allow these things to happen. Hence, linking the Holocaust to Trump was a roundabout way of calling Trump a Nazi. All of this means, Ocasio-Cortez was referring to the Holocaust, and the attempt to deny it is inherantly dishonest.

A clarification of terms:

There are roughly four terms that can be considered: 

1) Immigrant Detention Centers

2) Concentration Camps

3) Nazi Concentration Camps

4) Death Camps

First, immigration detention centers is a common title which refers to camps in any country that holds immigrants who attempt to enter a country illegally. Second, concentration camps can simply refer to a concentration of people in a prison camp. For example, the camps built by the British in South Africa during the Boer Wars. Third, there is another use of the term, which is linked specifically to the horrific Nazi concentration camps. Fourth, Holocaust historians sometimes make a distinction between Nazi camps with gas chambers and camps without gas chambers. Those camps with gas chambers became known as death camps. From this last idea, Ocasio-Cortez attempted to refute her critics, “And for the shrieking Republicans who don’t know the difference: concentration camps are not the same as death camps.” Notwithstanding, this sharp distinction is problematic, because prisoners who were sent to camps without gas chambers were still slated to be worked to death. In essence, every Nazi camp was a death camp. This is why The Israeli Holocaust Museum corrected her by stating that Nazi concentration camps, “helped assure the ultimate goal of ‘extermination through labor.’”

The Ocasio-Cortez apologists:

Defenders of Ocasio-Cortez will claim that perhaps the Holocaust analogy was extreme, but the situation at the border is so dire, that in this case it was justified to use inflammatory language to raise awareness of it. An article called, “Stop Wasting Time Arguing about Concentration Camps,” made the case that it is a waste of time to get tripped up on whether the analogy was appropriate or not. Author Carly Pildis sermonized, “When we are talking about immigration, these are the stories we should be focusing on. These are the horrors we should not allow ourselves to look away from. We cannot let ourselves be distracted by a sideshow about words and technical definitions.” 

Analogies Matter- Some things cannot be compared:

Analogies can be very useful, but the type of suffering in the Holocaust is not comparable to the suffering in the immigrant detention centers. 93-year-old Holocaust survivor Ed Mosberg extended a personal invitation to Ocasio-Cortez to give her a tour of Auschwitz, which she declined. Mosberg said, “I can show her where they killed my mother, my grandparents and cousins.” Mosberg also felt that the comparison was totally inappropriate, “Her statement is evil. It hurts a lot of people. At the concentration camp, we were not free. We were forced there by the Germans who executed and murdered people — there’s no way you can compare.”

Regrettably, by using a disproportionate analogy, Ocasio-Cortez trivialized the suffering of the Holocaust. She cannot reduce the suffering of one group, in order to try to raise awareness of the suffering of another group. It would be best to simply address the suffering of each group without comparisons. In a way, Ocasio-Cortez politicized the suffering of the Holocaust. Politicians have a job to evoke emotions in their audiences. Speakers sometimes need to trigger righteous anger in their audience for a noble cause. In contrast, inflammatory language is the fastest way to appeal to the broadest base with the least work.

Ocasio-Cortez will not apologize to the Jewish community:

After Ocasio-Cortez made her comments, The Jerusalem Post published an article listing the major Jewish organizations that condemned her statements. The list included, Yad Vashem, The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. In addition, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said her statements were, “insulting victims of genocide.” The founder of Americans Against Antisemitism exclaimed that Ocasio-Cortez, “desecrates the memories of six million Jews who were brutally murdered all in the name of disingenuous political calculations!” These organizations constitute the collective representative voice of the Holocaust, and they spoke with one voice to condemn Ocasio-Cortez’s statements. In response, Ocasio-Cortez declared them to be wrong.

Ocasio-Cortez lectured, “One of the biggest lessons that we learn from both Holocaust historians and civil rights academics and experts is that it takes a process… to feel more comfortable with the dehumanization… and violation of their (immigrants) rights.” Nevertheless, perhaps one of the most unified coalitions of Holocaust historians ever assembled said that Ocasio-Cortez was using the comparisons incorrectly. In response, Ocasio-Cortez balked that all of these Holocaust historians were misguided. There are only two logical outcomes: either the Jewish coalition is correct, or Ocasio-Cortez is correct. Ocasio-Cortez refuses to admit that she is wrong, therefore the Jewish organizations must be wrong.

Why this is bad for the Jews:

Ocasio-Cortez is followed by millions of millennials, and she has made it clear that the Jewish representatives of the Holocaust are mistaken. The trouble is that Ocasio-Cortez has much greater access to the millennial generation than all of the Holocaust orgnizations combined, and her followers will consider her as a greater source of authority. What was her authority? Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border… This is not hyperbole. It is the conclusion of expert analysis.” Followed by a link to an article quoting Andrea Pitzer, the author of, “One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps.” The article quotes Pitzer, “We have what I would call a concentration camp system,” Pitzer says, “and the definition of that in my book is, mass detention of civilians without trial.”

Unfortunately, the way Ocasio-Cortez has framed the situation, criticism of her comments as being insensitive to the tragedy of Jewish people will be viewed as denying the suffering of immigrants. The reality is that Ocasio-Cortez does not care more about the immigrants than the Jewish community. Most people don’t want to see other people suffering. Fortunately, it is possible to realize that Ocasio-Cortez’s comments were anti-semitic and to be opposed to the border policies. The issue is that Ocasio-Cortez abused the suffering of the Jewish people. When the Jewish community made it clear that her statements were deeply insensitive, she crossed her arms, stamped her feet and refused to apologize.

Ocasio-Cortez’s refusal to admit that her statements are offensive, will only lead to an increase of suspicion regarding the Jewish community. Either the Jewish community cannot be counted on as a reliable source of history, or they don’t care about the suffering of other people. Effectively, Ocasio-Cortez has sent the message: How can the same Jews who experienced the Holocaust not care when it is happening to someone else? Well, because the Jews only care about themselves. This is the subtle message her followers will learn, hence why her statements will only harm the Jewish community.

About the Author
Daniel Swindell is a Zionist. He has a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Missouri, and has studied in Yeshiva.