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Dear AOC, not everything is the Holocaust

Comparing atrocities is never useful, and this comparison undermines the horrifying nature of the Holocaust
UNITED STATES - JUNE 12: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., attend a House Oversight and Reform Committee markup in Rayburn Building on a resolution on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and the Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 12: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., attend a House Oversight and Reform Committee markup in Rayburn Building on a resolution on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and the Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Here we are again. Another Democratic freshman congresswoman, and another disturbing comment relating to the Holocaust. This time, however, it’s not Ilhan Omar and not even Rashida Tlaib – instead it’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, claiming that the United States is operating concentration camps on our Southern Border. As Ocasio-Cortez put it in her impromptu live stream Monday night, “I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity that ‘Never Again’ means something.”

Some have immediately jumped to Ocasio-Cortez’ defense (herself included) claiming that she was referencing concentration camps in general, not THOSE concentration camps. Concentration camps tend to refer to a specific time in history, in the same way that internment camps do. Make no mistake, though – “Never Again” is a clear reference to the Holocaust. While invoking the Holocaust sitting on the floor in pajamas via twitter livestream is at best tasteless, at worst, what Ocasio-Cortez has done is dangerous, and the trivialization of a genocide.

The obvious reason this comparison is dangerous is that when we compare every humanitarian issue to the Holocaust, we undermine the horrifying nature of the Holocaust. The border camps along the Southern Border are a failure of our government and represent a shameful humanitarian situation. The Nazis murdered 12,000 people per day at Auschwitz. This shouldn’t turn into a numbers game, because it is so obviously out of scope that only someone foolish would make such a comparison. 

Generally, comparing atrocities is never useful. We don’t compare things to slavery because slavery was its own horrific era of history. We shouldn’t compare things to the Holocaust for the same reason. The irony of invoking “Never Again” for this situation is that Ocasio-Cortez actively undermines the value of saying “Never Again” by using it so crassly. Her declaration of “I don’t use those words lightly” isn’t enough to assuage her comment.

The takeaway should not be that Ocasio-Cortez’s criticism of the Southern Border camps is wrong by any means – in fact, she is spot on that the humanitarian situation is alarming. Her fair criticisms though, are entirely undermined by painting an immigration crisis alongside the Holocaust.

Hopefully, the immigration crisis at the border can be solved with effective bipartisan cooperation and pressure from the American public. On the other hand, the global Jewish population is still less today than it was when the Holocaust began. No bill or law can fix that. It’s a sad and naive day, when young politicians will invoke the Holocaust for policy goals. At the end of the day, that’s what this is – a policy debate about immigration.

The young upstart crowd of Democratic congresswoman have spent a surprising amount of their time in office discussing anti-semitism and the Holocaust, while tiptoeing and backtracking around insensitive comments they have made. Ocasio-Cortez’s comparison of the border situation is only the latest.

About the Author
Sam Feldman is a rising sophomore at Yale University where he is studying political science and economics. He is particularly interested in Middle Eastern politics, and spent the last year in Israel on the Kivunim gap-year program studying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is the grandson of Holocaust survivors.
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