AOC has shown classlessness. That’s only the subtext.
Research says the human brain can process up to four things at once. The response to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez this week, when she compared the treatment of immigrants to the holocaust, challenges this assertion. People have quickly and obediently fallen into two lines: trademark Fox News outrage, and NowThis videos commending AOC for her bravery. I’d like to suggest a third: one which is getting increasingly sick of a certain millennial who tweets things she knows nothing about, while also being embarrassed and furious at the treatment of migrants – particularly children – at the southern border.
That some Jews fail to show basic empathy for the needless suffering of migrants fleeing persecution, and for so many Jews to blame them for their suffering, is shameful. This is not to say we have open borders or to give a passport to everyone who wants one. That isn’t even to say don’t argue for a stricter admission policy. That IS to say, don’t help a demagogue build a brand on cruelty just because he moves embassies to Israel. Never Again doesn’t just apply to Jews, yet so many MAGA Jews are fighting antisemitism selectively and at the expense of other kinds of hate – effectively vandalizing our cause.
Many on the religious right, for example, have the chutzpah to rank, prioritize or tier forms of terror. A horrifying string of assaults in Brooklyn – largely perpetrated by African Americans – is ongoing, for example. One of the loudest people on a given Twitter feed in this community is former New York State assemblyman Dov Hikind. An outspoken advocate against antisemitism, who in 2013 had to apologize for donning blackface to a Purim party, Hikind regularly tweets suggestions that such crimes are more important than white nationalist terror, also on the rise. Antisemitic events in Europe? Proof that Islamophobia is a left-wing conspiracy. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with protecting your neighborhood first. But there is something very wrong with delegitimatizing the suffering of others in the process.
Hikind is far from the only member of the right wing Jewish lobby refusing to address racism, and even antisemitism, if and when it contradicts the relentless kissing up to Trump, who enables white nationalist terrorists, and who is legally terrorizing immigrants, while the religious right bickers about offensive language. Averaging about one angry tweet to Ilhan Omar per day, Hikind even tried to change the subject from white nationalism to her after the Poway shooting. Again, one wonders if the human brain can process two things at once.
And while a small – but incredibly loud – fraction of Jews such has Hikind put on MAGA hats, downplay white nationalism, dismiss other forms of racism as less important, then ask for pity when people make tasteless comparisons, it is all the more frustrating to see the left give them ammo. Ilhan Omar is guilty of the same behavior as Hikind. And the woman of the hour, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has proved astoundingly willing to speak to that which she knows nothing about. Pushing Amazon out of Long Island City. Claiming there’s $21 trillion in the Pentagon to pay for her programs. Saying it’s okay to be factually incorrect if you’re superior morally. These are easy things to dislike, these are fair things to dislike, and they are unnecessary fodder for Dov Hikinds to smear the left with.
The concentration camp reference has proved yet another example. The optics are terrible. We can debate the definition of “concentration camp” all we want, but the fact remains that a representative who has provided the disclaimer that she doesn’t know about Palestine then called for the US to end it’s relationship with Israel, who doesn’t know about economics but chased Amazon out of her city, and who has been at-best clueless to the anti-Semitic dog whistles blown by people she regularly praises, was not the right person to make this case. There are indeed aspects of her comparison that hold up, and had a better advocate made this comparison, it could have been poignant.
Observing the fallout, the greatest lesson to be learned about AOC is her willingness to assess that which she knows nothing about. She is insensitive and her politics seem to get dirtier by the day. And if that’s harsh, there is nothing kinder to say about many of her opponents. Never Again doesn’t just apply to Jews, nor does something have to be (God forbid) the same scale of horror as the holocaust for the similarities to be horrifying. And while I and probably most Jews detest the context in which this comparison was made, how can we speak out about that without remembering: there are kids in cages. Never Again applies when kids still haven’t been reunited from their parents, over a year after the failed separation policy. Let’s hope the Dov Hikinds of the Jewish community get better at such “multitasking” and consider that alongside their gripes about offensive language.