When it was revealed that undocumented immigrants at the southern United States border were being mass detained without trials, I, like many others, was absolutely horrified. The Trump administration’s tactics of intimidating, traumatizing and punishing migrants have been some of the most characteristically cruel policies of its reign.
Many people, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, began to point out how the United States, once again, was running concentration camps. My grandmother survived Auschwitz, where most of her family was murdered, so this is a sensitive subject for me. It’s charged enough when prominent people like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez bring up “concentration camp,” a term that refers uniquely to one of humanity’s greatest atrocities.
Even worse, though, is when the conversation quickly descends into a despicable feud, where members of both the right and the left used actual crimes committed against my family to swipe at one another.
To all the people with no direct ties to the Holocaust throwing political punches: Stop using my family’s murders as a talking point, claiming their graves as a platform to stand on in your Twitter arguments.
This week, both Ocasio Cortez and Liz Cheney are guilty of exploiting the Holocaust for political points. After declaring the detention centers were concentration camps, AOC told her live-stream watchers to “talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that ‘Never Again’ means something.”
But “never again” means nothing to Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who consistently has taken a weak stance on anti-Semitism. Every time it’s brought up, she treats hatred of Jews as a distraction from “more important” problems. This March, the congresswoman implied that Jewish complaints about Ilhan Omar’s comments were distracting from other social issues.
“If we’re so concerned about implied tropes, why aren’t we concerned about this one?” she tweeted. “Where was the concern last week when 26 Dems voted for a GOP amendment to expand ICE powers rooted in the racist + false trope that Latino immigrants are more dangerous than US born citizens?”
When it comes to using the Holocaust as a talking point to promote her political goals, she’s all game. Actually defending Jews from another genocide? AOC’s got somewhere else to be. When asked point blank to condemn anti-Semitism from the Women’s March, she refused. While she talks about the cruelties on the Southern border, Cortez has been absolutely silent on the horrific 82 percent spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes in the city she represents. If she cares so much about learning from the Holocaust and protecting its lessons, why hasn’t she done anything about the one-third of its survivors living in poverty in America – many of whom reside in New York City?
While AOC only defiles the Holocaust as a springboard for other issues, Liz Cheney exploits it to silence her opponents.
“Please @AOC do us all a favor and spend just a few minutes learning some actual history. 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust,” Cheney tweeted. “You demean their memory and disgrace yourself with comments like this.” Here, Cheney uses the Holocaust to hush Ocasio Cortez about policies that indeed resemble the early days of the genocide. Concentration camps, where prisoners were not murdered, existed before the death camps that took six million Jewish lives. Cheney herself demonstrates a poor understanding of Holocaust history, and is only looking for ammo against her opponents, which is exactly what she sees anti-Semitism charges as.
“To all the people with no direct ties to the Holocaust throwing political punches: Stop using my family’s murders as a talking point.”
In the past few months, Cheney has nonstop attacked Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and the Democrats at large by accusing them of anti-Semitism. But when Neo-Nazis marched in the streets looking to complete the mission of the Holocaust, Cheney did not adequately stand up for Jews.
In fact, she stood by Donald Trump as he equated counter-protesters with white supremacists and said there were “good people on both sides.”
“I welcome President Trump’s comments at the White House this morning, and his determination to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice,” she said in response. When the White House didn’t even acknowledge the murder of Jews in its Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, the Republican congresswoman didn’t bring up that six million of us were slaughtered. Why would she? It wouldn’t benefit her politically.
Science writer Erin Biba best describes the common depravity between Ocasio Cortez and Cheney.
“The only time I ever hear any of our politicians speak about Jews is when they’re using us as a tool and an example to prove a point unrelated to us. It’s disgusting,” Biba tweeted. “This goes for Jewish ‘allies’ too. If you have only expressed support for us after the mass shootings in our places of worship (remember those?) and then forgotten to include us when you made your cute Twitter list of oppressed people to protect then you’re disgusting too.”
As the mob debated over the semantics of whether it’s appropriate to use the term “concentration camps,” one thing became clear: This fight is not about Jews or the Holocaust. It’s about who gets to exploit them.