July 18, 2019

Yad Vashem Calls Out AOC Over Concentration Camp Remarks

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Israeli Holocaust museum Yad Vashem called out Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday over her calling the migrant detention facilities at the United States-Mexico border “concentration camps.”

Ocasio-Cortez made the comparison in a June 17 Instagram Live session, stating that “‘Never Again’ means something.” She later argued on Twitter that concentration camps and death camps were different, defining concentration camps as “the mass detention of civilians without trial.” Ocasio-Cortez continues to stand by her remarks:

Yad Vashem tweeted at Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday, writing, “Concentration camps assured a slave labor supply to help in the Nazi war effort, even as the brutality of life inside the camps helped assure the ultimate goal of ‘extermination through labor.’”

The tweet linked to a page on Yad Vashem’s website describing the history of Nazi concentration camps, explaining that the first concentration camp, Dachau, opened in 1933 as “a place of internment for German Jews, Communists, Socialists, and liberals – anyone whom the Reich considered its enemy.”  The Yad Vashem page later states the Nazis used the camps for “extermination by labor” to further their goal of massacring the Jewish people while exploiting forced labor for their war efforts.

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt also weighed in on Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks on Twitter, writing that nearly a “year ago, we urged caution when drawing comparisons to the Holocaust and reiterated our opposition to the horrible conditions separating families at the border. This resonates just as strongly today.”

The nonpartisan Jewish Community Relations of Council (JCRC) of New York write in a June 18 letter to Ocasio-Cortez that they were “deeply disturbed” by her remarks.

“The terms ‘Concentration Camp’ and ‘Never Again’ are synonymous with and evocative of the atrocities committed by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany, in which 6 million European Jews were systemically denied civil and human rights due to their race and ultimately murdered in a state-sponsored genocide,” the letter stated. “As concerned as we are about the conditions experienced by migrants seeking asylum in the United States, including family separation, unusable facilities, and lack of food, water, and medical resources, the regrettable use of Holocaust terminology to describe these contemporary concerns diminishes the evil intent of the Nazis to eradicate the Jewish people.”

Former ADL CEO and current Director of the Center for the Study of Antisemitism Abe Foxman told Jewish Insider that Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks were “sad” and “ignorant of recent history.” He suggested that Ocasio-Cortez “visit a concentration camp in Europe or at least the Auschwitz exhibit at the Museum of Jewish History in New York City. Such ignorant comparisons trivialize the Holocaust and thereby undermine the lessons of history we must learn.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is running for president as a Democrat and lost members of his father’s family in the Holocaust, told CNN on June 18 that while he likes Ocasio-Cortez, he would not have used the term “concentration camps” to describe the migrant detention facilities.

Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt tweeted, “Debating if separation of children is akin to the Holocaust, allows those who are forcibly separating parents & children off the hook. Be horrified by the policy. Don’t be engaged in a useless debate about inaccurate, false, & deceptive comparisons.”

Among those defending Ocasio-Cortez include Bend the Arc: Jewish Action. The progressive group told Jewish News Syndicate that the detention facilities are “a moral abomination,” rendering the terminology surrounding them irrelevant.

“Our government is scapegoating, demonizing and terrorizing immigrants. These policies echo the worst of Jewish history and the worst of American history,” Bend the Arc argued. “Anyone distracting from these clear facts with manufactured outrage is subverting Jewish history and trauma, and that is shameful. Jewish Americans overwhelmingly reject the hateful, anti-immigrant policies being perpetrated by the very people pretending to be offended on our behalf.”

J Street also defended Ocasio-Cortez:

Ocasio-Cortez told CNN on Wednesday that she wasn’t comparing the detention facilities to the Holocaust.

“During that time concentration camps were also utilized all over the world, including in the United States with Japanese internment,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

H/T: Haaretz