You can learn a lot about a politician from how he or she defends things said off-the-cuff.
While holding court on Instagram Monday evening, socialist freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) claimed that detention facilities for illegal immigrants at the southern border are concentration camps. "That is exactly what they are," she said. "They are concentration camps." And she went on to say that anyone who believes detention of illegals is appropriate (which includes major Democratic officeholders during the Obama administration) is not "concerned enough with humanity" to be worth trying to engage.
When Twitter erupted, Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) provided a series of mutually contradictory defenses. She could not decide whether she meant to compare the southern border to Auschwitz, whether they are in fact comparable, or whether it was appropriate to make the connection at all. So she tried all three within just three hours on Tuesday morning.
Defense #1: Nazi death camps were merely the most "extreme" and inhuman manifestation of a concentration camp system.
AOC sourced this from Esquire magazine, in which a left-wing writer asserted that the Nazi death camps were merely the most "extreme" of an evil broader phenomenon that includes forced labor camps in the Soviet Union, the imprisonment (and starvation) of Dutch Boers and native Africans in South Africa from 1900 to 1902, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II ... and, of course, the detention of voluntary migrants trying to illegally enter America in 2019.
Once one places all forms of confinement — even for those doing an illegal act, such as entering a country without a visa — into a single basket, a prison becomes a "concentration camp." Given leftist opposition to the death penalty, this naturally leaves no other option for murderers other than letting them go scot-free.
Defense #2: Concentration camps are not death camps. How dare you imagine I meant otherwise!
When her first attempt (unsurprisingly) failed to placate her critics, AOC then tried an entirely different story — while pretending it was the same.
Set aside for the moment that detention "without trial" still includes the pretrial imprisonment of those held without bond. AOC says that Republicans "don’t know the difference" between concentration and death camps. She is trying to hide that it was she who lumped them together.
On Instagram, she declared that she only wants to talk to "the people that are concerned enough with humanity ... that 'Never Again' means something." Those two words are tied uniquely to the Nazi death camps. According to historical accounts, it was first written on signs at Buchenwald by newly rescued Jews. It was then popularized by the 1972 book, "Never Again! A Program for Survival" by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane — hardly someone you would have expected AOC to quote. Having used that catchphrase, her denial that she did intend to compare detention centers to death camps is patently ludicrous.
Defense #3: Concentration Camps Lead to Death Camps, So They Really Are the Same.
This third option is so grotesque that AOC, to her credit, could not manage to voice it herself. I have previously written about the tragic abandonment of Jewish values by leftist Jewish groups, to the point that the Jewish Telegraphic Agency rightly described the "agenda of the Reform [Judaism] movement" as that of left-wing progressives. So we should not be surprised that she found Jews willing to join her in trivializing the Holocaust.
She found this gem from Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg:
Ruttenberg not only runs with the idea that detention of illegal immigrants is equivalent to concentration camps, but implies that they lead to death camps. "Never again is now," she says — unless we allow illegals to flood into the country, at some point the U.S. will start using Zyklon-B!
But AOC wasn’t done. She then found and retweeted Bess Kalb, writer for a TV show and apparent expert in Jewish affairs:
Kass states explicitly what Ruttenberg merely implied: That internment of illegal immigrants is the first step to mass murder. Having thus trivialized the Holocaust, she then falsely claims that it is not AOC, but her critics, who brought it up.
So AOC not only soft-peddled Holocaust denial, pretending that Nazi concentration camps could be compared with the detention of those trying to cross our border illegally — she also provided three contradictory excuses, none of which make sense, and each of which patently contradicts the others.
For AOC and the leftist Jews who buttressed her ridiculous notions, it’s a bit late to apologize now. But it would be a good start.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken is Managing Director of the Coalition for Jewish Values.