After Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) used “concentration camps” and “Never Again” together — a unique reference to the Nazi death camps — and then retweeted leftist Jews hoping to justify the linkage while she simultaneously denied that she ever connected them in the first instance, I honestly thought it couldn’t get worse.
I was wrong.
Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) rapidly invented a way to attack those condemning her comparison of detention centers at the border to Nazi death camps. She employed a false dichotomy: She said we must “fight the camps — not the nomenclature,” as if it were a binary choice.
The claim that concern for the horrors of Jewish history is incompatible with concern for the plight of others is more than simple slander. This sentiment divides Americans, divides Jews, and incites anti-Semitism — by promoting the classic trope that Jews care only about their own people and issues, and disregard what happens to others. To say that to take real interest in immigrants, we must forgive her trivialization of the Holocaust, is to employ this ancient and hateful lie for her personal and political benefit.
Conveniently for her — and also increasing the danger — many of her fans, especially leftist Jews, have adopted this model. In a pair of tweets, a left-wing Jewish writer distorted criticism of AOC’s remarks by the American Jewish Congress, a largely nonpartisan organization, into “ignor[ing] the plight at the border” and “fighting against people like AOC instead of fighting for migrants.”
Another member of the Jewish Left, careful to include a reference to family murdered in the camps (as if this were rare among Ashkenazi Jews), claimed regarding criticism from an account opposing anti-Semitism that “arguing about what to call this is shameful when what is needed is action. Most of us Jews are ashamed of you.”
And I was similarly attacked for simply linking to an article regarding an interview with Alan Dershowitz about AOC’s odious remarks. “Glad to see that you and the [Coalition for Jewish Values] have learned the lessons of the Holocaust,” my correspondent replied, “with you [sic] sincere concern for children who have been cruelly imprisoned & separate from their parents.”
For the record: As a matter of policy, the Coalition for Jewish Values expresses an opinion where we believe traditional rabbinic sources mandate a particular viewpoint. The complex situation at the border, based upon practices initiated during the Clinton administration yet now faced with an unprecedented number of migrants, is not such a case.
And also for the record, “most Jews,” at least those with Jewish knowledge and concern about anti-Semitism, most emphatically do not side with AOC. Yad Vashem, the U.S. Holocaust Museum, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, a consortium of other Holocaust museums, individual scholars such as Abe Foxman and Deborah Lipstadt, and several other clearly nonpartisan organizations and individuals all called her linkage inappropriate, wrong, and amounting to a trivialization of the Holocaust. We appreciate the remarks of Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and yes, even Steve King (R-IA), when they all said AOC needs to learn more about the Holocaust. Clearly, this truth should transcend partisan politics.
Yet AOC later returned to her message when asserting that, “My Jewish constituents have made clear to me that they proudly stand w/ caged children who are starved, denied sleep & sanitation,” in a tweet rejecting an invitation to join the In the Depths organization for a visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau.
Was she implying her “Jewish constituents” are opposed to her learning more about the Holocaust, and avoiding comparisons of ICE agents to Nazis? This is inexcusable, even for AOC. Even someone unable to walk and chew gum at the same time should still be able to care about both immigrants and Jew-hatred simultaneously — by caring about everyone. Instead, she took an expressly divisive and dangerous course, expressing the false notion that concern for both is somehow difficult.
Contrary to some AOC defenders, Nazism did not start with Germans detaining immigrants at the border. It started, as I said, with the idea that the Jews are a sinister cabal who care only about their own and take advantage of humanity at-large. This is the very message conveyed when they condemn concern for the horrors visited upon Jews as a lack of concern for problems faced by others.
Yes, something here is leading America to an ancient form of hate … but it’s not the detainment of immigrants at the border.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken is Managing Director of the Coalition for Jewish Values.