Here’s a good rule of thumb for Congress: Unless it’s an actual genocide, don’t compare anything to the Holocaust. Ever. The fate of the victims of the Holocaust was painfully unique. This statement should be all too obvious and simple, but for some reason it’s not.
Over the years, I’ve watched, read and observed so many Holocaust-related books, films, discussions and conversations. Never have I witnessed the Holocaust bandied about so glibly, so casually — neaver mind, for a moment, as inaccurately, by comparing migrant detention centers at the border of the US, going so far as to use the word “exactly,” to “concentration camps” — as was done this past week in a video disseminated by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The tone, the narcissism, the immaturity, the know-it-all attitude. When you consider that offensive layer in addition to the ignorance, it just boggles the mind.
It seems that in one of the criticisms addressing Ocasio-Cortez, the phrase “the extermination of the Jews” was employed. She, instead of showing a smidgen of self-reflection, regret or understanding, doubled down. She took offense at this choice of words; it was they that she chose to focus on.
But you know what, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, words do have meaning. The Jews were exterminated. The Nazis did, horrifyingly, view Jewish human being as vermin. Yes, Jews were targeted and exterminated in concentration camps, like rats. That’s precisely what happened; that’s precisely what you compared the border detention centers to by calling them “concentration camps.”
I know, people often talk about how six million Jews perished. Perished. It sounds so much better than exterminated. It’s nice, it’s sterile, instead of gruesome and sadistic. But that’s not what happened. Jews were not tomatoes on the supermarket shelf that “perished” and went bad on their own. Jews in Nazi Germany didn’t just disappear, didn’t just “perish” because they were past their expiration date. It’s not about expiration, it’s about extermination. An all-too-calculated plan to exterminate the Jews and eliminate them completely from the earth.
When someone in the Jewish community uses “extermination,” it is because this precisely reflects the reality. It is what happened.
Jews in Nazi Germany were targeted and rounded up from within their own country by their own government for one reason and one reason only: because they were Jews. They were brutalized. Confined to ghettoes. Beaten. Murdered. Slaughtered. Burnt in crematoria, where they went up in smoke. Shot in mass graves.
And not just German Jews — Jews all over Europe. Genocide.
Like Pol Pot and the Cambodians, or the Ottomans and the Armenians.
Genocide. That is the difference between the detention centers at the US southern border and the Holocaust language used by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Her intended comparison was obvious. The cluster of these two words — “concentration camp” — and “Never Again” mean one thing in our society: Holocaust.
So now, in addition to trivializing the Holocaust and hurting survivors and the Jewish community, Ocasio-Cortez has us arguing over semantics and definitions and basic Holocaust history instead of her supposed intention of illuminating the troubling reality facing immigrants at the US border.
The situation at the border is difficult and complicated enough. Why the need to exaggerate it to make a point? Not only is this wrong, it is ineffective. Because now there is no credibility in her call for attention. It isn’t taken seriously once it has been caricatured and twisted into something it is not.
If her goal were to generate a productive conversation about more compassionate border enforcement, she had other words available, besides “concentration camps.”
Going straight for “concentration camp” is nothing short of provocative and narcissistic — creating a discussion that would obviously put Cong. Ocasio-Cortez and her bombastic antics at the center of the discussion — versus the humanitarian topic itself. She did not create a conversation that could possibly help immigrants and potential immigrants.
It’s highly frustrating and concerning to see invitations from Jewish organizations extended to first-term American congresswomen for the purpose of educating them about basics facts regarding anti-Semitism, about the basic history of the formation of the state of Israel, and about the basics of Holocaust history.
While I genuinely do believe in the process of learning, of changing and of growing, it is hard to believe these congresswomen are truly as ignorant as either they or their defenders say about such fundamental life truths and seminal historic events. But if they truly are so ignorant, this only begs the question: Why are they American congresswomen?
Copyright Intermountain Jewish News