Why AOC’s Comments Crossed the Border

A non-Jewish friend who has worked to confront Antisemitism asked for Jewish help explaining why the reaction to AOC and her Holocaust comments was so strong. Jews do not have an exclusive on being persecuted, so why such a focus? Here is what I commented in reply:

There is (of course) something unique to the Jewish experience with persecution. There is no other people, religion or ethnicity that has spent thousands of years facing implacable enemies who wish to exterminate them outright — as Pharoah and Haman did in ancient times, and Hitler and Hezbollah did and do in modern times… to say nothing of the massacres of Jews by Crusaders, Cossacks, Jihadis and others over the years in between.

So the claim that “Jews don’t have a unique experience to being born into persecution” is actually symptomatic of the same problem we are discussing. The very idea that a flawed system for processing an overwhelming number of immigrants seeking asylum at the southern border is somehow comparable to an expression of genocidal hatred has no place in civilized discourse. What both share in common is that they minimize the Jewish experience.

AOC should have apologized. Instead she offered contradictory excuses: first she said there are all sorts of concentration camps. Then she backtracked and said that, on the contrary, concentration and death camps are two different things. She thus claimed that she did not mean to compare the border to Nazis, which is obviously false: when people say “concentration camps” today, this almost always refers to places like Auschwitz, and when you add the term “Never Again,” as she did, then it is absolutely, exclusively, a reference to Nazi death camps for Jews. And then she quoted ultra-leftists of Jewish extraction who said, without exaggeration, that since concentration camps led to death camps, America is going to start deliberately slaughtering people at the border.

And all the while, she and her allies attacked anyone who pointed out that this was repulsive.

As someone pointed out, every politician (especially in a place like New York City) knows you can’t needlessly offend ethnic and other constituencies. You want to maintain good relations with every group. AOC may not be an Ilhan Omar or Rashida Tlaib, but she has lied about Israeli “atrocities” in Gaza, claimed Israelis are stealing land (Jewish theft, a classic Antisemitic trope) despite showing she really has no idea what’s going on over there, and now has compared the genocidal extermination of Jews to the situation at the border.

The idea that a politician can make a career out of bigotry towards a particular minority is an idea America was supposed to have discarded 50 years ago. Had she said something comparable about Blacks or Asians her career would be over. Instead she is gaining allies. That says something scary about America today.

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10 Responses

  1. Thomas Lowinger says:

    The Jews are a smaller minority in New York City now. The progressives are taking over. They have, or soon will have the majority of the population supporting them, They will say and do irrespective of what the Jews think or want.

  2. Charlie Hall says:

    I have been a harsh critic of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez on many matters. But not on this. Concentration camps — by that or a similar term — were used by the Spanish in Cuba and by the British in South Africa before the Nazi Party existed. Franklin Roosevelt used the term to describe the camps he would set up to imprison Japanese nationals and Japanese American citizens. Concentration camps were not initially used by the Nazis for Jews but for political opponents.

    It is accurate to call these camps by that terms particularly as people are dying in them and the persons being held there are being denied basic needs. It is also worth noting that some if the people in these camps are survivors of a Holocaust like genocide in Guatemala that took place in the 1980s, a genocide that its current President denies happened.

    “The idea that a politician can make a career out of bigotry towards a particular minority is an idea America was supposed to have discarded 50 years ago.”

    Donald Trump brought back that idea and was elected President largely through a campaign of hatred against Muslims and Mexicans. He has now extended that to people from Central America. You should be raving against Trump, not against Ocasio-Cortez.

    • Yaakov Menken says:

      Charlie, this is bending yourself like a pretzel to avoid the obvious. Yad Vashem, half a dozen Holocaust museums in this country and a Polish MP have all condemned her remarks — none of whom have any other involvement in American politics. Once you add “never again” to “concentration camps,” as she did in her Instagram video, you are talking only and uniquely about Nazi concentration camps for Jews.

      People are not “dying in them.” People arrive in poor condition after an arduous journey, at which point some of them cannot be saved. But to blame ICE for their deaths is obscene. Neither are they in prison or being rounded up — if they don’t like it, they don’t have to come in, and can leave immediately to return south. Unless you can find another case where people deliberately streamed into concentration camps, you should be embarrassed to have made such a comparison.

      This is all born of the same place as your false claim that Trump conducted a “campaign of hatred.” He said that illegal immigrants are bringing crime, as did Presidents Clinton and Obama. And he never had anything against Muslims, just Islamic terrorism — which is why his much-vaunted “Muslim ban” involved fewer than 10% of the world’s Muslims, from countries identified as harboring terrorism under the Obama administration.

      Just on Thursday, the President told the military to back down from retaliation for Iran downing a US drone when he heard it would kill 150 enemy Muslim soldiers. Any rational person would reconsider the idea that he is a warmonger or hates Muslims in the wake of that decision. But politics makes some people irrational.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      You seem to be against profiling anyone which in Israel works, as opposed to the very dubious procedures employed by TSA at any airport. Like it or not, we know who commits violent crime in the inner cities of the US, who commit acts of terrorism ,threaten Israel with existential threats of destruction and who are the largest traffickers in drugs and human trafficking, and who are afforded “sanctuary ” status in many states where they become repeat violent offenders .Pointing out these facts neither is racist nor a display of “hatred.”

  3. emet le'amito says:

    I get it; she loves to walk close to the line with her anti-semitic tropes. An old boss told me not to get chalk on the hems of my trousers and compete fairly in the middle of the ring.

    But she is not the problem; it is when Pelosi and Nadler come to her defense that is more bothersome. I concentrate on the main event, not the preliminary side-show.

  4. Steve Brizel says:

    It is a gross misreading and comparison of history to compare the situation on the southern border of the US with the events that led to the Holocaust. Those who could not enter the U S in the late 1930s were fleeing religious persecution. No such comparison is present on the southern border, where immigration is encouraged by those who see no right of the US to prevent those who bring no skills or education to enter the US — let alone a valid reason to enter the US.

  5. Steve Brizel says:

    The Democrats are so scared of their left wing base that they ignore open Anti Semitism. This is Corbinization writ large

  6. Steve Brizel says:

    a person who turns down a tour of Auschwitz from a survivor deserves both our contempt and condemnation as someone intent on marginalizing the uniqueness of the Holocaust.

  7. Bob Miller says:

    If we ever reach a stage in America where we can’t outnumber obvious antisemites or buy them off with money or votes, we have big decisions to make. Leaving America altogether may or may not be the right thing yet, but leaving the Democratic Party and not fawning over their crooked politicians is right for the here and now. As an an example, I see far too much glorification of the radical leftist NY State Attorney General, Letitia James.

  8. Lacosta says:

    The handwriting is on the wall. Does anyone doubt which way the left leaning party will rule when the hordes they are ingressing get the vote? Is there any hope for an anachronistic paternalistic anti PC religion , or its illegitimate homeland, a colonialist belligerent fascistic state? Only the Democrats can move the Jews out of this land, absent messiah’s arrival….

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