WASHINGTON — The Yad Vashem museum in Israel suggested that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez needed a history lesson after the freshman Democrat said migrants at the southern US border were being housed in “concentration camps.”
“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 Israeli museum, billed as a world center for Holocaust research, tweeted Wednesday at the New York Democrat. “Learn about concentration camps,” the tweet also said, as it linked to the museum’s web page on labor and concentration camps.
Ocasio-Cortez initially compared border facilities to Nazi-era concentration camps during an Instagram live session from her DC apartment Monday night.
She has stood by her comments since, tweeting Wednesday morning, “The US ran concentration camps before, when we rounded up Japanese people during WWII. It is such a shameful history that we largely ignore it.”
“These camps occur throughout history. Many refuse to learn from that shame, but here we are today. We have an obligation to end them,” said the freshman congresswoman representing Queens and the Bronx.
She’s been criticized by Republicans like Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the top GOP woman in the House, as well as Jewish scholars, for diminishing the horrors of the Holocaust.
“Such ignorant comparisons trivialize the Holocaust and thereby undermine the lessons of history we must learn,” Abe Foxman, director of the Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, told Jewish Insider.
Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt told Jewish Insider that AOC’s use of “concentration camp” was “misplaced.”
“I think American policy to the people crossing our border is generally mean and vindictive. I think the separation of children from their parents is horrifying and degrades us a nation and a people,” Lipstadt said. “Something can be horrible and not be like the Holocaust.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s fellow Democrats have largely tried to stay out of the brewing controversy.
“The members of Congress, they come to represent their districts and their point of view and they take responsibility for the statements that they make,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Wednesday morning.
“I’m not up to date with her most recent remarks,” Pelosi added. “I saw them on the news, but I haven’t spoken to her about that.”
But Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) offered this advice that sided with the congresswoman: “One of the lessons from the Holocaust is ‘Never Again’ – not only to mass murder, but also to the dehumanization of people, violations of basic rights, and assaults on our common morality.”
“We fail to learn that lesson when we don’t call out such inhumanity in front of us,” he tweeted Tuesday.
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