- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused President Donald Trump of running “concentration camps” to detain migrants and said his administration is “authoritarian and fascist” on Monday.
- “‘Never Again’ means something … the fact that concentration camps are now an institutionalized practice in the home of the free is extraordinarily disturbing,” the lawmaker said during an Instagram Live discussion.
- Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks ignited a fierce debate over whether it’s ethical to invoke World War II concentration camps in criticising the US’s immigrant detention program.
- “‘Never Again’ is the phrase that Jews all over the world use to make sure that the extermination between 1939 and 1945 never happens again,” the Fox anchor Bill Hemmer said on Tuesday. “How in the world is that acceptable?”
- But some Jews and descendants of Holocaust survivors defended Ocasio-Cortez’s argument, emphasising the distinction between concentration camps used for internment and the death camps used for the extermination millions of Jews and others during the Holocaust.
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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doubled down on her argument that President Donald Trump is running “concentration camps” to detain migrants and that his administration is “authoritarian and fascist” on Tuesday.
“Never again means something … the fact that concentration camps are now an institutionalized practice in the home of the free is extraordinarily disturbing,” the lawmaker said during an Instagram Live discussion on Monday night, adding that the Trump presidency is “fascist.”
She went on, “I don’t use those words lightly. I don’t use those words to just throw bombs. I use that word because that is what an administration that creates concentration camps is.”
Ocasio-Cortez referenced reports that the Trump administration is planning on detaining hundreds of migrant children at Oklahoma’s Fort Sill military base, which was used to intern Japanese-Americans during World War II.
The Obama administration expanded the practice of immigrant-family detention and used Fort Sill to detain migrants during a surge in border crossings in 2014. Oklahoma Republicans were opposed to holding migrants at Fort Sill at the time.
“Fort Sill is not designed for this purpose, and turning the facility into a longer-term solution for housing these minors is extremely concerning,” Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin said in 2014.
Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks sparked significant criticism from many, including some pundits and Republican lawmakers, who said it was wrong to compare the US government’s immigrant detention to Nazi Germany’s genocide.
“‘Never Again’ is the phrase that Jews all over the world use to make sure that the extermination between 1939 and 1945 never happens again, and she’s using concentration camps to describe what’s happening on the southern border,” the Fox anchor Bill Hemmer said on Tuesday. “How in the world is that acceptable? Does she not owe every Jew on this planet an apology?”
But Ocasio-Cortez stood by her comments on Tuesday, accusing “shrieking Republicans” of not knowing the difference between concentration camps used for internment and death camps used for genocide.
“Concentration camps are not the same as death camps. This is an important distinction. One of the biggest lessons from that dark history is that it didn’t happen overnight. It emerged out of slow, increasingly concerning steps that acclimated the public to inhumane treatment,” she wrote, linking to a recent Esquire piece that cited historians defining the migrant shelters as concentration camps, or facilities for “mass detention of civilians without trial.”
The progressive congresswoman later exchanged barbs with Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who accused the New York Democrat of demeaning Holocaust victims.
“Please @AOC do us all a favour and spend just a few minutes learning some actual history. 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust,” Cheney wrote. “You demean their memory and disgrace yourself with comments like this.”
Ocasio-Cortez hit back, “Hey Rep. Cheney, since you’re so eager to ‘educate me,’ I’m curious: What do YOU call building mass camps of people being detained without a trial? How would you dress up DHS’s mass separation of thousands children at the border from their parents?”
Cheney replied, “Happy to educate you,” and recommended she read Holocaust survivor testimonies and the book “Night” by Elie Wiesel.
A fierce debate over Ocasio-Cortez’s comments
A Twitter debate over the merits of Ocasio-Cortez’s argument continued on Tuesday.
Some rejected her argument as disrespectful toward Jews and a misreading of history.
“[email protected] No no no. The detention centres were bad enough under Obama, and they have gotten monumentally worse under Trump. It’s a stain on our soul,” the national-security lawyer Bradley P. Moss wrote in a tweet he later deleted. “But these are not the concentration camps. These are not gas chambers. Don’t disrespect Jews, Catholics and gypsies like that.”
Others defended the US government’s practice of detaining migrants, including children.
“Who knew that ‘never again’ means we shouldn’t temporarily hold illegal migrants at the border before, by and large, releasing them into the country, often never to be seen again?” Rich Lowry, the editor of the conservative National Review,wrote.
Meanwhile others, including some Jews and descendants of Holocaust survivors, defended Ocasio-Cortez’s argument, emphasising the distinction between concentration camps and the death camps used to exterminate millions of Jews and others during the Holocaust.
My grandpa’s entire family was murdered in the Holocaust. I’m 100% comfortable with @AOC and anyone else referring to the current situation as concentration camps. The Holocaust didn’t come out of nowhere—it was a slow build, like now. People who understand history know this. https://t.co/agIBjPMNLz
— Marisa Kabas (@MarisaKabas) June 18, 2019
Ok, Internet. Time to learn the difference between concentration camps and death (“extermination”) camps.
Germany started with concentration camps in 1933.
Death camps started in 1941.
Never again is now. https://t.co/W3rbM5asVc
— Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg (@TheRaDR) June 14, 2019