Ocasio-Cortez under fire for remark on concentration camps

New York Congresswoman says US operating "concentration camps" on its southern border.

Ben Ariel,

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Reuters

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) came under fire on Tuesday after saying the United States of operating "concentration camps" on its southern border, drawing criticism from Republicans who said she demeaned Jews murdered in the Holocaust, AFP reports.

During a live stream late Monday, Ocasio-Cortez assailed the conditions of detention centers housing thousands of migrants who have crossed the border from Mexico.

"The United States is running concentration camps on our southern border, and that is exactly what they are," Ocasio-Cortez, widely known as AOC, said in a lengthy live post on Instagram.

"The fact that concentration camps are now an institutionalized practice in the home of the free is extraordinarily disturbing, and we need to do something about it," she added, denouncing what she called the "authoritarian and fascist presidency" of Donald Trump.

"I don't use those words lightly," she added. "I use that word because that is what an administration that creates concentration camps is."

Ocasio-Cortez's comments infuriated Republicans, including the party's third ranking congresswoman Liz Cheney, who urged Ocasio-Cortez to "spend just a few minutes learning some actual history" about the six million Jews exterminated in the Holocaust.

"You demean their memory and disgrace yourself with comments like this," Cheney said, according to AFP.

Ocasio-Cortez quickly tweeted back, "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?"

Several other Republicans weighed in with criticism, including Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who said that "comparing the men and women serving our country to concentration camp guards (does) the Congress and country a great disservice."

On Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez defended her use of the term concentration camp, citing experts including a rabbi who say there is a distinction between concentration camps run by Germany in the 1930s and the extermination camps, or death camps, that the Nazis operated beginning in 1941.

This is not the first time that Ocasio-Cortez has used the Holocaust in a controversial manner.

In April, she caused an uproar after she quoted a passage about the Holocaust to defend Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who was criticized for downplaying the 9/11 attacks.

Ocasio-Cortez quoted a famous passage by Martin Niemöller, a German Lutheran pastor who publicly opposed Hitler and spent seven years in concentration camps. He's best known for his quote defending bystanders which he said in postwar lectures.

"First they came for the communists and I did not speak out because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Finally, they came for me and there was no one left to speak out."

Ocasio-Cortez chose this passage to defend Omar, posting a photo of the quote on her Twitter account and writing below them: “Omar's life is in danger. For our colleagues to be silent is to be complicit in the outright, dangerous targeting of a member of Congress.”

Also in April, Ocasio-Cortez said that cutting military and economic aid to Israel as a way to signal opposition to Israeli policies should be “on the table.”




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