Yad Vashem tells Democrat to get educated after concentration camp comment

Holocaust museum and memorial tweets at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has been criticized for using term to describe detention centers on southern US border

Visitors at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on April 28, 2019 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Visitors at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on April 28, 2019 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum, advised Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to “learn about concentration camps,” after the freshman congresswoman used the term to refer to migrant detention centers.

The New York Democrat has drawn the ire of some Jewish groups, fellow lawmakers and others with the comparison.

“The US is running concentration camps on our southern border, and that is exactly what they are,” the freshman New York Democrat had said Monday night in an Instagram Live video.

US Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York speaks during a gathering of the National Action Network in New York, April 5, 2019. (AFP/Don Emmert)

“If that doesn’t bother you… I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that ‘Never again’ means something.”

She tweeted the same message on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Yad Vashem responded with a tweet that included a link to its web page about Nazi labor and concentration camps.

Ocasio-Cortez has 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.

But critics, mostly on the right, say Ocasio-Cortez not only exaggerated what is happening in the detention facilities, but belittled the ways Jews suffered when the Nazis turned their concentration camps into death camps.

Congresswoman Liz Cheney urged Ocasio-Cortez to “spend just a few minutes learning some actual history” about the six million Jews exterminated in the Holocaust.

Immigrant children outside the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, a former Job Corps site that now houses them in Homestead, Florida, on June 20, 2018. (AP/Brynn Anderson)

Senator Lindsey Graham said that “comparing the men and women serving our country to concentration camp guards (does) the Congress and country a great disservice.”

A number of Democrats have also weighed in on Ocasio-Cortez’s comment. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called the comparison “wrong,” while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said “I have not used that word.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Brian Schatz D-Hawaii, did not seem to mind the comparison.

“Call it a concentration camp or call it something else. What’s happening on our southern border is moral stain on the U.S.,” he wrote on Twitter. 

AFP contributed to this report.

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