Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is just one of 435 members of the incoming U.S. House of Representatives, but her youth, surprise primary win in her Bronx-area district, socialism and above all, outspokenness have attracted outsize attention.
So when Ocasio-Cortez, 29, likened the crisis at the U.S. border with Mexico to Jewish refugees that the United States turned away before World War II, the reactions came thick and fast.
“Asking to be considered a refugee & applying for status isn’t a crime,” Ocasio Cortez said Sunday on Twitter after U.S. border agents repelled Central American migrants with tear gas. “It wasn’t for Jewish families fleeing Germany. It wasn’t for targeted families fleeing Rwanda. It wasn’t for communities fleeing war-torn Syria. And it isn’t for those fleeing violence in Central America.”
Attached to her tweet was a now viral Reuters photo of a mother fleeing the tear gas clutching two toddlers, one in diapers.
A number of conservatives have sought to define Ocasio-Cortez as clueless and naive, and some seized upon the tweet to suggest that she was likening the migrants that President Donald Trump has labeled as “invaders” to the 6 million Jews who perished in the Nazi Holocaust.
“New York Democratic Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Sunday compared members of the migrant caravan attempting to enter the United States to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany during the Holocaust” was how the conservative online news site the Daily Caller framed its report on Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet.
“I recommend she take a tour of the Holocaust Museum in DC,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is close to Trump, said Monday in his own tweet. “Might help her better understand the differences between the Holocaust and the caravan in Tijuana.”
Here’s the thing: The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum wasn’t exactly distancing itself from
Ocasio-Cortez’s comment.Asked for comment on whether it is appropriate to liken the Central American refugees to Jews fleeing Germany, a museum spokesman pointed to its statement in 2017 when Trump announced plans to shrink refugee access to the United States. The statement suggested it is not out of place to liken the flight of Jews in the 1930s to subsequent refugee crises, even if the conditions in the home countries of the asylum seekers differ in scale or torment.
—JTA News and Features