When my daughter was 7 years old, my sister took her to an exhibit at the Center for Jewish History, which featured artwork of Jewish children from the Theresienstadt concentration camp. The haunting sketches depicted unspeakable horrors drawn by some of the 15,000 children who passed through Theresienstadt. Only 100 of those children survived.
In as kid-friendly a way as possible, my sister explained the drawings that portrayed barbed wire, starvation, disease and the agony of families separated forever, as seen through the eyes of children. She gave a quick and simple history lesson of the Holocaust, simplified to the level of a second grader. But my sister quickly realized the error of assuming the age-appropriateness of such an endeavor when, at the end of the tour, my daughter turned to her and said, “I don’t want to go to that camp this summer.”
Discounting malicious intent on the part of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, her comments a week ago about concentration camps reflect the same comprehension level of a 7-year-old. But as she doubled down on her declaration in the face of criticism, it became all too obvious that we cannot give her the benefit of supposed willful ignorance. Her agenda is far too hostile. And far too dangerous.
Speaking of detention centers housing illegal immigrants, AOC said, “The United States is running concentration camps on our southern border, and that is exactly what they are … ‘Never Again’ means something.” It is easy to understand how the junior congresswoman has become a caricature, as evidenced by her crude and unscripted delivery of ridiculously inaccurate statements, often accompanied by wild gesticulating. But though she may be regarded by some as a bad joke, her incendiary comments are hardly funny. Especially when they are gaining support in mainstream America.
While AOC’s comments were met with outrage from Republican lawmakers, Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, Holocaust survivors and others, they were met with an equal amount of support from many in the media, academia and the Democratic Party. Some defenders, like Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, were predictable. “I am a hundred percent with Alex,” she said. “There are camps, and people are being concentrated. This is very simple. I don’t know why this is a controversial thing to say.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi diverted attention from AOC by accusing Republicans of rushing to “misrepresent” and “exploit” their opponents’ words. Which is an unsurprising defense mechanism for the leader who refused to oust Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee for her own brand of anti-Semitism. These many supporters of AOC — some of them, inexplicably, Jewish — enable her to lash out at “shrieking Republicans” for their criticism, refuse an invitation to an actual concentration camp, and insist, “I will never apologize for calling these camps what they are.” The controversy surrounding the New York congresswoman’s remarks has not abated. Neither has it succeeded in convincing progressive followers that their darling has erred. For Jews in particular, this is a disquieting trend. Because the growing danger of AOC is not AOC, but rather who and what is behind her.
A powerful force is sweeping through this country, pushing the left so far up against a leftist wall that radical progressive policies, both social and fiscal, are being adopted or at least considered by almost every one of the more than 20 Democratic presidential candidates. While the “Impeach Trump” segment of the Democratic Party might still be a minority, aided by a ready media, they are loud enough to terrorize establishment Democrats, many in leadership positions. And the real threat comes from the threat of more to come.
Congresswomen like AOC, Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley are examples of freshman politicians pushed forward by the Justice Democrats, a group initially formed by fierce Bernie Sanders supporters in 2016. Some of their upstarts replaced long-serving politicians. AOC is a 29-year-old former activist and bartender who would never be in Congress today had the Justice Democrats not recruited her, groomed her and continue now to direct her activities. Campaigning on free health care, free college, the abolishment of ICE, the ludicrous Green New Deal and other radical policies, Justice Democrats have gained confidence from their 2018 wins, gaining momentum to challenge more incumbent Democrats. Despite pushback from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which warned in March that it would cease doing business with political strategists who support challenging incumbent House Democrats, the group remains undaunted. And they are setting their sights on primarying more congressmen in 2020, including Congressman Eliot Engel, a House member since 1989.
Despite their political prowess, Jews seem to be vulnerable pawns in this game. Besides being associated with Israel, a country that leftists love to malign, Jews are a miniscule dot on the electoral map. Progressives like the Justice Democrats, who love to promote minorities in an effort to expand their voter base, likely view Jews as an expendable minority. And progressive Jews enable this.
What to do? Speak up. Protest. Vote.
Anti-Semitism cannot be held a political hostage. If language of the Holocaust is diminished, so are its memory and magnitude. Concentration camps — and the slogan “Never Again” — are consecrated as standing for the greatest atrocity perpetrated against the Jews. My 7-year-old daughter is now grown up and knows better. AOC and her minions need to be held accountable to know better as well.