Concentration camp comparison flawed

Give U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez credit for one thing: She is highly intelligent — enough so to understand entirely how most people interpret the term, “concentration camp.”

Ocasio-Cortez, a frequent critic of U.S. immigration policy, posted this on Twitter a few days ago: “This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying …”

In part because liberals in Congress blocked funding President Donald Trump’s administration had hoped to improve how immigrants are handled, conditions under which some have been housed are lamentable. Another factor in that is the increase in the number of people attempting to come into the United States illegally.

But they are not “concentration camps” as most people understand the term. It is used frequently to describe the death camps in which Nazi Germany murdered six million Jews and millions of other people.

“Such ignorant comparisons trivialize the Holocaust and thereby undermine the lessons of history we must learn,” said Abe Foxman, director of the Center for the Study of Antisemitism, of Ocasio-Cortez’s comment. Many others, including some who have supported Ocasio-Cortez on other issues, agreed.

For her part, Ocasio-Cortez refuses to retract her words. She insists they are accurate, and she resorts to semantics to defend herself.

It is true enough that many nations, including the United States, have operated concentration camps. Before the extent of Nazi atrocities became evident, the term meant simply a camp where civilians are concentrated for detainment purposes.

But that changed, as Ocasio-Cortez is well aware. Now, “concentration camp” has come to mean a place where human beings are sent to be worked to death or exterminated immediately.

Ocasio-Cortez knows that. In using the words for political purposes, she indeed does trivialize the Holocaust.

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