Question: When is it appropriate to describe a detention center for immigrants as a concentration camp? Meta-question: Millions of Americans, including intellectuals, politicians, and religious leaders, are engaging in this discussion — what does that tell us about America?
A fervent, raging discourse on this topic of naming immigrant and refugee detention camps has exploded in a place you might associate more with lighter fare — Twitter. The debate started with a description of the centers as “concentration camps” by lightning rod Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and snowballed with a condemnatory tweet by Representative Liz Cheney.
But considering that the controversy centers around the way we remember the Holocaust, what are actual Jewish people saying?
We collected 18 searing tweets from both sides of the debate, from Jewish people.
You can join in with your opinion in this poll:
Is it ok to refer to the US government’s detention of immigrants at the border as “concentration camps”?— The Forward (@jdforward) June 19, 2019
1.Writer Seth Mandel, invoking Professor Deborah Lipstadt:
Just go ahead and pin this to the walls of Capitol Hill pic.twitter.com/3gntGiLh3S— Seth Mandel (@SethAMandel) June 19, 2019
2.Comedy writer Bess Kalb
Jew here. @AOC’s point is exactly why we say “Never forget.” The Holocaust did not begin with the murder of 6 million Jews. It began with the same dehumanization, deportation, and internment we see today. You, sickeningly, invoke the Holocaust to minimize their suffering. Shame.— Bess Kalb (@bessbell) June 18, 2019
- Democratic activist David Nir
Let me say this very clearly as the son of a Holocaust survivor: The only apology I want is from people who seek to weaponize false charges of antisemitism against the left while ignoring the very real threat of anti-Jewish hatred on the right pic.twitter.com/VHLBaDqFmM— David Nir (@DavidNir) June 18, 2019
- Jewish Twitter user @kweansmom
Dear Fellow Jews:
Please stop using the statement that “my relatives were killed in the Holocaust” as evidence that you are a Holocaust authority.
We all have relatives who were killed in the Holocaust.
Nobody has the authority to speak for all of us.— (((kweansmom))) (@kweansmom) June 19, 2019
- Comedian Sarah Silverman
She‘s well versed in this history. That’s how she recognizes it as it repeats. Liz, you should read #FacingHistoryAndOurselves https://t.co/ffAqUWFEZF— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) June 18, 2019
- Political theory professor Jacob Levy
“You can’t make Hitler analogies until there are at least six million dead” say people who make Stalin analogies when the top marginal tax rate goes up by 3%.— Jacob T. Levy (@jtlevy) June 19, 2019
- Journalist Jonathan M. Katz
There are an incredible number of lies people are trying to sell today to get people to look away from Trump’s concentration camps. Let’s dispense with one of the big ones: the idea that they can’t be camps because the conditions inside are fine.
That’s a lie. People are dying.— Jonathan M. Katz✍🏻 (@KatzOnEarth) June 19, 2019
- Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice For Peace
deeply appreciating Jewish Twitter & Historian Twitter for explaining why yes, these are concentration camps & yes, this is how it began (which doesn’t mean that’s how it has to end). The Nazis tested the public to see what it would tolerate. That means our moment is now.— Rebecca Vilkomerson (@RVilkomerson) June 18, 2019
- Leah Greenberg, Co-Executive Director of Indivisible
Insisting that the Holocaust was uniquely evil and can’t be compared to anything else is a ploy to place it outside of history & politics.
People who do this are trying to distract from the obvious parallels with the campaign of escalating dehumanization happening here and now.— Leah Greenberg (@Leahgreenb) June 18, 2019
- Twitter account @AG_Conservative
Wow. Yad Vashem directly calls out AOC for her comparison of U.S. immigrant detention facilities to Nazi concentration camps and asked her to learn more about the issue.
Really embarrassing to the people who tried to defend it yesterday. https://t.co/7YBcMNv5RZ— (((AG))) (@AG_Conservative) June 19, 2019
- New York Post columnist Karol Markowicz
John Cusack pushes the “Jewish money controls everything” trope, AOC minimizes the Holocaust, but sure, Liz Cheney and Meghan McCain are the problem.— Karol Markowicz (@karol) June 19, 2019
12.Actress Rosanna Arquette,
Wake up. We have concentration camps in America— Rosanna Arquette (@RoArquette) June 19, 2019
- Ron Coleman, lawyer
How many times have we gone through the “detaining illegal immigrants is another Holocaust” cycle in the last two years?
This is at least round three.
Why do we treat this idiotic formulation as shocking and necessitating a full-bore response each time?— Ron Coleman (@RonColeman) June 19, 2019
- New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg
It’s more depraved than that. They’re using mock outrage over the memory of the Holocaust to minimize outrage over mass internment camps. https://t.co/DFl3AOjmG3— Michelle Goldberg (@michelleinbklyn) June 18, 2019
- Jewish comedy tweet account, @OhNoSheTwitnt
When it comes to arguing about calling them concentration camps, I’m anti-semantics.— The Volatile Mermaid (@OhNoSheTwitnt) June 19, 2019
- Bill Prady, TV producer
As a Jewish American who spent his childhood attending family holidays with old folk who had numbers tattooed on their arms, I can’t tell you how repulsive @Liz_Cheney’s pandering and exploitative philosemitism is.
She needs to brush up on her history.https://t.co/bxy6UnFtRI— Bill Prady (@billprady) June 18, 2019
- Rabbi Abraham Cooper, via the Simon Wiesenthal Center
Rabbi Abraham Cooper: @AOC claim that US runs #concentrationcamps is absurd and insulting https://t.co/jBqEfrTbAm #FoxNews— SimonWiesenthalCntr (@simonwiesenthal) June 18, 2019
- Jewish writer Ariel Sobel
Hey, all the non-Jews voicing their opinions on concentration camps, we missed you on Holocaust Remembrance Day 😬— Ariel Sobel (@arielsobelle) June 19, 2019
And a few choice tweets from non-Jews:
Chris Hayes, MSNBC host
Last comment on this: “concentration camp” is an extremely charged term and I get why many people are, in good faith, uncomfortable with its application for Godwin’s Law purposes among others. So let’s just call them “detention camps” and focus on what’s happening in them.— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) June 18, 2019
Akilah Hughes, writer
It is kinda bizarre that the official stance of the right is “wait til we strategically murder all these people before you just start calling it a concentration camp”— Akilah Hughes (@AkilahObviously) June 19, 2019
Donald Trump, Jr.
👀🔥👀🔥👀 https://t.co/EtTi3YyHiD— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) June 18, 2019
George Takei, actor
I know what concentration camps are. I was inside two of them, in America. And yes, we are operating such camps again.— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) June 19, 2019
Dr. Katie Mack, astrophysicist
Because concentration camps are concentration camps https://t.co/27gE0cbAjC— Katie Mack (@AstroKatie) June 19, 2019
Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny