I was disappointed but not at all surprised to see the PJC editorial page once again devote its space to spreading the latest right-wing faux outrage. This time the target was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-NY) who last week accurately described immigrant detention centers on the southern border as concentration camps.
While today the phrase “concentration camp” may most often invoke memories of the Nazi death camps of the Holocaust, those are not the only concentration camps used in modern history. Racist and hateful governments across the globe have used concentration camps in order to dehumanize, oppress, and, purge their lands of religious, ethnic, and racial minorities viewed as “undesirable.” This country’s own government previously has used concentration camps to imprison and kill Native Americans and, more recently, to detain Americans of Japanese descent during World War II.
Concentration camp literally means “a place where large numbers of people are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities.” This is an apt description for the cages currently holding young children who are being deprived of toothbrushes, blankets, medical care and other basic necessities of life. While these detention centers are not being operated with the goal of killing those being held, at least seven children in U.S. detention have died in recent months and the descriptions of the conditions inside these facilities are nothing short of horrific.
Neither the Jewish people nor any other group owns a monopoly on suffering. Recognizing current humanitarian crises does not betray our memory of those of the past. Instead of lecturing Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, the PJC could use its pages to bring attention to the horrors being inflicted on innocent children on our border right now and informing its readers of actions that can be taken to aid those who are suffering. These children, and their parents, have done nothing more than flee their homelands, where they have faced violence, seeking refuge in our country. All Americans, and certainly those of us in the Jewish community, easily should be able to empathize with such a plight.
Perhaps the PJC’s editorial staff should be more concerned with, and offended by, the policies coming out of the White House than the congresswoman’s Twitter feed.