I am reluctant to write about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Not just because she is written about quite enough already. But because she has developed an almost Trumpian habit of saying things that are largely untrue but assured to get her attention. Consider, for instance, her claim that on arrival at her new place of work she (perhaps the most prominent and recognizable new member of Congress) kept getting mistaken for a spouse or an intern. It is possible, I suppose. But it smells bogus.
Anyhow — there is one recent thing she has done that is worthy of note. And that is her decision to compare the migrant “caravan” moving up through South America to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. During the European migrant crisis of 2015 and onwards we have often heard a similar claim from pro-mass-immigration voices in Europe. Always and everywhere they are worth countering.
Because the problem with the comparison is not just that the claim is emotive or almost sacrilegious in its willingness to weaponize history to persuade people to your side in a transitory political challenge. The problem is that it is incorrect.
In order for a group of people to be equivalent to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, the group would have to be fleeing a regime that is attempting to annihilate their entire people. They would then have to be trying to find sanctuary not in the best place, or the ideal place, but in any place on earth where they were not going to be slaughtered en masse because of their race.
During the European migrant crisis there was perhaps one group that might have fit that description: the Yezidis. In 2014 this ancient and fascinating culture was at risk of being wiped out entirely when ISIS flooded into the Yezidi areas of Northern Iraq and attempted to impose their brutal seventh-century literalism on an area that has rightly been described as a Jurassic Park of world religions. But even then, the Yezidis could have been helped (as many were) to get to the Kurdish region of northern Iraq as well as other neighboring areas. Had they not been able to get there (and many thousands were not) then an entirely plausible case could have been made to airlift the Yezidis en masse to anywhere on earth that could save their people from the total annihilation and slavery that ISIS envisaged for them. So the Yezidis are not exactly a fit with Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. But they are the nearest fit in recent times.
Who can honestly say that people fleeing violence and economic crises in South America — serious and undeniable though these problems may be — can be compared even to Yezidis in 2014? Let alone to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930s and ’40s. The answer is — only someone who is either dishonest or ignorant of the past and present. Going on an array of evidence (not least Ocasio-Cortez’s interview with Margaret Hoover from earlier this year), it is genuinely hard to tell which might be the motivating cause in this case.