The policies of US President Donald Trump have alienated many Americans, as well as numerous governments around the world. In particular, his disturbing characterizations of migrants being an "infestation" and the policy of kidnapping migrant children and detaining them in abusive camps are horrific. It is understandable why some would compare the situation to the early days of Nazi Germany. The use of terms like “animals” or “infestation” were used to describe Jews, Roma, and others deemed undesirable by the fascist regime in Berlin—ultimately leading to their extermination. Yet there is also something disturbing in the constant use of “Nazi/Hitler/Holocaust” by the modern Political Left in regards to Donald Trump. As abhorrent as the treatment is of the migrants, there is no plan to send them to gas chambers, burn them alive, or anything even similar. Calling Trump “Hitler”—as segments of the Left once referred to George W. Bush during his presidency—only makes people take them less seriously. It’s true that all presidents have unsavory policies, and this seems all the more true with Trump in the White House. He has brought our standing to an all-time low, and been needlessly cruel to innocent young children, of all people, who are undeserving of such treatment. But there is a lively debate going on in communities—Jewish and Gentile alike—about whether or not it is appropriate to compare this situation, or anything else in our time, to the Holocaust.
As I said earlier, I can understand why one might see the parallels and point them out to mobilize action and opposition to it. But there is something inappropriate of cheapening the genocide of 11 million people—including 6 million Jews—to every single thing that the Political Left of the 2010s disagrees with. It is particularly insulting considering the staggering levels of anti-Semitism in the modern leftist movement, or the dismissal of Jewish concerns about anti-Jewish attitudes and exclusion in progressive political movements. Consider the Dyke March in Chicago, a movement that is supposed to stand for equality, feminism, and LGBT rights. Last year, it asked Jewish feminists and lesbians in attendance not to march with their Star of David rainbow banners. Undercover reporting later revealed the anti-Semitic views of many of its leaders and participants. The Women’s March is no better, with its leaders (most prominently, Tamika Mallory) embracing the misogynist, homophobic, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist Louis Farrakhan. The leaders and allies of the Women’s March ignored concerns by Jewish communities about Farrakhan’s racism and bigotry, pointing to “all that he has done” for the African-American community. Which is what, exactly, other than being involved somehow in the death of Malcolm X? Shortly afterwards this episode, the Women’s March was active in labeling the creation of Israel a "human rights crime," stated that the human rights group Anti-Defamation League “targets Black and Brown people," and doubled down on its support for Farrakhan. This is to say nothing of the increasing anti-Semitism across the pond in the United Kingdom in its Labour Party, or elsewhere in Europe. The concern over hate crimes in the US and sympathy by “White allies” towards victims of racist abuse often include African-Americans, Latinos, and people from Islamic countries, yet fail to mention support for Jews in light of the rising anti-Semitism from both Right and Left. When concerns about leftist anti-Semitism are brought up by the Jewish community, it is met with “what about Palestine?” or “you should focus on the neo-Nazis” by so-called progressives. This “goysplaining” is bad enough, given that it completely dismisses our concerns about the growing hatred against our people, as well as ignoring our own contributions to various human rights causes. But it is especially disgusting considering that too many in progressive circles feel comfortable appropriating our gravest plight—the Holocaust—for their own purposes yet still completely ignore the growing anti-Semitism, or worse, blame Jews for it. Would the equivalent of this scenario happen with African-Americans? Would it with Mexican-Americans, or Muslims? Too often, double standards are used against Jews, and if the progressive wing of American politics wants to truly embrace anti-racism and keep Jews in its coalition, it needs to shut up and listen for once. Furthermore, these comparisons of everything Trump does to the Holocaust will lead to a further radicalization among his supporters; a dismissal of credible concerns by progressives; and calls of hypocrisy, as Democrats were furious when Barack Obama was compared to Hitler by the Tea Party.
There is a respectful and better way to address the terrible migrant situation and the detainment of children without being insensitive or hypocritical. One would be to compare it to the 1930s in Germany, rather than just lazily throwing out the term “Holocaust.” The migrants are not being exterminated—if it did get to that point, the comparison would be appropriate. But given that it has yet to, it’s more sensitive, appropriate, and respectful to compare it to events in Germany that led to rising racism and a tolerance for intolerance among ordinary citizens. Better yet, compare it to similar instances in American history. The separation of Native children and Black children from their families was commonplace during the settler movement in North America and during slavery. Why not use these precedents as a comparison? Not only is it more comparable, it actually happened in this country, yet few people know about it or grasp its gravity. Like Jews, Native Americans and their plight is either totally sidelined or ignored among social justice movements and in the media, even though they face some of the worst discrimination in the country. If intersectionality and linkage is the goal of the modern progressive movement to dismantle all forms of racism, then the first place they should be looking to make a comparison is with the history of various Native American tribes. There is also work to be done within the Jewish community. Some of those making these Holocaust comparisons mean no harm, and actually do take anti-Semitism very seriously. We shouldn’t label everyone an insensitive hypocrite who uses these comparisons, but rather work on engaging people in a constructive way on what is and isn’t an appropriate way to discuss the Holocaust. We can also realize that some Holocaust survivors and other Jews may feel comfortable comparing recent events to certain aspects of the Holocaust, and engage in dialogue with them about it. The recent episode at the border concerning the migrants gives us an opportunity to organize and advocate against the egregious human rights abuses against innocent children and their families. But it also gives us the chance to speak up against the gross hypocrisy of the far-left when it comes to cultural appropriation and Jewish plight, while constructively working together to create new modes of comparison and intersectionality.