WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish groups called on a Democratic congressman to apologize for using Holocaust terminology in attacking Republicans.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), addressing the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday night in a debate over a Republican bill to repeal last year’s heath care reforms, likened Republican claims to tactics used by the Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels.
"They say it’s a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels,” he said. He also called the Republican claims a "blood libel."
"The National Jewish Democratic Council criticizes the comments of Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) which compared Republicans to the Nazis and unfortunately reintroduced the Holocaust into the health care debate," said the umbrella body for Jewish Democrats. "As we have said repeatedly, invoking the Holocaust to make a political point is never acceptable – on either side of the aisle."
J Street, the liberal pro-Israel group which endorsed Cohen in the last election, also called on Cohen to apologize.
"J Street strongly opposes the use of Holocaust imagery and Nazi metaphors in American political debate," the group said in a statement. "We have spoken out strongly in the past when it was used by those who we oppose politically, and we also ask our friends to refrain from using such language. We call on Congressman Cohen to apologize for these remarks, and urge him and all American political leaders to refrain from the use of such imagery in the future."
J Street and the NJDC each had condemned former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) last week when she used the term "blood libel" to describe attempts to link pitched right-wing rhetoric to the Jan. 8 shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).
Abraham H. Foxman, Anti-Defamation League national director, said in a statement released Wednesday that using Holocaust analogies trivializes the dangers of anti-Semitism as well as the Holocaust. "No matter how strong one’s objections to any policy or to the tactics of political opponents, invoking the Holocaust and the Nazi effort to exterminate the Jewish people is offensive and has no place in a civil political discourse," he said.
"We respect Representative Cohen’s right to engage in vigorous debate about health care policy. We hope he will reconsider his offensive statement and we urge all members of Congress to reject such odious comparisons."