Over the weekend, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee set off a media firestorm with a statement to Breitbart News that President Barack Obama’s policy on Iran "will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven."
This “oven” remark was swiftly criticized, particularly by Democrats and Jewish organizations. Even Obama himself remarked Monday that Huckabee's comment might be "just an effort to push Mr. [Donald] Trump out of the headlines" and "part of just a general pattern" among Republicans that "would be considered ridiculous if it weren't so sad."
Despite the criticism, Huckabee has so far not backed down from his comment. He later tweeted, "Tell Congress to do their constitutional duty and reject the Obama-Kerry #IranDeal,” accompanied by an image showing the “oven” remark.
Huckabee's quote brings a recurring question back to the public discourse: When, if ever, is it appropriate to invoke the Holocaust in making a political or otherwise public statement about an issue?
Lest you think that Huckabee is the first politician or public figure to make such an analogy, the following is a list of a few others, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who made Holocaust allusions. In each case, the context is different, and the appropriateness is up for debate. In some of the cases, the speakers did subsequently apologize for their remarks.
U.S. Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.)
Schweikert received heavy backlash in June for criticizing labor unions' opposition to free trade by stating that "[Nazi propagandist Joseph] Goebbels would be very proud of them."
New Mexico State Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero (D-Albuquerque)
During a debate about repealing a 2003 law that allowed illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses meeting of the House Safety and Civil Affairs Committee, Caballero wanted to make the point that the repeal of such a law would force illegal immigrants into a state of second-class citizenship.
“It reminds me of stories we heard about the Holocaust,” she said.
Idaho State Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll (R-Cottonwood)
In 2013, Nuxoll said her state should refuse to open a health insurance exchange required by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) because while the federal government is allowing private insurers in the exchange for now, it will eventually remove such insurers so that only public insurance options remains.
"Much like the Jews boarding the trains to concentration camps, private insurers are used by the feds to put the system in place because the federal government has no way to set up the exchange. Based on legislation and the general process that is written toward this legislation, the federal government will want nothing to do with private insurance companies," Nuxoll said.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
This spring, Kennedy, the nephew of former president John F. Kennedy and son of former U.S. senator Robert F. Kennedy, compared vaccine-induced autism to the Holocaust, despite research linking autism to vaccinations being disproven.
"They get the shot, that night they have a fever of a hundred and three, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone. This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country," said Kennedy, Jr.
Canadian Federal Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney
Allusions to the Holocaust are not limited to American politics. In March, Canada's Blaney defended a provision in a proposed Canadian anti-terror bill that would prohibit the transmission of terrorist propaganda online.
"The Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers. It began with words," he said, later refusing to retract his comment and adding: “Violence starts with words, hatred begins with words.”
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott
In February, Abbott criticized the unemployment record of Australia's Labor party by saying that the party had caused "a holocaust of jobs." He immediately withdrew the remark and corrected it to "a decimation of jobs."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Netanyahu has not shied away from making Holocaust references—particularly, like Huckabee, to make a point about the danger that a nuclear Iran poses to Israel.
In a recent example of such a remark, at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Netanyahu said that “just as the Nazis aspired to crush civilization and to establish a ‘master race’ to replace it in controlling the world while annihilating the Jewish people, so too does Iran strive to gain control over the [Middle East] region, from which it would spread further, with the explicit intent of obliterating the Jewish state."
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah, and Hamas
Both Abbas and the Palestinian Fatah faction are no strangers to using the Holocaust as a way to make statements against Israel.
In January, Fatah posted a photoshopped picture of Netanyahu wearing a Nazi uniform. This is just one recent example in a string of instances of PA and Fatah comparisons of Israel and Jews to the Nazis, a trend that has been documented by Palestinian Media Watch.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Hamas terror group, which controls the Gaza Strip, has utilized similar rhetoric.
“What is the difference between what Netanyahu, [Israel Defense Minister Moshe] Ya'alon, and [former IDF chief of staff Benny [Gantz] are doing—killing thousands of civilians, children, women, entire neighborhoods, targeting mosques, destroying hospitals and schools—what’s the difference between that and what the Nazis did in the 1930’s and ‘40’s? And what Hitler did. This is the real holocaust," said Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in 2014.
MSNBC’s Michael Eric Dyson
Holocaust allusions are also not limited to politics. In 2013, when speaking about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and the court's decision on the Voting Rights Act (Shelby County v. Holder), MSNBC analyst Dyson said, “A symbolic Jew has invited a metaphoric Hitler to commit holocaust and genocide upon his own people."
Jewish comedian Joan Rivers
Rivers, who died last year, invoked the Holocaust in 2013 when commenting on a dress worn by German supermodel Heidi Klum.
"The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens," Rivers said.
British comedian Russell Brand
Brand was kicked out of the GQ Men of the Year Awards in 2013 after he said in a speech, “If any of you know a little bit about history and fashion, you'll know Hugo Boss made the uniforms for the Nazis."
"But they did look f**king fantastic, let's face it, while they were killing people on the basis of their religion and sexuality," he said.
Brand later tweeted, "GQ editor: 'What you did was very offensive to Hugo Boss.' Me: 'What Hugo Boss did was very offensive to the Jews'. #GQAwards #nazitailor."