5.19.2009

Eugenics in Israel: Did Jews try to improve the human race too?

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1085596.html
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_X7igbyFfqhw/SBNSGt8R2EI/AAAAAAAAAJI/E7tWSBFAE9I/s400/EugenicsTreeUSlg.jpg
In 1944, psychiatrist Kurt Levinstein gave a lecture at a Tel Aviv conference, where he advocated preventing people with various mental and neurological disorders - such as alcoholism, manic depression and epilepsy - from bringing children into the world.
The means he proposed - prohibition of marriage, contraception, abortion and sterilization - were acceptable in Europe and the United States in the first decades of the 20th century, within the framework of eugenics: the science aimed at improving the human race.
In the 1930s, the Nazis used these same methods in the early stages of their plan to strengthen the Aryan race. Levinstein was aware, of course, of the dubious political connotations implicit in his recommendations, but believed the solid and salutary principles of eugenics could be isolated from their use by the Nazis.
Recent research by historian Rakefet Zalashik on the history of psychiatry in Palestine during the Mandate period and following the founding of the state shows that Levinstein was far from a lone voice. Indeed, she claims in her 2008 book, "Ad Nefesh: Refugees, Immigrants, Newcomers and the Israeli Psychiatric Establishment" (Hakibbutz Hameuchad; in Hebrew), that the eugenics-based concept of "social engineering" was part of the psychiatric mainstream here from the 1930s through the 1950s.
[...]
What set the local experts apart was that they actually studied the foundations of the theory in Germany before immigrating to Palestine, directly from the scientists who supported using eugenics to forcibly sterilize mentally ill and physically disabled Germans - and subsequently to justify their murder. Within a few years, the German scientists were using the same justification for killing Jews.
[...]
For example, psychiatrist Avraham Rabinovich, who worked in the Ezrat Nashim facility in Jerusalem and later managed a mental institution in Bnei Brak, drew a distinction in his patient reports from 1921-1928 between the general population, and Jews of Bukharan, Georgian and Persian descent, whom he referred to as "primitive races."
[...]
The views of these psychiatrists meshed with the goals of the Zionist movement, which at the time propounded a policy of selective immigration.
[...]
"Eugenics was a part of the national philosophy of most of [the local] psychiatrists," says Zalashik. "The theory was that a healthy nation was needed in order to fulfill the Zionist vision in Israel. There was a powerful economic aspect to this view of things - the idea being to prevent people who were perceived as a burden on society from bringing children into the world. And homosexuals and frigid women also fell into this category."
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