Guardian

Guardian columnist compares Israel to an autistic child


Here’s the headline of a Nov. 1 column by the Guardian’s Giles Fraser,

austistic

Fraser was evidently inspired to explore such analogy by his dismay over Israel’s recent decision to build homes in its capital:

This week the Israeli government announced final approval for 1,500 new apartments in East Jerusalem. Much of the rest of the world – even the US – complains vigorously about all this highly contentious settlement building. But it makes little difference. Israel doesn’t listen. It just keeps on doing its own thing, indifferent to the calls of the international community. The impression given is that Israel doesn’t give two hoots what anybody else thinks.

Naturally, Fraser fails to mention the 104 Palestinian prisoners – convicted of murder, attempted murder or being an accessory to murder – who Israel agreed to release (despite the anguished pleas of terror victims’ families) in order to please the ‘international community’ and resume peace talks – a fact inconsistent with his caricature of a country not giving “two hoots” about what others think.

Now, for Fraser’s pseudo-intellectualizing:

It is, claims French academic Diana Pinto in a recent book, a form of national autism. Back in 2009, French Europe minister Pierre Lellouche called British foreign policy “autistic” for being introverted and self-absorbed…

Her argument begins by noting that Israel is brilliant scientifically and technologically. Amazingly, for so tiny a place, it has more companies listed on the Nasdaq, the hi-tech stock market, than all of Europe combined. This start-up revolution has, she insists, replaced the kibbutz as Israel’s “conceptual motor”. Israel works fantastically well in cyberspace. Perhaps it always has. Zionism, until very recently, has long been a dream, a sort of virtual reality. Those who have, for centuries, been hounded as aliens in other people’s lands, might have learnt to live more freely in the imagination than in the harsh reality of poverty and pogroms.

But the flip side of all this prodigy-like technological mastery is a lack of empathy, an inability to meet the gaze or to enter into the emotional reality of its neighbours. In this Rain Man caricature, Israel lives in an existential bubble, cut off (by a wall, both mental and literal) from its surroundings.

Of course, it was the unimaginable lack of empathy of Palestinian terrorists – who indiscriminately targeted Israeli men, women and children in waves of sadistic suicide bomb attacks in the early and mid 2000s – which necessitated the security fence in the first place.

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Passover massacre, Netanya, 2002

Later, Fraser’s argument gets even stranger, as he suggests that even Judaism’s lack of interest in proselytizing also suggests a lack of empathy.

This introversion Pinto links with Judaism’s lack of interest in religious conversion. “Any attempt to convert others implies finding the best way to interact with them by penetrating into their deepest values and symbols … in brief, dialoguing. 

Now, for the finale in Fraser’s efforts at “dialoguing” with those ‘stiff-necked’ Israeli Jews:

Autistic personalities rarely dialogue.” In other words, Israel lives in its own little cyberspace, a loner that doesn’t play well with other people.

So, to conclude, Fraser posits that Israel is not unlike a child – with arrested cognitive development – who doesn’t play well with others!

Of course, only someone suffering from the most pronounced political myopia could fail to acknowledge that it has been Israel’s neighbors – through 65 years of war, terrorism, antisemitic indoctrination, boycotts, and other forms of racist violence and exclusion – who have been guilty of “not playing nicely with others”.

Perhaps Fraser can write a follow-up post, psychoanalyzing Arabs (and Palestinian Arabs) who clearly prefer wallowing in their malign obsession with Israel (and their own sense of victimhood) than learning to accept (and benefit from) a normal relationship with the Jewish state.

In fairness, Fraser walks back his argument a bit towards the end of his column by citing a Cambridge University professor who was critical of his Autism analogy. Nevertheless, the fact that such a facile (and remarkably bizarre) hypothesis ever saw the light of day in a ‘mainstream’ UK broadsheet in the first place speaks volumes about the strange obsession with Jews and Israel by a significant segment of the British Left.

49 replies »

  1. No he didnt compare. Quite the opposite. Read the last 3 paragraphs in which he attacks the idea that israel is autistic.

    • The fact that he didn’t fully accept the analogy doesn’t change the fact that he clearly legitimized it, and clearly thinks it has value in explaining Israeli ‘pathos’.

      • He doesnt accept it at all. Its a shame your anti-guardian bias to wilfully misinterpret what he wrote.
        How else was he going to knock down the theory without mentioning it?

        • A metaphor is not a theory, uneducated schlaim.
          Fraser was attracted by this metaphor, which tells a lot, but when discovering that its implications contradicted his illusions, he dismissed it.
          “So here then is the real problem with Pinto’s metaphor. It is fatalistic, without the possibility of change. History teaches the current situation cannot be permanent. One day, surely, the walls will fall.”

          • Metaphor/theory whatever. Fraser dismisses it, and not as the mendacious headline to this blog post suggests.

            • What exactly is ‘mendacious’ about the headline “Guardian columnist compares Israel to an autistic child.” ?

              I trust you will either substantiate your accusation or withdraw the foul slur you have cast at Adam.

              • It is mendacious because Fraser didn’t compare Israel to an autistic child. Quite the opposite, in fact, Fraser makes it very clear that he rejects the metaphor.
                Unfortunately, Adam in his haste to attack the Guardian, he misses the point entirely.

                • I wonder have you read Adam’s piece completely?
                  Or, more importantly, Dr. Fraser’s piece completely?

                  Look again at the final part of Dr. Fraser’s piece and read his own reason for believing there is a ‘problem’ with some of the metaphor.
                  “So here then is the real problem with Pinto’s metaphor. It is fatalistic, without the possibility of change. History teaches the current situation cannot be permanent. One day, surely, the walls will fall.”

                  He, Dr. Fraser, does not clearly reject the metaphor at any time. At best he cites the Cambridge Professor who does, which Adam clearly mentions in his piece.

                  Your slur of mendacity against Adam is still unsubstantiated and Adam still deserves an apology.

                • Gerald, Fraser says the claim that Israel is autistic, without possibility of change, is wrong That’s why it’s completely and utterly wrong to suggest, as Adam does mendaciously, that Fraser endorses the metaphor. He doesn’t and Adam would be wise at least to change the headline on the posting. But he won’t because he is blinded by his hatred of all things that the Guardian writes about Israel. That’s his raison d’etre.

                • “..because he is blinded by his hatred of all things that the Guardian writes about Israel. That’s his raison d’etre.”

                  Chaim your claim that Adam is ‘blinded by his hatred of all things that the Guardian writes about Israel.’ is not only a lie but also very silly.
                  If you look through all the posts on this site you will see that there are times when Adam has commended “The Guardian”. Yes it does not happen often, but it does happen.

                  Chaim you claim that the reason for Adam’s existence is ‘his hatred of all things that the Guardian writes about Israel’

                  That suggestion is so preposterous that I do not know whether to laugh or cry at it.

    • Pretty contemptuous, as he clearly has no idea about autistics or Israel. Speaking as an autistic Israeli, I basically just want him to shut up about both topics, for ever, but sadly I know many people – people who consider themselves to be good and liberal and progressive – will accept and even agree with his offensive comparisons.

  2. Fraser is correct in some points.
    Israel doesn’t listen.
    Correct. Why should Israel listen to him and his kind of nobodies?
    It just keeps on doing its own thing, indifferent to the calls of the international community.
    Exactly. We learned the lessons from our history well.
    The impression given is that Israel doesn’t give two hoots what anybody else thinks.
    Correct again. I would like to go further – luckily Israel doesn’t give even a half hoot what Fraser and his islamofascist far-left Jew-hating buddies at the Guardian think.

  3. As the parent of two young men on the autism spectrum you can rest assured that the autism community is none to please when they are dehumanized and disenfranchised. The irony that the 75th anniversary of kristallnacht is upon us and that this article is an attempt to dehumanize Jews by equating them with the developmentally and intellectually disabled only brings to mind once again the evil of the Holocaust. Remember that before the Nazis began to kill the Jews they first experimented by killing the mentally and physically disabled.
    http://asd2mom.blogspot.com/2013/11/self-important-intellectuals-are.html

  4. Giles Fraser’s piece was frankly sickening, and an insult to the Israeli people. It is the most egregiously swivel-eyed articles about Israel the Guardian has published since Deborah Orr’s widely condemned ‘chosen people’.effort.

    One has to wonder about the Guardian editors who think this sort of semi-Nazi character assassination of a people is legitimate criticism. It clearly is nothing of the sort. It displays a vicious animus that the Guardian reserves for one country and one country only. Can you imagine them saying something like that about Syria or Egypt or Iran?

    In any sane world, Giles Fraser and the Guardian would be prosecuted for race-hate and incitement.

    • Giles Fraser and the Guardian would be prosecuted for race-hate and incitement

      Eh? On what grounds?

  5. What’s funny is that Fraser and good old Chaim Pesach come off as rampant sociopaths who blame their own hatred of others on the people they hate.

    By the way, a real liberal is well aware of the need for more housing on this planet.

  6. It’s disheartening to read the “autism” comparisons, not only for the reasons people have given here, but because the author of the Guardian article is thoroughly ignorant in his assumptions about the condition. So, not only is this an article that is offensive to Israel and supporters of Israel, it is first of all offensive to people on the autism spectrum.

    As the parent of a child with Asperger’s, I can tell you that “developmentally disabled” is an inaccurate term. For one thing, unless other conditions are present, “autism” is not necessarily about “developmental delay.” Many with Asperger’s are geniuses; most are above average in intelligence.

    Another myth is that they have social phobia, and yet another, that they don’t have empathy. People with autism and with Asperger’s completely understand that a person may be sad or devastated by loss, for example; but given their condition, there may be little or no acknowledgment, or delayed expression of empathy, or an unconventional way of showing empathy. In other words, it is an issue of communication, not a lack of ability to feel emotion.

    “Autism” should not be an insult (nor should any other mental condition!!). It is a different neurology, and it has its own gifts, as Temple Grandin, an autistic person, has amply demonstrated.

    Fraser has ignorantly pursued a metaphor that paradoxically shows his own inability to empathize or even attempt to understand an entire population of people–no, make that two populations,

    • It’s always refreshing to see someone speaking accurately and debunking myths about us, especially the tired and harmful “no empathy” trope, so thank you!

    • Fantastic post. You should send something similar to the Guardian/Giles Fraser to educate them. (P.S. I too am a parent of a child on the aspergic spectrum).

    • I agree re. careless comparisons with conditions like autism.

      But so does Fraser, does he not?

      Where has he “ignorantly pursued a metaphor”?

      • You are right that Frazer agrees with what he thought Baron-Cohen said–that it makes no sense to compare a neurological condition to an experiential one–i.e, “a reaction to living in war conditions.” So, he concludes that no, Israel is NOT autistic, because the source of its (presumably autistic) behaviors is different, and therefore the outcomes of “treating” Israel for “autism” would also be different. But: neither he nor Baron-Cohen (apparently) offer a critique of the false description of autism that forms the entire premise of the article.

        So, to answer your question, “where has he ‘ignorantly pursued a metaphor?”: first, he pursued a false description of Israel as “a loner that can’t play with others,” and second, he pursued a false description of autism as “loners that can’t play with others.” A reader hopes that a writer that seems to compare two things will have a good grasp of two out of two of those things. It appears that Frazer (and possibly Pinto; i don’t know because i’ve not read her book) grasps neither Israel nor autism.

        Regarding the central charge of “loner that can’t play with others,” people on the autism spectrum value and want people in their lives, as we all do. They have friends, they get married, they raise children. They simply make their connections and “play with others” in a way that looks different to most of us.

        I realize this is tangential to the main discussion, but if you DO want to take a closer look at autism, watch episodes of Fx’s “The Bridge.” In scene after complex scene, the writers and the actor get it right–in their portrayal of a female character with Aspergers. More than once, their care and their accuracy in doing this has brought grateful tears to my eyes–because they took the time.

        The story of “The Bridge” is, of course, not about Asperger’s at all; it simply places a person with Aspergers inside the complex world that we all inhabit. And I think that’s exactly what we don’t do when instead we resort to lazy stereotypes.

        • Again I agree that you are right to point out the myths and misnomers surrounding such comparisons.

          But I don’t see where Fraser “ignorantly” pursued a metaphor, pursued a false description of Israel as “a loner that can’t play with others,” or indeed pursued a false description of autism as “loners that can’t play with others.”

          He is merely interpreting/concluding from Pinto’s analysis (e.g. “In other words …”), before then disagreeing with it.

          It is therefore dishonest of this CiFW article to include e.g. the following:
          Fraser posits that Israel is not unlike a child – with arrested cognitive development – who doesn’t play well with others!

          Fraser does no such thing!

          The headline itself is over the top. Why? Because Fraser’s article is perhaps indirectly critical of Israel!

          • “He is merely interpreting/concluding from Pinto’s analysis (e.g. “In other words …”), before then disagreeing with it.”

            If by “it” you mean the invalidity of comparing neurology with a nation, then yes, he “disagreed” with Pinto. My point is that his disagreement was limited to that single point–I don’t see anywhere that Fraser disagreed with her false depiction of Autism Spectrum. He still thinks it to be a worthy insult, just not one we can make in this case. And I think he also misinterpreted Baron-Cohen’s comment. Yes, neurology doesn’t change, that specific wiring is there for a lifetime. But i think Frazer took that to mean, ‘ASD people don’t learn and change,’ and therefore, if we compare Israel to a condition that cant’ learn and change, then we are as desperate as the parents of autistic children. Hence his title of his article: “If we accept Israel is metaphorically autistic, we lose all hope of change.”

            Regarding the quote: “Fraser posits that Israel is not unlike a child–with arrested cognitive development–who doesn’t play well with others…” I too take issue with this statement, but for different reasons than you do, I’m guessing. First, it appears to suggest that to be compared with ASD is an insult. Second, it repeats the false statement about “arrested cognitive development.” In fact, those with the Aspergers form of autism show higher IQ’s than average and show accelerated cognitive development (as do many on other parts of the spectrum).

            But back to Fraser: if he accepts Pinto’s description of autism (and he certainly appears to; please show me where he counters or even modifies it), and he says in his article that Israel IS “a loner who doesn’t play well with others” (show me where he ever abandons that idea), then in effect, he is continuing to make (i.e., “pursue”) the “comparison.” I.E., he has continued to accept her thesis that Israel resembles ASD.

            So in my view, yes, absolutely, he “ignorantly” pursued a false metaphor while taking issue with a single part of that false metaphor. As the well-informed parent of an ASD child, even if Fraser had gotten it right and described ASD accurately, I would be uncomfortable with comparisons made on an entire population for the purpose of insulting another entire population.

            • Fine tuned and good analysis, just your use of ‘entire population’ when adressing ASD is incorrect.

  7. [In order to make some sense of Pinto’s claim I went online and took an autism test, developed by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen at Cambridge University, imagining myself answering the questions as though I was Israel itself. This shows how curious Pinto’s whole argument is. Questions about one’s ability to remember dates and phone numbers, or fascination with patterns and categorisation, or desire for routine may suggest autism in a person but how does one answer as a country as a whole? I contacted Baron-Cohen to ask him what he thought.

    “I find it unhelpful to use a psychiatric diagnostic term as a metaphor,” he sensibly responded. “Unlike the neurological and genetic condition of autism, much of Israel’s behaviour can be seen as a reaction to living in war conditions for much of its history.” He goes on: “I could imagine a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians one day, and this will be because some basis of trust has been established between the two communities. If I’m right, then the idea that Israel has autism is even more absurd, since autism doesn’t just vanish when trust is established. For those who actually have autism, it is a lifelong state of being.”]

    Quoting the eminently reasonable Professor Baron-Cohen is fine, so far as it goes. But then Fraser completely undermines the point the professor makes, and shows he has completely misunderstood it, or chosen to misconstrue it:

    [So here then is the real problem with Pinto’s metaphor. It is fatalistic, without the possibility of change. History teaches the current situation cannot be permanent. One day, surely, the walls will fall.]

    I doubt the professor meant that threatening Israel with the fate of Jericho (for so is to bring down Israel’s barrier by force) is a way to build up trust and so doing away with a need for Israel to build such barriers.

    The Rev. Fraser is rather confused, or perverse.

  8. Typically offensive groaniad garbage,offensive and untrue to Israel and autistics.
    Does anyone think any of the Islamist entities would be described as violently psychotic?

  9. Israel doesn’t listen. It just keeps on doing its own thing, indifferent to the calls of the international community. The impression given is that Israel doesn’t give two hoots what anybody else thinks.

    Immediately reminds me of a recent documentary on German TV about anti-Semitism in the country today. It included selected results from a survey of public opinion. Apparently 70% agreed with the statement that “Israel acts without consideration for other countries’ interests.”

    Sure it does, I thought. Isn’t that what all countries do, after all?

    It’s normal human nature – not autistic-like behaviour.

  10. Surely, it is reasonable to suggest that Mr Fraser is autistic. Particularly since he thinks that working for a dysfunctional, loss-making and low-circulation rag that is the guardian newspaper (and that’s questionable) is an acceptable way to earn a living.

    • John. Are you suggesting that autism means “mentally deficient”? Are you proposing that it is an insult to be deemed autistic? Have you not read any of the above posts on this thread (in particular Trudy’s)? Think again.

  11. In fairness, Fraser walks back his argument a bit towards the end of his column by citing a Cambridge University professor who was critical of his Autism analogy

    a) It is not “his” argument do begin with.
    b) He cites Baron Cohen to prove Pinto’s argument wrong.
    c) That “towards the end of his column” section is very close to half of the entire article.

    So, to conclude, Fraser posits that Israel is not unlike a child – with arrested cognitive development – who doesn’t play well with others!

    That’s the conclusion … provided you are willing to totally distort Fraser’s article in order to smear the Guardian.

    Fraser made no such claim – and you know it.

    • As i said, Adam Levick was at best being disengenuous and at worst mendacious with this post. If he had the courage he”d at least rewrite the headline and admit he was wrong

      • “As i said..”

        Yes Chaim you have written a lot, none of which you could substantiate, nor have you apologised to Adam for the slurs you cast upon him.

        I can understand why you and pretzelberg have formed an ‘Axis of Stupidity’

        • All of which I substantiated, Gerald. But you, like Levick, in your blind hatred of anything that doesn’t comply with your view of Israel, refuse to admit to the mendacity of the posting.

          • Chaim I refer you to my post of NOVEMBER 4, 2013 @6:26AM.

            To remind you these are the points I put to you,
            “Chaim your claim that Adam is ‘blinded by his hatred of all things that the Guardian writes about Israel.’ is not only a lie but also very silly.
            If you look through all the posts on this site you will see that there are times when Adam has commended “The Guardian”. Yes it does not happen often, but it does happen.

            Chaim you claim that the reason for Adam’s existence is ‘his hatred of all things that the Guardian writes about Israel’”

            Now when and where did you substantiate these ridiculous claims of yours Chaim?

            • Absolutely. He believes in a single state between the river and the sea. His “2 state” solution involves declaring jordan is palestine.
              And with this post he is being mendacious and disengenuous, only he hasn’t the balls to admit it.

              • I’m still waiting for you to substantiate the ridiculous claims you made Chaim.
                Twice I’ve asked you, and twice you have miserably failed to do so. The only conclusion I can draw is that you are unable to substantiate them but you don’t have the balls to admit it.

              • Absolutely? Is that based on the fact that he’s never stated nor hinted it?
                I’m sure you must believe that with all you heart, but, unfortunately for you, here we require proofs that come from the head.
                Kumbaya.

  12. About the WALL – once upon a time, a long time ago,many innocent Israelies,men women and children(most of whom were workers and had to use public transportation) were being blown up in buses, killed maimed or suffering from PTSD. In order to try and prevent this from happening, a WALL was built to keep the bombers from entering Israel and comitting those horrendous attacks. Most of the suicide bombings were prevented(not that there were no attemps which were foiled)……..but who remembers? who cares? That was in the past…….!!!
    My issue is with the Israelies who, after a bomb blast, clean up, brush themselves down and “normal” life goes on.(A testimony to the resilience of the Israeli public) The memory of the terrorist attacks becomes faded and the damage erased. The WALL, in contrast, is a permanent structure and the inconvenience and suffering of the Palestinians is real and on going.
    Tours are conducted to the WALL to see the misery of only one side. Why do the Israelies not line the WALL bus tour with the carcasses of the buses with details and pictures of the misery and suffering of the era when there was no separation fence????Give both sides equal viewing??Both sides are suffering.
    Maybe after being attacked so often becoming “autistic” may be the required and appropriate response.(article)