`Do not have children if they won't be healthy!'
By Tamara Traubmann
A shocking new study reveals how key figures in the pre-state Zionist establishment
proposed castrating the mentally ill, sterilizing the poor and doing everything possible to ensure reproduction only among the `best of people.'
Castrating the mentally ill, encouraging reproduction among families "numbered among the intelligentsia" and limiting the size of "families of Eastern origin" and "preventing ... lives that are lacking in purpose" - these proposals are not from some program of the Third Reich but rather were brought up by key figures in the Zionist establishment of the Land of Israel during the period of the British Mandate. It turns out there was a great deal of enthusiasm here for the improvement of the hereditary characteristics of a particular race (eugenics). This support, which has been kept under wraps for many years, is revealed in a study that examines the ideological and intellectual roots at the basis of the establishment of the health system in Israel.
In the Yishuv (pre-state Jewish community) in the 1930s there were "consultation
stations" operating on a Viennese model of advice centers for couples that wished to marry and become parents. In Austria, with the Nazis' rise to power, they served for forced treatment. Here the stations were aimed at "giving advice on matters of sex and marriage, especially in the matter of preventing pregnancy in certain cases." They distributed birth-control devices for free to the penniless and at reduced prices to those of limited means. In Tel Aviv the advice stations were opened in centers of immigrant populations: Ajami in Jaffa, the Hatikvah Quarter and Neveh Sha'anan.
These are some of the findings of a doctoral thesis written by Sachlav Stoler-Liss about the history of the health services in the 1950s, under the supervision of Prof. Shifra Shvarts, head of the department of health system management at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. They were presented at the annual conference of the Israel Anthropological Association at Ben-Gurion College.
The father of the theory of eugenics was British scholar Francis Galton. It was he who coined the term - which literally means "well-born" - at the end of the 19th century. The aim of the eugenics movement was to better the human race. Galton proposed a plan to encourage reproduction among "the best people" in society and to prevent reproduction among "the worst elements."
Between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, Galton drew many
followers and his ideas spread rapidly to other countries in Europe (among them Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and Belgium), to the United States and to some countries in South America. In various countries laws were passed that allowed for the forced sterilization of "hereditary paupers, criminals, the feeble-minded, tuberculous, shiftless and ne'er-do-wells." In the United States, up until 1935, about 20,000 people - "insane," "feeble-minded," immigrants, members of ethnic minorities and people with low IQs - were forcibly sterilized, most of them in California. The Californian law was revoked only in 1979. According to Dr. Philip Reilly, a doctor and executive director of the Shriver Center for Mental Retardation, in 1985 at least 19 states in the United States had laws that allowed the sterilization of people with mental retardation, (among them Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Vermont, Utah and Montana).
"Eugenics is considered to be something that only happened in Germany," says Stoler-Liss. "Germany was indeed the most murderous manifestation of eugenics, but in fact it was a movement that attracted many followers. In every place it took on a unique, local aspect.
It is interesting to note that both in Germany and in Israel a link was made between
eugenics, health and nationalism."
Stoler-Liss first encountered the eugenics texts of doctors from the Yishuv when looking for instruction books for parents for a research project for her master's degree. "I presented a text at a thesis seminar and then the instructor of the workshop said to me, `But why aren't you saying that this is a translated text?' I replied: `No, no, the text isn't translated.' `In Israel,' he said, `there are no such things.'"
She decided to look into whether there was only anecdotal and non- representative
evidence, doctors and public figures here and there who supported eugenics - and she found many publications that promoted eugenics. Supporters of the idea were key figures in the emerging medical establishment in Palestine; the people who managed and created the Israeli health system.
One of the most prominent eugenicists of the Mandatory period was Dr. Joseph Meir, a
well-known doctor who acquired his education in Vienna, served for about 30 years as the head of the Kupat Holim Clalit health maintenance organization, and after whom the Meir Hospital in Kfar Sava is named. "From his position at the very heart of the Zionist medical establishment in the land of Israel in the mid-1930s, he brought young mothers the gospel of eugenics, warned them about degeneracy and transmitted the message to them about their obligation and responsibility for bearing only healthy children," says Stoler-Liss.
Thus, for example, in 1934 Dr. Meir published the following text on the first page of
"Mother and Child," a guide for parents that he edited for publication by Kupat Holim: "Who is entitled to give birth to children? The correct answer is sought by eugenics, the science of improving the race and preserving it from degeneration. This science is still young, but its positive results are already great and important - These cases [referring to marriages of people with hereditary disorders - T.T.] are not at all rare in all nations and in particular in the Hebrew nation that has lived a life of exile for 1,800 years. And now our nation has returned to be reborn, to a natural life in the land of the Patriarchs. Is it not our obligation to see to it that we have whole and healthy children in body and soul? For us, eugenics as a whole, and the prevention of the transmission of hereditary disorders in particular, even greater value than for all other nations! ... Doctors, people involved in sport and the national leaders must make broad propaganda for the idea: Do not have children if you are not certain that they will be healthy in body
Article integral, Haaretz 11 June 2004:http://archive.org/stream/ZionistEugeni ... s_djvu.txt
Source http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShAr ... mNo=437879