Guardian columnist compares Israel to an autistic child

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


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.

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.

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