Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Judge Rotenberg Center Abroad

Although there are many who would describe Dr. Matthew Israel of the Judge Rotenberg Center as a profoundly evil man, it's clear that he does not lack business and political savvy. Despite ever-increasing public condemnation of his use of electric shock on children with disabilities, he has repeatedly evaded both legislative and administrative efforts to shut down JRC over the past several years.

The handwriting is on the wall, though. The coalition of civil rights groups lobbying against JRC's abuses is growing stronger, and every time the Massachusetts Legislature votes on a bill to ban behavioral aversives (that is, the deliberate infliction of pain for behavior-management purposes), the vote gets narrower. One day soon, the legislation will surely pass, and that will be the end of the Shock Doc's lucrative marketing of sadistic child abuse for profit—at least in Massachusetts.

He can't simply pack up and move JRC to another state that has not yet banned aversives, either. Disability rights and anti-abuse groups such as APRAIS are active in all parts of the United States, and given JRC's horrific reputation, any attempt to apply for licensure in another state would surely meet with so much opposition that it would be a political impossibility.

So what options are there for America's most infamous behaviorist? Well, the obvious answer is that he will seek to move JRC abroad, to a country where its reputation has not preceded it. And there are indications that this is exactly what may be happening.

In mid-July, the Shock Doc gave a lecture about JRC to a group of Israeli behaviorists who invited him to speak at the Zisman College. Although this was purportedly an unplanned event that took place during a private visit, I have my suspicions that it was intended as a "trial balloon" to determine how well the relocation of JRC to Israel would be received.

The self-advocate organization Autistic Community of Israel (ACI) promptly took action by sending letters and information about JRC to those involved with the lecture. ACI succeeded in getting an advertisement removed from a website, but several behaviorists failed to respond to ACI's letters. As a consequence, ACI informed Michael Ben-Zvi, the secretary of the behaviorists' association that arranged for the lecture, that he was no longer welcome to speak at a symposium presented by ACI.

This incident demonstrates the need for the international autistic community to work together in solidarity to combat abusive behaviorist programs and other threats. We need to make it clear that there will be no safe havens anywhere on the planet for those who profit from the mistreatment of autistic children and adults.

Ari Ne'eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), is currently in Israel and met with representatives of ACI on Friday to discuss this situation and to offer assistance. ACI has indicated that correspondence from ASAN to Israeli organizations would help to focus attention on the global nature of the autistic community's concerns.

Since its expansion into Australia earlier this year, ASAN has had a consistent track record of being aware and involved in matters of concern to the worldwide autistic community. It's good to see this level of international understanding and commitment.

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  • well good post for a change. I am glad that ASAN is finally doing something constructive and not wasting time for a change.

    Judge Rottenberg Center, formerly called behavior research institute, used to be in california where I live but they were forced to leave after the Hughes act was passed by the state legislature in 1991 outlawing aversives to disabled children. Hopefully at some point all of the states can pass similar legislation or perhaps a federal law could be passed, but I suppose physical abuse of handicapped kids is out of the federal government's jurisdiction. Hopefully israel and other parts of the world won't allow this either. I think some parts of europe are still psychoanalytically oriented and might not go for behaviorism of any sort though.

    By Blogger jonathan, at 11:59 AM  

  • I would say there is no chance of JRC relocating to Israel. Matthew Israel's techniques and modus operandi are too familiar to those that understand the history of T4 and the holocaust. No chance. Ari doesn't need to waste his time on this.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:17 PM  

  • I think Ari should enroll at JRC so they can cure him of abusing low functioning autistic people. Just zap him every time he refers to himself as autistic instead of Asperger's.

    By Blogger John Best, at 5:10 PM  

  • Jonathan: Thanks for pointing out that JRC has moved before under similar circumstances. There are efforts underway to pass federal legislation; I'll let you know if anything comes of that.

    CS: One would think so, but sometimes people don't learn from their experiences as much as they should.

    Foresam: speaking of which...

    By Blogger abfh, at 7:51 AM  

  • JRC did not move away from California. There was a "sister" organization oversaw by Israel with a woman he was involved with running the day to day operations. There was a death there that precipitated its closure, not the Hughes Act. The woman running the center still serves on the board of JRC. BRI, later renamed JRC has been in existence since 1972 and moved from Rhode Island to Mass.

    Israel has no need to move, he has the perfect set up. He uses parents as his trump card to defeat any attempt at closing it. He also has important legislators in his pocket and an army of attorney's. It will not be closed until Israel dies because it is the power of his personality and ability to harness propaganda, parents, and the judicial system that keeps that school running.

    The state of Israel will never allow him to operate there in his or our lifetimes. The chance of the holocaust fading into memory is just not going to happen in our lifetimes.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:47 PM  

  • "The state of Israel will never allow him to operate there in his or our lifetimes. The chance of the holocaust fading into memory is just not going to happen in our lifetimes."

    Then care to explain why Israel is currently repeating it on the Palestinians?

    Matthew Israel acts exactly like his namesake.

    By Blogger stevethehydra, at 6:00 PM  

  • Shiva,

    While I agree that the Palestinians are suffering, I would liken it to Apartheid, not the holocaust. And just so you know, I'm not a big fan of the state of Israel.

    However, let me tell you why his last name may be Israel. During the holocaust, the Nazi's made jewish professionals add the name Israel to their names so Germans could identify them as jews.

    What happened in the holocaust is not to be referenced lightly. Remember, autistic people as well as other people with disabilities were the first to be killed in the gas chambers. Execution was perfected on our people and then used on Jews, gypsy's, russians, etc.

    What is happening to the Palestinians is in no way comparable to what happened in the holocaust, to reference it the way you did is disrespectul to all those people starved, experimented on and then murdered, including thousands of autistic people. The two situations are not even remotely comparable.

    I'm assembling the holocaust history dealing with disabled people on my new blog which you can find here:


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:57 PM  

  • here is a better link:


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:59 PM  

  • Shiva,

    Also, you should know, the famous Nazi Hunter Elie Weisel was one the first to condemn another Jew, Peter Singer for his views on the disabled.

    When you find the government documents that target the extermination of the Palestinians, the mass graves, the gas chambers and the crematorias, you can make the comparison. Find the systematic sterilization of Palestinians, the child concentration camps where children are bused in with blackened windows, undressed upon arrival, subjected to examination, led to a shower with piped in gas, murdered and then moved to a stove for cremating, then you can compare. In one 6 month period at Hadamar, 70,000 disabled people underwent what I just described. It was called "disinfection". Some were just lined up in pits and shot in the head, others were injected with poison, see this video of the Hadamar camp Dr. (http://www.vimeo.com/1546147) explain that of course patients were used as guinea pigs of course they were injected with poison, of course they were killed as if this is normal, what else would you do with disabled people? Parents were told that their children had just simply died of some sort of illness.

    What Israel is doing is apartheid based on religious and racial discrimination, not the systematic and state sponsored murder of a people. When I think of how autistic people and others were treated in the holocaust, it really makes me angry when these comparisons are made.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:48 PM  

  • I could give you a list of atrocities just as long and just as detailed from apartheid both in South Africa and in the US. Just as genocidal, only in slightly different ways.

    Of course, it was a lazy comparison. I was firing off a quick comment while reading several blogs at once as a quick break from writing a post of my own.

    Actually, i think the nearest comparison is neither Germany nor South Africa, but the early history of the US and the genocide of the Native Americans.

    I do not wish to deny or diminish the significance of the Holocaust, merely its uniqueness. It was not the only, nor even the numerically largest, genocide in history. (By far the largest numerically was that of West Africans in the transatlantic slave trade.)

    I will say that Matthew Israel is a true heir of Mengele.

    By Blogger stevethehydra, at 8:15 PM  

  • Shiva,

    Who said it was the only genocide? You made the comparison to begin with.

    While of course the transatlantic slave trade killed millions, the purpose of the transport was not to kill the slaves, but to bring them for sale, if they died, it was just considered a business loss by the merchant. He didn't set off to kill them, otherwise, he wouldn't make a profit. It was a form of genocide by the end results, but I don't think the deaths that resulted were carried out by the state.

    The Holocaust's purpose was to kill people. I think the comparison to the American Indians is not accurate either, though millions were killed. Yes, there was a plan to kill some (small pox blankets and so forth), but there was also the religious and scientific notion at the time that the American Indian was a "noble savage" that just needed to be saved by Jesus.

    Both are terrible histories that ended in the killing of millions, but it wasn't the same as the Holocaust.

    Genocide has occurred all over the world and its all bad and evil. Israel has done little to help these modern day victims. Neither has the US or anybody else for that matter. However, what separates the Holocaust was the extent of how every single institution of a country was actively involved from schools, universities, medical establishment, psychiatry and even the parents of the victims. Did Indian parents and African parents willing allow the murder of their children for the benefit of the state? No, I don't think so.

    I understand how the Holocaust can seem a bit annoying to some people because they hear about it all the time. Yes, the Jews are not the only oppressed people in the world. But the holocaust was much more than about the Jews or about other groups targeted. Its about what can happen when normal people, well educated people are tools of the state propaganda to kill off an entire group of people. An entire nation, indeed much of the educated classes of the free world at the time were swept up in the idea of eugenics. The US was responsible for the sterilization of thousands of people with developmental disabilities.

    Those examples you gave are examples of atrocities for sure, but they don't have the same elements as the racial science that created the holocaust.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:52 PM  

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