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Pathologizing ethnicity: Are Mizrahim really more prone to violence?

A recent article claims that the higher rates of ADHD among Mizrahim leads them to violence. But can one really make such sweeping statements about an entire demographic group without looking at the broader social context?

By Marcelo Weksler (translated from Hebrew by Anat Goldman)

On March 16, 2014, Dr. Shlomi Antebi, an expert on Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), published an article in Haaretz (Hebrew) with the shocking headline: “The most severe and potentially violent cases of ADHD diagnoses in Israel are of Mizrahim descent.” By attributing “Mizrahi violence” to a mental condition, the headline reasserts the popular image of Mizrahim as inherently violent. Antebi’s original post (Hebrew), which was likely the basis for this article, rested on a different argument: Mizrahim children are more often diagnosed with severe cases of ADHD and are treated less often, while Ashkenazi children are more often diagnosed with mild cases of ADHD and are treated more often. The editors at Haaretz must have had yet another misunderstanding, but they are not the only ones.

Antebi’s article opens with the claim that “more children are diagnosed these days with ADHD as a result of over-diagnosis.” He does not explain the term “over-diagnosis,” but later connects it to an increase in parental awareness (meaning higher rates of awareness among Ashkenazi parents, as opposed to lower rates among Mizrahi parents). But is over-diagnosis really the result of parents trying to make life easier for their kids? Or do schools pursue over-diagnosis as a means of classifying and labeling students for their own purposes? Antebi neither clarifies nor analyzes these possible causes for over-diagnosis. It seems that his claim is more of a warning for over-treating children with psychiatric drugs. But even if that is the issue, why doesn’t he explicitly say that the Israeli education system encourages the use of Ritalin and other drugs in order to keep students “calm” rather than actually helping them, which inevitably results in over-treatment?

Ritalin. (photo: Sponge/CC BY-SA 3.0)

The main problem, however, with Antebis’ article is that he sees ADHD merely as a product of genetics and chemistry, thus reducing the problem to a medical discussion based on the idea that the problem is with the child alone. In doing so, he ignores the potential role of social, political and economic factors in diagnosis and treatment, as well as in the spreading and possible reducing of ADHD.

I would therefore like to offer a few hypotheses, that go beyond individual circumstances, into why there has been such an increase in ADHD diagnoses in Israel in recent years. These draw on developmental psychology, as well as social and environmental factors. Children develop their cognitive skills through intellectual and motor activities; they gain communication skills and cognitive skills through movement, which develops their fine motor and gross motor skills. Writing, painting, playing musical instruments all develop fine motor skills. Physical activity develops gross motor skills, such as coordination. Both help develop the brain.

Read: ‘But you’re not really Mizrahi’: Rewriting an erased identity

These days, however, children hardly get to develop either at school. Teaching fine art is almost extinct in the school system, as it cannot be standardized or quantified, and is often seen as redundant in the institutional educational discourse. Public open spaces, which used to be a child’s natural playground, are disappearing, giving way to cars and massive construction. Children today have problems developing their gross motor skills. They have no open public spaces to play in, nor do they form informal relationships and burn energy. Some are lucky and have extra curricular activities, but those who do not stay at home in front of the computer and television – moving back and forth between the kitchen and the living room. Can this lack of mobility contribute to the meteoric rise in diagnosing ADHD? Children are naturally happy when they run, play in open spaces, form relationships, fight etc. It is not a matter of culture, but rather a part of childhood that has always existed. Modern life destroyed it for its own interests and brought about unbalanced development. At the same time, underprivileged children living in poverty consume cheap processed food with too much sugar and “empty calories” that overstimulate the brain. Can this be another possible reason for the dramatic increase in ADHD diagnoses?

We must look at the school system. Children today are crammed into overcrowded classrooms (less then one square meter per child) where there is no room to move for very long hours. How many adults could stay focused, calm and patient if they were to spend such a long time in a crowded environment? I argue that any analysis that looks for the answer in the realms of chemistry and genetics alone is not enough to explain the phenomenon. Such an analysis is deterministic and does not enable the opening up of a real conversation vis-a-vis the child’s environment, which is just as important a factor in his or her development. Using only one type of explanation is absurd when discussing learning disorders. In many schools, especially in underprivileged neighborhoods, learning disorders and other disabilities are used to classify children. This was used in the past when children were pushed into vocational schools. Today these children are classified twice – once as underprivileged students, and once as having individual problems.

Antebi also goes into detail regarding the different levels of ADHD. He makes a connection between its most severe degree to high levels of violence, delinquency, and alcohol and drug use. However, the relationship between ADHD and these behaviors is the classic chicken and egg conundrum. Do severe cases of ADHD necessarily end in these aforementioned behaviors, or does lack of treatment and prevention lead to such deterioration? Could it be that low self-esteem and other factors cause these behaviors? Let’s say that we live in an environment where any child diagnosed with severe ADHD is treated without medication, meaning that those surrounding them, and especially their school, paid attention to his or her particular needs. Would we have the same problems? Probably not, unless we are using deterministic assumptions that no matter what we do, violence and addictions will appear later on in life.

The end of his article contains several dramatic paragraphs in which Antebi presents an ethnic-based analysis of these difficulties. Those diagnosed with light ADHD are 33% Mizrahi and 67% Ashkenazi, while 82% of Mizrahim and 18% of Ashkenazis are diagnosed with severe forms of ADHD. Antebi concludes with the following statement: “We can see that most children who are diagnosed with severe ADHD are either Mizrahi or come from an underprivileged background.” What does this data tell the average person reading Haaretz? What does it tell the Israeli education system?

There must be a reason for these reverse trends between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi children. Perhaps we can find it in Antebi’s initial argument? Maybe Ashkenazi parents are financially capable of funding diagnoses, whereas Mizrahi children are under-diagnosed because their parents lack the resources? Why do trends turn on their heads when it comes to the severity of ADHD? Perhaps there is a social cause? Does a late diagnosis lead to higher chances for deterioration? If this is the case, it is no wonder that the statistics look the way they do.

Read more: Mizrahi culture was suppressed, Ashkenazi culture is forgotten

Even if this wasn’t Antebi’s intended message, his article comes off as prejudiced against Mizrahi children, especially those in peripheral towns. Israeli Professor Karl Frankenstein conveyed these messages as early as the 1950s, when he negatively classified Mizrahim and their children in an almost irreversible. This lead to structural discrimination and humiliation, which the Ashkenazi hegemony used as part of its educational and psychological discourse.

We must insist on several points. First, most of the diagnoses are done by private doctors, which enables wealthier children to start their treatment early on. This is how Ashkenazi children “disappear” from the school system’s radar much earlier, and rarely appear in statistics on violence and delinquency. On the other hand, most children from the social periphery, including Mizrahi children, do not undergo a preliminary diagnosis, let alone receive preventive treatments, as they are far too expensive for their parents to afford. Second, the education system operates on the assumption that if a child has a problem, it is the fault of the parents. The system punishes the child when underprivileged parents are not able to pay for diagnoses or preventive treatments. At worst they isolate them and let them to drop out. As we know, dropping out is a major reason for violence, delinquent behavior and substance abuse.

But Antebi is willing neither to analyze nor interpret the findings regarding both the social context and racism that perpetuate prejudice. He removes all responsibility from himself and leaves us with a bitter taste of repetition – of a supposedly scientific argument that we thought was long gone.

Marcelo Weksler is a lecturer at Seminar Hakibutzim, Beit Berl College and a pedagogical counselor. This article was first published in Hebrew on Haokets.

Related:
Being a Mizrahi Jew, an Israeli and touching the Holocaust
Mizrahi culture was suppressed, Ashkenazi culture is simply forgotten
‘But you’re not really Mizrahi’: Rewriting an erased identity

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    COMMENTS

    1. shachalnur

      “ADHD is a prime example of a fictitious disease”(Dr.Leon Eisenberg,inventor of ADHD)

      Source:German weekly Der Spiegel

      Please read “Inventor of ADHD; ADHD is a ficititious disease” on Swiss site called “currentconcerns.ch”.

      Reasons for the rise in behavioral problems in Israeli children are mainly these:

      -Israeli children belong to the most vaccinated in the world.
      These vaccines contain large amounts of mercury,aluminum,MSG and formaldehyde.

      -Israeli’s drink water with added fluoride from the tap.
      Ritalin and Prozac contain large amounts of Fluoride as well,by the way.
      It makes you obedient and docile.

      -Exitotoxins like MSG and artificial sweeteners in mostly cheap and processed food.

      There are many more substances that cause brain damage in children ,but these are the usual suspects.

      And Israel is a country where Eugenics has been part of the ideological, social and political fabric from the beginning,mainly targeting Mizrahi and Sfaradi Jews.(The Ringworm Affair,The Missing Yemeni Babies,Depo Proveera for Ethiopean Jewish women,etc)

      Vaccines,exitotoxins,BPA,Fluoride and cheap processed food are usually administered to, and consumed by, the poorer people.

      That’s how Eugenics works.

      Reply to Comment
      • Tzutzik

        Dr Shachalnur I presume?

        Reply to Comment
        • shachalnur

          Don’t forget to buy the new song by Dr.Dana International/Dr. Conchita Wurst;

          “Jeledim, ze simcha!”.(Children,that’s happiness!)

          The official soundtrack of this year’s BPA/Eugenics Pride Parade.

          Social engineering,in your face.

          Party on!

          Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            Oogah boogah … Mumbo Jumbo …

            Little green men from Mars …. Alien abductions ….

            Don’t forget not to read comic books so you don’t scare yourself to death …

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            en lega dimion, kmo zombie.

            meshe’amem.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            Oh great … now he is muttering about Zombies. LOl.

            Beware of the Bavarian Illuminati, Shachalnur.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            … there is nothing wrong with YOUR imagination though Sheiky baby. Although part of me is bored by it, part of me is amused by it. I guess the second part of me is what makes me respond to you although I know that it would be best to just ignore you.

            Seriously though Shachalnur, I am beginning to feel sorry for you. There is something forlorn about you. Maybe I am just a softie underneath it all?

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            You’re Agent Smith.

            Stuck in the Matrix.

            Not a softie,but a zombie,a hatefull nothing.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            Oh goodie … now I am in the matrix.

            Hey Sheiky, that was just a film. A very good film, but it was just a film. I told you to stop reading comic books. Maybe you should stop watching films too?

            You have trouble distinguishing reality from fiction.

            About vaccines: You might also want to talk to some real people. People like my great uncle who contracted Polio when he was 18. You guessed it, there was no vaccine against polio at that time so he didn’t have one.

            Ask him and people like him whether he would have been willing to have been vaccinated if he would have had a chance to go back in time with someone offering to vaccinate him …

            You said you have children Shachalnur. Are you saying you haven’t had them vaccinated against the usual childhood diseases? If so, you are guilty of neglecting your fatherly duties. I hope they won’t end up paying the price for it because no child deserves to be punished for the sins of the father.

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            Whatever ,Tzutzik.

            I never said I’m against vaccination,not for it either.

            I´m against the rubbish they add.

            SV-40 in the case of the Polio vaccine.

            I’ll be back when more people can see what I’m talking about.

            I’m still not allowed to speak freely.

            Don’t forget,the people I’m talking about are not our friends,they are going for Israel as we speak.

            Certain powers in Israel are aware of this,not hoi poloi.

            Be well.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            “Don’t forget,the people I’m talking about are not our friends,they are going for Israel as we speak.”

            The trouble is Shachalnur, from what you have been saying about us, and from what you said we should do, you don’t seem to be our friend either.

            As for who else is or is not our friend, that’s another story. Ultimately we have only ONE reliable friend: we, us, at the least, we should be our own friend. Because if we are not our own best friend then we can’t expect anyone else to be our friend either …

            Reply to Comment
      • Vicky

        AD/HD is not fictitious and it has nothing to do with vaccines or toothpaste brands or whatever the latest conspiracy theory happens to be. It’s also not a disease, but a developmental disorder. Medically they’re different things. Children with AD/HD have a certain cognitive profile (and it’s not all bad – they can be very creative resourceful thinkers, and during the assessment you often see a characteristic pattern of strengths emerging) and they can learn very effectively with the right classroom support. Some are highly gifted academically. However, diagnosis is complicated by the fact that certain other difficulties can look superficially like AD/HD until you probe deeper. Traumatised children, for example, can present with very severe attentional and behavioural difficulties and they end up incorrectly labelled with AD/HD when cognitive testing would show that actually they don’t fit that pattern at all. A full developmental and cognitive assessment is needed to understand the child’s problem areas properly, which can take weeks and involve multiple professionals. Unfortunately this sort of thorough assessment service isn’t widely available to children in the peripheral towns. As this article points out, parents often need to go private for it, and not everyone can afford to do that.

        Reply to Comment
        • shachalnur

          Sorry Vicky,that’s typical Eugenics psycho babble.

          First of all the inventor Dr. Eisenberg is not your average nobody,nor are the ones that immediately rejected the idea from the beginning.

          Worldwide research on the causes of all these mental disorders(ADHD and Autism are certainly not the only ones) in children point at two main sources;

          -Certain substances the mother was exposed to during pregnancy.

          Vaccines(MMR) and painkillers(acetaminophen)are serious suspects.

          -Toxins children are exposed to after birth (babyformula,nutrition , vaccines and medication)

          Autism in the sixties was extremely rare as was cancer in children(not just by alleged misdiagnosis).

          Now they are real epidemics,cancer is gonna hit 1 in 2 for people born today,autism and other mental disorders in children are rising at terrifying rates.

          And it’s by design.

          It’s called Eugenics,it’s a real science,Rockefeller financed and delivered the scientists for the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Antropology,Human Heredity and Eugenics in Hitler’s Germany.

          And they never stopped.

          I’m not prepared to trust the mumbo jumbo coming from the ones that are causing and perpetuating this modern day Holocaust.

          Do you?Do they pay your salary?

          Why don’t you read an article by Anton Chaitkin “Rockefeller and massmurder”.

          I’m quite sure you can easily debunk the facts offered there.

          There is peer reviewed scientific research available proving that the causes and cures offered by the Eugenicists and Big Pharma for “modern day” and many invented diseases are wrong and criminal.

          For your own sake,educate yourself outside the Matrix and stop being a Eugenics sock-puppet slave.

          Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            You keep on babbling about Eugenics, Shachalnur, but you never say what game you think they are playing? What exactly are they trying to achieve? Murder people randomly? Why exactly? What is in it for them?

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            What’s your obsession with me?

            the information I give ,usually comes with sources.

            Read them if you like ,or don’t.

            if you have any questions ,or want more sources,ask me.

            Leave what you think I am out of this,I’m just the messenger.

            All your questions.ad hominems and insults demonstrate your ignorance on subjects outside the MSM and the Matrix.

            These events are big cycles,planned generations ago and sometimes centuries.

            if you’re stuck in last weeks MSM news,your favorite politician ,or even “official” history over the last few decades,you are blind and ready to be slaughtered.

            it took +972 more than 30 hours to release the above comment,they do moderate here,but also this comment was let through because there are no facts there that can be proven untrue ,anti-semite or whatever the reasons for censorship are on this site.

            You’re just stuck in if I’m a Jew or not and my alleged motives to scare the shit out of people.

            Humanity is being set up for a big culling,as described on the Georgia Guidestones.

            Jews,like most white Europeans and US citizens, have been wrongfully made to believe they are part of the survivors of this world wide clean-up,and they are wrong.

            Europeans and Jews are the first ones to go,because they are the biggest threat to the Cabal and the NWO.

            It’s an old trick,Judaism should know,and you’re falling for it again.

            Things are speeding up in the Middle East and the rest of the world as you have noticed,and I have no boubt cognitive dissonance is going to be endemic.

            Soon all my weird opinions and predictions will not be that crazy anymore,and I hope by then that people are more open to alternative views.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            Wow.

            Ok I’ll leave you alone now.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            According to Barkun, the appeal of conspiracism is threefold: First, conspiracy theories claim to explain what institutional analysis cannot. They appear to make sense out of a world that is otherwise confusing. Second, they do so in an appealingly simple way, by dividing the world sharply between the forces of light, and the forces of darkness. They trace all evil back to a single source, the conspirators and their agents. Third, conspiracy theories are often presented as special, secret knowledge unknown or unappreciated by others. For conspiracy theorists, the masses are a brainwashed herd, while the conspiracy theorists in the know can congratulate themselves on penetrating the plotters’ deceptions.[5]

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            Barkun(FBI informer and NWO apologist)) and Berlet(funded by Ford Foundation) attack mainly David Icke and Alex Jones.

            Icke and Jones are controlled opposition.

            Nice little circle.

            War generates 17 times more profit than peace.

            Berlet and Barkun buy their Viagra with it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            Be that as it may, even if your allegations about Barkun are 100% spot on, which I doubt, what Barkun says about conspiracy theorists, makes perfect sense.

            Having said that, I am sure that at any given time, there are probably millions of real conspiracies by millions of individuals in this miserable world of ours. I am equally sure that none of them as all encompassing and successful as the ones that you would have us believe. But even if I am somewhat wrong, even then, we are not as helpless to fight such conspiracies as you pretend.

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            If we would be helpless,I wouldn’t write on this blog.

            We do have to watch out what we consider “kosher”.

            Judaism should know,it happened many times before, with disastrous consequences.

            Reply to Comment
          • Vicky

            No one ‘invented’ AD/HD. The earliest clinical descriptions date from the eighteenth century, and a variety of different names were subsequently used to describe AD/HD symptoms. It is always far more challenging to describe a syndrome when there are no clear biological markers – it’s not like rubella, where you observe for very clear obvious physical symptoms and then make a diagnosis. You end up with a practice that looks a bit like astronomy: you notice certain traits and behaviours frequently occur together, in a constellation, and for ease of reference (and ease of providing support) you give that constellation of difficulties and abilities a specific name. As I said, AD/HD should not be viewed as this bad thing – it’s a different way of thinking that’s always been with us and there is absolutely no reason why people with AD/HD shouldn’t do just fine in life, given the right help. Diagnosis and understanding have improved, but not necessarily prevalence. There was a time when a kid with severe AD/HD or autism would have just been labelled ‘mentally defective’ and slung into a home for delinquent children, or left to struggle along jobless dependent on family, but we know better than that now. Conspiracy junk about vaccines (rooted in the idea that AD/HD is a terrible awful thing) is responsible for children dying of preventable illnesses, and it also stops kids with learning difficulties from getting the help they need to lead perfectly happy lives.

            Secondly, Leon Eisenberger never said what you claim he did. It’s a fabricated quotation. He did feel that AD/HD was being overdiagnosed, but that is no different from what I wrote – I have had many patients with trauma-related problems who were mistakenly diagnosed with AD/HD at first. Finally, I don’t get paid. I’m a volunteer living on a stipend that covers my food and my rent and that’s about it, just in case you were imagining all the vast profits to be made from children’s counselling. If I wanted the money I’d be in a swish private hospital somewhere.

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            I understand your way of thinking,it’s common ,but dead wrong.

            You would atribute the increase in Autism from 1 in 10000 in 1960 to 1 in 88 now to misdiagnosis,and narcolepsy and other permanent braindamage in HPV vaccine(Gardasil) victims to coincidence.

            I hope you will open your eyes one day,for the kids sake.

            Reply to Comment
        • Lisbon Portugal

          Vicky, how do you know? You are not a doctor, you are some sort of baby sitter or a social worker.

          Reply to Comment
          • I’m a children’s therapist, specialising in work with kids who have mental health problems comorbid with developmental disabilities. I’ve given training to medical students on identifying and supporting children with such disorders, been commended by the British Medical Association for my contribution to the popular understanding of this aspect of child medicine, and have also taught in a special needs college for children with a wide array of these difficulties. That’s how I know. And it’s weird how the people who harbour all these conspiracy theories about AD/HD – none of them medically trained themselves – are so quick to reject a professional who isn’t a medical doctor, as though medical doctors are the only people involved in the care of such children. They aren’t. Sometimes they don’t feature at all – a child with AD/HD is more likely to see a clinical psychologist than a medical doctor.

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            Vicky,

            I think what you are trying to do is wonderfull,because the ones that have to deal with the damage done to children by alopatic medical “science” have the toughest job.

            Just remember to look into alternatives as it comes to causes and possible treatments for these kids.

            Also remember that you can’t disagree with doctors who are towing the Eugenics line,because you will lose your job and your income.

            I’m treating many kids with mental disorders,allergies and compromised immunesystems.

            Diet,(heavy metal)de-tox through bitter herbs and nutrition give way better results than alopatic medicine which only makes them addicted and damages their brain and usally makes things worse.

            Children have an amazing ability to repair damage ,but you will have to stop poisoning them so they have a chance to recuperate and heal themselves.

            If you need sources for alternitive views on the ADHD/Autism epidemic I’m glad to give you the places you can find them.

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            I just read your blog,and you really need to educate yourself on alternative views,causes and cures.

            The kids you are trying to help are traumatized as well,besides being poisoned.

            Keep up the good work.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Mizrahi means Jews from aArab countries, doesn’t it? And there are many of those, well spread out. it is NOT a blood-line.

      It may be more middle-eastern than the so-called Ashkenazim “blood-line”, and more genetically connected to ancient Jews from the Holy Land. (Or did the Jews who went to Spain and after 1492 spread out or re-spread out to the middle east come originally from Mars?)

      Is this claim of violence a claim that the more genetically Jewish Jews are more violent than the Jews converted from Azharia adn spread to Germany, Poland, Rrussia?

      And who is doing the diagnosis of ADHD? And are the violent ones the ones who’ve been kept poor? As in America, I suppose?

      Anyhow, beware Big Pharma and its pills!

      Reply to Comment
      • Mikey

        You just proved that ADHD is real.

        Reply to Comment
      • Marcos

        You can’t be this stupid so I am assuming willfully ignorant. Go back to Silverstein and Weiss, this blog is for thinking adults.

        Reply to Comment
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