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October 30, 2015 10:07 am

Could Strengthening the Association Between Antisemitism and Mental Illness Help to Curb It?

avatar by Dahn Hiuni

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This antisemitic sign targeting Jews at Yale University was posted in New Haven, Conn. Photo: Twitter.

This antisemitic sign targeting Jews at Yale University was posted in New Haven, Conn. Photo: Twitter.

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed homosexuality from its official Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM.) Aside from defusing the anger and shame of many gays and lesbians — which helped to improve their mental health — the APA shift facilitated great strides in the social, cultural, political, and legal arenas in subsequent decades. As unceremoniously absurd as the overnight change of status was, it remains a stunning model of social engineering, cultural amelioration, and of what grassroots political activism can achieve. As a Jew fighting antisemitism, I find this very instructive.

If the APA has the power to de-stigmatize human behavior by eliminating supposed disorders, might it have the power to stigmatize and shun other behavior by adding previously unlisted ones?

I would like to propose that if renewed research on antisemitism can more forcefully demonstrate its association with psychopathology, its institutional recognition through the APA manual may help to curb it. 

There is indeed a body of literature that makes a good case for antisemitism as a sign or symptom of serious mental illness. To be accurate, antisemitism itself would not be the disorder, but the content of some other structural disorder, such as delusional or narcissistic personality disorder.

Furthermore, it has been broadly proposed by several prominent researchers that racist and antisemitic feelings, thoughts, and behaviors can be a principal co-occurring symptom of psychopathology.

Neuroscientist Mortimer Ostow has done great work in this field. Ostow conducted a major study and concluded plainly that “to the question of whether there is a mental health component to antisemitism, the answer at least statistically, is yes.” Through his interviews with patients, Ostow found that the more one held antisemitic beliefs, the more likely they were to harbor psychotic thinking.

Psychologists Carl C. Bell and Edward Dunbar used a prejudice rating scale to assess and describe levels of prejudice. They too found clear associations between highly prejudiced people and other indicators of psychopathology. 

It is time for the American Psychiatric Association to designate extreme racism as a mental health problem by recognizing it as a delusional psychotic symptom. 

To be clear, my goal here is not to shame and stigmatize the truly mentally ill. Psychopathological antisemitism should be regarded as a cry for help, whether from a crazed gunman in Kansas City, a delusional British politician or rock star, or an abused and despairing Arab teen.

However, let me be equally clear that for the social/cultural antisemite, I do believe that shaming and stigmatizing is in order, because their bigotry, willful ignorance, and misinformation are shameful and dangerous. 

We must devise smarter, reinvigorated strategies for curbing the misplaced and deadly enmity that is antisemitism. I call on researchers, scholars, academics, and activists to consider new research with workable data, so that we may lobby the APA to help us combat the scourge of antisemitism. 

Dahn Hiuni is a New York-based Israeli artist, playwright, and freelance academic. He is a research fellow at the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy. Please see or for a more extensive article on the subject. 

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    Study uncovers how brain damage increases religious fundamentalism

  • Fetih Ibrail

    a member of the people and cultural community whose traditional religion is Judaism and who trace their origins to the ancient Hebrew people of Israel.

    A converted is not a Jew . Deal with this my beloved chosen who falsified the history . Israel never existed before 1948 . First mention of Judaism is from the 4-th century BCE . Not even a single ancient text mention the David -king of Israel , Solomon and the United Kingdom of Judea and Samaria
    “In the 10th and early 9th centuries, BCE the territory of Judah appears to have been sparsely populated, limited to small rural settlements, most of them unfortified.Jerusalem, the kingdom’s capital, likely did not emerge as a significant administrative center until the end of the 8th century; prior to this archaeological evidence suggests its population was too small to sustain a viable kingdom.
    (Amihai Mazar-Archaeology and the Biblical Narrative:
    The Case of the United Monarchy )

  • Fetih Ibrail

    Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism . Ashkenazi and european Jews are not Semitic people The Missing Link of Jewish European Ancestry: Contrasting the Rhineland and the Khazarian Hypotheses

  • Fetih Ibrail

    Soros, who is Jewish, said European anti-Semitism is the result of the policies of Israel and the United States.

  • Steve Trueblue

    dahn hiuni Where would you place this character in your physicians disease manual?
    George Soros displays his loveable soul:

    “To feel and even think that the white race is inferior in every conceivable plane is natural, given its history and current documents. Let the white race west country perish in blood and suffering. Long live the multicultural, racially mixed and classless ecological society! Long live anarchy!” —

    So dahn hiuni Where would you place this character in your physicians disease manual? Or would you justify his intended genocide of the white race-currently underway?

  • Hannah

    I’ve always said that. You need only see the pathological lying that props up anti Semitism and Israel haters.

  • mortimer

    Always scheming, you people are truly worthless human garbage, you new plan is to have the APA classify the pushback against collective jewish behavior like AIPAC ,media,financial fraud orchestrated by jews as a “mental disorder” kicked out of 151 countries for the same reason every time and still scheming.

    • you prove the point of the article perfectly.

      • SStickit

        And you prove his. Thi article is junk, and sounds to me like a precedent for locking up in an asylum anyone who DARES cite any even FACTS about the Jew scourge. Always scheming, taking, finding ways to cheat what you can’t win outright. You silly patronizing fool. Throw away your pen, or better, stick it up your ass, which you probably do with frequency anyway.

  • Joe Diesendruck

    The author of the poster is for sure an A’hole – he doesn’t fit at Yale and is desperate ! Take him to the psicho but make sure it’s not a jew – it will be too good for him !

  • Crazycatkid

    I like the author’s belief that the American Psyciatric Association and/or American Psychological Association are apolitical, but it just is not the case. The danger is that any new mental disorder will focus on so-called Islamaphobia, anti-immitgrant, anti-Black and accuse and demonize Jews of having this mental disorder. That is how distored and corrupt our world is at this time. Today we have a rage of Hitlereque, fact-free, hate that has cost Israeli Jewish lives and European Jewish lives and traumatized college students across America with campus anti-Israel, anti-Jew lies and hate. It has also saturated government, academia and the very professional organizations that the author hopes will designate a new mental disorder.
    Do I, a mental health professional, believe anti-Semitism is a mental disorder? Yes, but so is all rabid leftism as it is based on inaccurate perceptions, externalized rage and intolerance of differences in philospohies and poltical views. That said, we would need to diagnose most current mental health professionals for, in my experience with my colleagues, they openly and quite thoughtlessly hold anti-Semitic and/or extreme leftist views.

  • I appreciate all feedback. thank you.

  • Kerry M. Berger

    I have read that the British Medical Association has conducted research into religious extremism and terrorism and is looking at defining such behaviors as a form of mental illness. I would expect that anti-semitism and any form of racism is a logical extension to this research. Might be worth exploring.

  • Guy Vidal

    I agree. Extreme racists are mentally ill. Clinically !

  • marta mikey frid

    The word Psychopathology is a myth. We have no science that has established a significant correlation between identifiable behavioural disorders and any stereospecific neurochemical substrate. By calling them “sick” we fall into the trap of absolving them from self-responsibility. The anti-semites are not sick, they are evil…and they know wat they are doing, and their purposes for doing it. They are proud of the their intentions, but oblivious to their cowardly motives. Time for Psychiatrists to sustain their proclamations with valid and reliable data. Too much damage has been committed by classifying malevolent doers as mentally disturbed. Prove it!

    • SStickit

      Nobody is more evil per capita, and per Talmud, than you Jews.

  • David Powell

    Attempting to make antisemitism or racism or global-warming denial into mental illness does a disservice to the treatment of mental illness and destroys the credibility of the people who would attempt such a thing. Worse, wouldn’t this classification avail this behavior with significant new protections?

    In the end, we are seeing the end game on Anti-defamation itself. The tools that were developed to pursue this goal were seen as effective by other groups and they have employed and deployed them very well. Most especially, groups seeking to destroy support for Israel have noticed how powerful these tools are. Thus, CAIR began using these tactics to shut down any critical discussion of Islam, Palestine, and many other crucial topics. The very rules of PC were developed and flowed down the habits established to “fight” racism and antisemitism.

    And now, racism is on the rise and so is anti-semitism. But, these versions are based on identity politics. We are constrained to recognize and respond to race and many other characteristics to deal with potential consequences of getting the interaction wrong. The pluralism that supports tolerance between different sects of Christianity and gently grandfathered in Judaism and even Buddhism is not capable of dealing with a belief system that openly uses coercion, murder, and war to “convert” the unwilling.

    Now, one could point out that Christians did this too at one time, coerce conversion. Jews are very familiar with this. But, this is very uncommon now, and it was uncommon when the drive for anti-defamation was started. But, in the end, unfortunately, this period of “tolerance” is being ended not by the religious, but by the enforcers of PC screeching “off with their heads!” for any new imagined infraction. This is the point of the story of “The little boy who cried wolf.”

    American Jews have not come to terms with the fact that Arab Oil money is buying influence in the Democrat party. This is the real impact of some of the amazingly ignored Saudi and other Arab donations to the Clinton Foundation as well as other Democrat organizational foundations through direct and indirect channels. Jewish donations used to be a major force, but the Jewish population in the United States is fading rapidly. One only need study the Muslim Brotherhood’s goals and open statements of intent to see this is going according to their plan.

    AIPAC’s influence was not sufficient to block a treaty that is insane on its face, not just for Israel but for America too! And, Iran has already repudiated that it has accepted any agreement, and yet this “agreement” approved by not being able to secure a “Veto proof” majority in Congress (by design of Congress?), provides funding for Terrorist operations around the world and authorization for Iran to create nuclear weapons and ignores Iran’s effort to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles to deliver these weapons. Even Neville Chamberlain would have been appalled at the idea of paying for building Germany’s war machine and yet AIPAC couldn’t do a thing.

    Previously respected tools such as science have been so politicized by folks like the writer of this article that even this source of authority is viewed with suspicion by a near majority of Americans. This means that well meaning, cautious observers of what worked and what hasn’t worked in this amazing time will not be trusted nor would they be trustworthy. This is because who’s to determine who is a political hack?

    And yet, there is hope. Not by devising ever more creative ways of bullying people. But, by Jews rediscovering the beauty of faith in God, rediscovering a moral law that serves as a foundation for resilience within adversity, and most importantly, beginning an effort to assist other communities in reasserting this set of core values for all Americans.

    And, as Jews, we need to decide just what is important. What are these core values for us? This is not as straightforward and clear as many would possibly believe. More than half of American Jews are basically secular, agnostic or atheist. This includes a significant number of Jews who attend services regularly. As Jews, many of us are pursuing the dream of “repairing the world” and yet we find our repairs are just making things worse. We have to start asking ourselves why do some good ideas go horribly wrong? The Jews of Medina learned a hard lesson, do we have to repeat it?

    This is a time of existential crisis for Judaism, and as such it is a time of great danger and also of opportunity. Lets not let that opportunity go to waste. Let quit screaming shut up, and start asking, why do you say that? Hate is frustration. Lots of times, frustration isn’t cured by threats and violence, rather it is cured by talking, and finding out what others want and need.

    Judaism’s texts and scholarship contain a huge trove of thousands of years depth, dealing with every nightmare possible. We have such tools if we would just use them. But, they don’t say, threaten or shame everyone around you into silence, not anywhere. Remember the Zealots? What happened next? It just doesn’t work. The first law of holes is “If you find yourself in a hole and you don’t want to be, Quit digging.”

  • Saba

    Anti-Semitism as a sign or symptom of serious mental illness is a slap in the face to anyone with common sense, it is a condition of the human heart. In 1973, when the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its official Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders it did a great disservice to the Gay community and to the general population as a whole. Pro-Sodomy Activist, Camille Paglia said the following:”Our sexual bodies were designed for reproduction…no one is born gay.”
    Anti-Semitism is not a mental illness but rather a hatred of G-d toward those He refers to as “the apple of his eye” the Jewish people. Let’s call a spade a spade and forget the PC garbage that Anti-Semitism is a mental disorder. The only disorder that I can think of is SIN. The human heart is wicked and humanity refuses to acknowledge it.

    • Sodomy, man. don’t knock it till you try it.