NYU Scholar Reports Eugenics Part of Psychiatric Practices in Mandatory Palestine, Israel From 1930s Through 1950s


Eugenics was among mainstream psychiatric practices in Mandatory Palestine and in the early years of the state of Israel, New York University s Rakefet Zalashik reports in her book, Ad Nefesh: Refugees, Immigrants, Newcomers and the Israeli Psychiatric Establishment (Hakibbutz Hameuchad; Hebrew).

Ad Nafesh: Immigrants, Refugees, Newcomers, and the Psychiatric Establishment in Israel
Ad Nafesh: Immigrants, Refugees, Newcomers, and the Psychiatric Establishment in Israel

Eugenics was among mainstream psychiatric practices in Mandatory Palestine and in the early years of the state of Israel, New York University’s Rakefet Zalashik reports in her book, Ad Nefesh: Refugees, Immigrants, Newcomers and the Israeli Psychiatric Establishment (Hakibbutz Hameuchad; Hebrew).

The work, which chronicles the practices of the region’s psychiatric community with Jewish patients from the 1930s through the 1950s, also recounts the widespread use of shock therapies long after they’d been abandoned in other parts of the world.

However, Zalashik notes that the findings must be viewed in their historical context.

“Most of the somatic therapies from the first half of the 20th century today seem radical and inhuman, and their usage by psychiatrists a few decades ago often appears difficult to understand or accept,” she observes. “However, one should not ignore the context in which these therapies were invented and implemented. On the one hand, the dominant belief among psychiatrists from all schools at the beginning of the 20th century was that medical progress would enable the creation of a new rational social-moral order that would alleviate human suffering. This optimism strengthened 500

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