In The Politics of Autism, I write about the everyday struggles facing autistic people and their families -- including casual prejudice against disabled people.
Unfortunately, public figures around the world sometimes use autism as a slur.
A Likud lawmaker’s suggestion that Israel Resilience party leader Benny Gantz might be “autistic” sparked an outcry by two politicians with autistic family members, as well as an autism advocacy group.
In an interview Sunday morning on Radio Darom, a station broadcasting in Israel’s south, Likud MK David Amsalem repeated a Likud campaign talking point that accuses Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff, of spending NIS 600,000 ($165,000) of state funds on the traditional send-off party for his retirement as chief of staff in 2015.
The interviewer challenged Amsalem over the claim, noting that the chief of staff does not organize the farewell event and would not have known its cost.
“Look where you’re taking us,” Amsalem retorted, appearing to acknowledge the point, but arguing Gantz should have known. “It’s as if the chief of staff is some autistic person who isn’t interested, doesn’t understand.”
The comment drew rebuke from Alut, the Israeli Society for Autistic Children and Adults, which called it “sad and disappointing that a senior elected official permits himself to use the word ‘autistic’ as a pejorative, insulting a large population of autistic adults and children, as well as their families. Alut has worked for years to raise awareness about autism, and has significant achievements to its name. Apparently the work is not yet finished.At Ynet News, Moran Azulay:
Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid, whose daughter is autistic, slammed Amsalem. "Dudi Amsalem just said on the radio that Benny Gantz is autistic. Because being my daughter is a curse to him. Because in Amsalem's world, they always step on the weak," he wrote.In December, Raoul Wootliff reported at the same paper:
"Benny Gantz is not autistic, Mr. Amsalem," Lapid said. "There's no need to pull over on the side of the road when he flies into a rage and starts biting his mother. He doesn't steal food from others' tables at restaurants. He doesn't need to undergo dental treatments under full anesthesia. His parents are not up at night trying to figure out who would take care of him when they are old."
"I'm a politician; I'm supposed to always talk nice. Not this time. Beware of me Dudi, talk nicely about my daughter," Lapid said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair mocked Israel Police chief Roni Alsheich, who oversaw the investigations that concluded in indictment recommendations for his father, comparing the outgoing commissioner to a mafioso and someone with autism.
“Alsheich is a cross between Tony Soprano and Rain Man,” Netanyahu Junior wrote (in Hebrew) on Facebook on Monday.