How Diabetes Came to Be Considered a “Jewish Disease”

In the last decades of the 19th century, reports began to appear in medical and scientific literature that there was a disproportionately high incidence of diabetes—a disease still little understood—in Jews. Based on modern medical knowledge, there is reason to speculate as to why this might have been true. But, writes Arleen Marcia Tuchman, the data are largely suspect, and might reveal more about the authors than the patients:

For one, most writers who mentioned this link [between Jews and diabetes] rarely provided statistics to back up their claims. They simply repeated what everyone else was saying. And those who did offer up numbers and patterns offered statistics that were often unreliable. Not only did physicians usually draw on select populations, whether from their own private practice, the patient population of a specific hospital, or those seeking relief at expensive spas, but it was not always clear how to determine whether someone was Jewish—especially when calculating mortality rather than morbidity rates.

Some of [the contemporary suggestions about a Jewish predisposition to diabetes] were decidedly antagonistic toward Jews. J.G. Wilson, a surgeon with the U.S. Public Health Service, was particularly disdainful. In a study he conducted on “Jewish psychopathology,” . . . he referred to Jews as “a highly inbred and psychopathically inclined race.” Wilson made this claim while he was stationed at Ellis Island, the U.S. port of entry for most East European Jews. His sense of discomfort with [with Jews was apparent in] his insistence that Jews had such a high rate of this disease because of “some hereditary defect” exacerbated by “the practice of inbreeding.”

The hostility that Wilson evinced in his discussion of Jews and diabetes was, however, the exception rather than the rule. Far more common in the diabetes literature was subtle trafficking in negative stereotypes. Thus one physician attributed Jews’ high rate of diabetes to the love of the “Hebrew race” for “high living,” adding that “they are given to parties, they congregate together and have frequent and irregular meals.” William Osler wrote of Jews’ particularly “neurotic temperament.” A journalist weighed in, blaming Jews’ “racial tendency to corpulence.” And Haven Emerson, professor of preventive medicine at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and a previous commissioner of health for the city of New York, put the onus on Jews for spreading what he called “this great luxury disease.”

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, Immigration, Medicine

Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security