Charlie Keeble
An Autistic Conservative Inspired by Zionism

Autistic Lives Thrive on Zionism

I write this post in April, the month of Autism Awareness and Advocacy. It is an active time in the calendar for me to be engaging with people on social media to prove the positive aspirational ideas I have for autistic people. Since the October 7th massacre when Hamas fighters attacked Israel and devoured its citizens, I have felt more connected to the Jewish people than I ever felt before. There were members of my autism community and people within other disability advocacy groups whom I expected to be showing unity with Israel. After seeing the brutal nature of these genocidal terrorists savagely devouring Israeli settlements, I thought they would shower the survivors with love and support in this time of great need. But they had no sympathy for the Jews at all.

I have long been fighting for Israel and Jews from an autistic perspective that believes in the conservative ideology for autistic people. Only this time my conservative political beliefs didn’t matter about how I took sides because this has affected people from all sides of the political spectrum. But some people on the political left have refused to acknowledge their own prejudices. For years I was a member of many disability support groups on social media, and when I brought Israel up they denounced the country as hostile to the disabled. In the same way that Israel is accused of being complicit in genocide against the Palestinians, these disability activists accuse Israel of killing disabled people and taking their organs for donations. How could they think of such horrible blood libels like that? Clearly, they have been infantilised by left-wing progressive theories that have despicable tastes in diversity.

I have long since distanced from them but I looked at the threads of some of these groups to see what their views were on the violent attacks against Israel. In one thread on the ‘This Thing They Call Recovery’ Instagram page, I saw an argument over taking sides with the Palestinians. One-third of the hostages with chronic disabilities were being denied access to their basic healthcare medication. Someone pointed out the hypocrisy of this account for taking sides and excluding the Israeli side in her disability advocacy campaign. This woman was just saying that the attack on Israel was justified and completely dismissed Israel’s contributions to disability advocacy.

Diversability is a US disability pride organisation and they announced that they stood with everyone affected by the terrorist attack on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. They retracted this after getting a lot of angry responses from their followers. By capitulating to the mob like this they were self-defeating and undermining their own cause. Looking through the comments on this post there was disappointment from Jewish followers, as I could see antisemitic tones within here with anti-Israel feelings entrenched into neurodiverse minds. If you don’t believe that the Jews have no right to a sanctuary state then you have no moral justification for disability rights. I find it absolutely nauseating to read such inflammatory comments towards the only Jewish country, which prides itself on progressive values and inventive ideas for disabled people.

So far there have been many disability groups unfairly denouncing Israel and making Jews appear as monsters to the disabled community. But I have stood up and continued to fight for the truth about Israel and declare them a righteous nation that makes autistic lives survive and thrive. I made many new friends and allies both Jews and non-Jews who love my autistic Zionist advocacy. I told these Jews that I owed it to them for their custom of Tikkun Olam making autistic people integrated into Israeli society. Across the diaspora like here in Britain, Jewish people have made certain that disabled people are supported in society.

In Steve Silberman’s Neurotribes, the most extensive book about autism culture, I learned of several Jewish people connected to advancing autistic people. One of them was Leo Kanner. In 1938 he made the first recognised diagnosis of autism in infant children in Maryland, USA. Autism is a condition that I have and Kanner was the one who invented the term autism. He also began the first-ever autism advocacy network as well. Then there is Professor Simon Baron Cohen who is the director of the Cambridge University Autism Research Unit. He has conducted many studies in the psychology of autism including the controversial Empathising-Systemising (ES) theory, which explains why autism is more pronounced in boys than it is in girls.

One of my favourite Jewish disability advocacy stories is that of Doctor Ludwig Guttmann. He was stationed to work at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital, England in 1944 as a Jewish German refugee. Guttmann brought with him his experience in treating disabled people with a remarkable rehabilitation technique. Guttmann used sports to bring the wounded soldiers back into mental and physical fitness and in doing so he showed just how unbreakable the spirit of disabled people can be. A trait that I think disabled people have in common with Jewish people here is that they believe in resilience against the things that try to break them.

But he took it one step further. In 1948 when the Olympic Games were in London, Guttmann began a national games for disabled servicemen on the grounds of the hospital. This eventually became the Paralympic Games, and it was told in the BBC drama The Best of Men. I showed this film to my new Jewish friend Dmitri and he was so moved by it. I think having watched The Best of Men I can see that the Jewish spirit is indeed empowering for disabled people. This is enshrined in the state of Israel where the IDF not only upholds the standards of being the most moral armed forces in the world but recruits disabled people to be fighters for freedom. The soldiers recruited in these special units are brave and brilliant and the IDF takes pride in them being instrumental to Israel’s line of defence.

Take the Unit 9900 for example. This unit is made up of autistic intelligence operatives who watch out for enemy activity on the ground where there may be threats to Israeli security. The recruits are trained through a programme called Ro’im Rachok (meaning ‘looking ahead’) to equip them with the right skills in the workplace. They say that there is a genetic trait in autism that contributes to exceptional memory skills, heightened perception and a precise eye for detail. These are advantageous characteristics in autistic people and I am glad that the IDF sees it as a means for autistic people to have useful abilities in defending their country against terrorist forces.

I once messaged a Jewish woman called Marla, who has a disabled child that can bring hope and gratitude to Jewish people from an autistic gentile: I am indebted to you Jews for every good thing you have done to make me feel better about myself with my autism. There are many common traits I see in Judaism to disability advocacy. Although it’s embarrassing a lot of people in my autism community prefer pity over empowerment.

About the Author
Charlie Keeble is a journalist and author of two books focusing on his autism and the advocacy work he celebrates for his self-determination. He takes inspiration from Zionism to build his autistic advocacy movement such as the Jewish practice of Tikkun Olam, and how Israel is a place of a grand spectrum of creative ideas. Autism and Zionism both believe in bright ideas with infinite imagination around the world. Charlie has ambitions to work in journalism telling the story about how autism makes him stronger and more determined than most people you will ever meet. He is a passionate science geek with a burning ambition to invent something that shows his integrity as a creator. He previously worked as an ambassador for the London Science Museum, and once applied to become an astronaut with the European Space Agency. However, at the moment he is helping to develop the Conservative Friends of Neurodiversity blog and podcast.
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