Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg

Not about taking sides

The constant, strident calls for solidarity with Israelis or Palestinians in the conflict in Gaza makes it impossible to find middle ground — or peace

I've been seeing a lot of traffic on my Facebook feed about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, all of which consists of a series of constant, strident, endless calls to take one side or the other.

I keep wanting to respond, to discuss, and to find some common ground, but I can't do it effectively inside the “if you're not with us, you're against us” paradigm.

I've always rejected that paradigm, for one simple reason: If people are being killed, or having their limbs blown off, or suffering traumatic brain injury, or going through any of the other innumerable types of physical and psychological trauma that happen in the midst of war, I couldn't care less whose side they're on.

Do you think I weep any less for a Palestinian baby who is killed and for the Palestinian parents who have to bury that child than I do for an Israeli baby who is killed and for the Israeli parents who have to bury that child?...

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When Morning Joe joins the He Must Be Autistic chorus

Where’s the evidence? Oh, right. There isn’t any. Because it’s not true.

We in the disability community knew it was coming. We'd known it for days. After a young man in Aurora, Colo. took the lives of 12 people, wounded 58, and left nothing but grief and misery behind him, we knew they'd start rounding up the usual suspects. They always...

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On autism and empathy

People with autism don%u2019t lack empathy %u2014 they express it unconventionally

It's an oft-repeated and erroneous stereotype that autistic people lack empathy. When I hear another iteration of this myth, I have an immediate, visceral reaction that combines impatience at its perpetuation with a keen, first-hand understanding of its power to wreak havoc on the lives on autistic people. When...

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Marking a grave, honoring a suppressed life

In 2009, while searching Ancestry.com for new information to add to my family genealogy, I discovered the existence of a relative about whom no one in the family had ever spoken. She was my paternal grandfather's younger sister (my father's aunt), and her name was Sarah. During a search of census records, I learned that she had been a patient at the Massachusetts State Hospital in Canton, Mass. in 1920, when she was 11 years old, and at the Wrentham...

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‘Death with Dignity’ Bill promises only indignity

When I was younger, I fully supported physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill people. I believed that people who are dying should be able to decide when and how the end arrives, and that physicians should be able to make the process as painless and as dignified as possible. After all, isn't the decision to end one's life a personal one? Doesn't the right of self-determination dictate that one should have control over deciding the manner of one's death? If physician-assisted...

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Stereotypes in column perpetuate stigmas

In her column “High Noon in the OK Corral” [The Commons, Feb. 16], Elayne Clift quite rightly takes our society to task for the ease with which one can buy a vast assortment of weapons. However, in her plea to end the kind of violence that took place in Tucson this past January, she demonizes those who are among the most likely targets of violence themselves: people with serious mental illness. In decrying the movement toward deinstitutionalization, Clift writes: “The...

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Embracing the social model of disability

In my last article for The Commons, I wrote about the distance I often feel from the non-autistic world, saying “[I]f you are a typically abled person, we live worlds apart. You see, I am autistic, and there are many things that I cannot do.” The feeling was an honest one, and yet, I've been troubled by these words from the time I first saw them in print. I've thought long and hard about why, and I finally have an...

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Crossing the line

As a Jew, I have long been a proponent of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And so, in the wake of the violence in Gaza, I have watched in horror as the cycle of war continues, with no end in sight. At the same time, I am deeply distressed to watch the imagery of the Holocaust become an ever-more-virulent weapon against the Jews who survived it. For the past several years, I have seen Israel likened to the...

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