The Knesset has banned use of the term “mentally ill” (mefager) in official documents. Individuals who were formerly in that category are now to be known as “individuals with developmental brain limitations.” The law was approved on its second and third reading by a vote of 34 in favor, with none opposed.
In a text accompanying the law, its sponsors, MKs Merav Ben-Ari and Itzik Shmueli, said that “this linguistic change is needed not only because of changing times, but because of our commitment as individuals and society to the honor of human beings, whoever they may be. These principles are basic to our relationships with others, and they must be reflected in our language.”
Although it passed unanimously, the law has generated a great deal of criticism, and has been mocked as well for the politically correct tone it sets in terminology that was accepted for many years. According to critics, the terminology used to describe this population doesn’t matter; what does matter is the ongoing discrimination against them, and changes in the ways they are described will not change social attitudes to them – and in fact could harm real efforts to help them, as the legislative energy that could have been applied to fighting discrimination has been expended on mere terminology, the critics said.
It should be noted that the term “mentally ill” has not been banned for use by Israelis; the law applies only to legal documents and legislative issues.