Writes a friend:
Hope you don’t mind disclosure, but an interesting experience:
Just went for first consultation with psychotherapist I have been referred to and towards end of emotionally painful session, having made number of allusions to Israel/Palestine given my work and experiences, I emphasized by way of introduction to myself, that Palestine solidarity was a big part of my life. He immediately shot back “Why not Syria or Saudi Arabia or Iran?”. My heart sank, then hardened. I asked him directly if he had an opinion on the matter. He hesitated but just continued to say that his point was there were many other places I might be involved in, adding China to his list. I explained that because of my studies I had become involved, and once you know what is happening there is no turning back – it is such a powerful moral struggle against Israel’s efforts to deflect criticism, and the impunity afforded to the state by the West, not least my country. I admitted that I am used to the kind of response he made from Zionists at protests, and it made me anxious. I asked once more if he had an opinion on this subject. He again attempted to justify his question by saying there were many causes on my doorstep, such as homelessness and poverty that I might be involved in, and he was just curious. I pressed him and cautiously he began to state his position: he proffered that he was perhaps ignorant of certain facts given he had not “visited the Arab territories” and was more familiar with the other side. Nervous by now, he delicately tried to defend himself by quoting the words of – he believes – the playwright, David Hare of Israeli Jews: “They are like people who have escaped the fire and landed on other people’s heads”, adding that he supposed he thought more about the people who had escaped the fire.
He didn’t have to expose his bias – indeed perhaps it was unprofessional – but is it unrealistic to think you can have this kind of trusting relationship when you are both unable to hold back about such a politically and morally divisive issue?
And yes I will ask for another psychotherapist!
I think this sort of thing happens a lot, actually. And what is most interesting here is the extent to which a political prejudice on the therapist’s part overrides his professional instructions; so he blurts his opinion and ends the professional relationship. Also, he is intimidated by my intelligent friend, and so he prevaricates rather than copping to the infraction. In 2002 during the second intifada I was at the Hyatt in Washington on an escalator. I was covering some political conference and there was a conference of psychologists going on at the same time, and one of them looked up from a newspaper she was reading and shook her head in grief, meeting my eyes in a Jew-meets-Jew moment. “The suicide bombing,” I said. “It’s not a suicide bombing. It’s a homicide bombing. I’ve written to the newspapers about this,” she said angrily. So a psychologist was denying that a suicide bomber was a suicide? I realized that psychologists are political animals too, and have conventional opinions…