Last summer, three mental health clinicians in the USA joined together to launch an organization, the USA-Palestine Mental Health Network, dedicated to publicizing the impact of the Israeli occupation on the well-being of the people of Palestine. As mental health workers, we aim to make known the pervasive psychological damage inflicted by Israel–directly through means such as extrajudicial assassinations, torture of detainees, house demolitions, and nighttime raids upon homes as well as indirectly through the strangle-hold control of the Palestinian economy, resources, and historical narrative. Our organization is co-sponsoring trips to Palestine to acquaint small groups of American mental health workers with professional colleagues living there and have listed on our website a large body of helpful resources such as books, articles, organizations, and websites devoted to the impact of the occupation on Palestine.
In December 2017, we became aware that a professional organization, the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (IARPP), had made a plan to hold its 2019 international conference in Israel. With a colleague in East Jerusalem, the psychiatrist Samah Jabr MD, the three founders of the USA-P MHN co-authored a letter directed to IARPP’s Board of Directors, asking them to reconsider their choice of site for this conference. They refused, and an exchange of letters ensued. The four co-signers then distributed our initial letter of protest as a petition, gathering over 1000 signatures from mental health workers internationally.
In addition, a group of Palestinian mental health workers who are citizens of Israel have written a separate “Statement” in support of the protest. We understand that other groups of mental health workers are also in the process of gathering signatures on their own statements in support of the protest, available very soon. All of these events and the various letters and petitions are featured on our website and the website of our sibling organization, the UK-Palestine Mental Health Network, as “Recent Posts.” Throughout, we have been supported in our work by the UK-P MHN and by the organization Jewish Voice for Peace, which has provided to us the technical platform for the petition.
Here is our website and below is the statement from Palestinian mental health workers in Israel.
February 6 2018
Dear IARPP Board Members,
We, the undersigned, are Palestinian mental health professionals, citizens of Israel, mostly psychodynamically oriented, we have studied relational approaches and appreciate them deeply.
We are contacting you with regards to the international conference scheduled to take place in Israel in June 2019. We feel compelled to state our position concerning the request, made by Dr. Samah Jabr, East Jerusalem-based Palestinian psychiatrist and psychotherapist, and other international colleagues, for the Board to reconsider the conference location.
We have been exposed to the key relational concepts, such as intersubjectivity and mutual recognition, and appreciate the way that the relational theory and practice make room for thinking about the mental health impacts of social and political conditions. In this light, we were surprised to discover that IARPP chose to hold its international conference in Israel, despite its longstanding history of human rights abuses, notably the violent occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza. In our minds, not taking these ongoing assaults on Palestinian lives and human rights into account when choosing the conference location could be translated as their quiet acceptance by IARPP.
We wish to express our solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues in the Occupied West Bank and Besieged Gaza, who suffer daily from oppression, denial of freedom and chronic violence, including frequent killings of civilians by the Israeli Army, which largely go unpunished. We assert that our Palestinian colleagues have a right to resist the Occupation.
In addition, we would like to point out that holding the conference in Tel Aviv will make it impossible for many of our Palestinian colleagues, who are working hard to try and alleviate our people’s suffering and boost their resilience, to attend this important professional conference. This we see as unjust and unjustified.
Therefore, we propose to hold the conference in another location in the region, such as Cyprus or Jordan, where both Palestinian and Israeli participants can travel. While the Palestinians’ freedom of movement is restricted no matter where they wish to travel, it is easier for those of us trapped in Occupied West Bank and Besieged Gaza to obtain the necessary permits required for traveling to the said countries then to be allowed to enter Israel.
We are full of hope that the IARPP Board will take our appeal seriously and make an ethical choice to side with the oppressed, enabling as many Palestinian colleagues as possible to attend the conference that is about to take place in our region. We are certain that obtaining access to relational ideas and training will enhance Palestinian mental health professionals’ ability to support our people in their daily coping and their struggle for justice.
Manal Abu Haq Clinical Social Worker, Psychotherapist ,IARPP member
Dr Mustafa Qossoqsi, Clinical Psychologist
Hanan Khamis-Zoabi, Developmental Psychologist
Fatima Birro, Clinical Psychologist
Dr Caesar Hakim, Clinical Psychologist
Maya Rabea, Clinical Psychologist
Tony Haddad, Clinical Social Worker, Psychotherapist
Manal Assi, Clinical Social Worker
Fatina Nabulsi, Clinical Social Worker, Psychotherapist
Yoa’d Ganadry Hakim, Clinical Psychologist
Rana Azaiza, Clinical Social Worker
Rana Shehab Naara , Clinical Psychologist
Suzan Ukasha, Clinical Psychologist
Dr Adnan Abu El Hija, Clinical Psychologist
Najla Asmar, Clinical Psychologist
Dr Sfaa GH Naser, Clinical Psychologist
Amira Shahla, Clinical Psychologist
Laila Baransa Farah, Social Worker, Psychotherapist
Amany Ayad, Social Worker, Arts therapist
Ali Jaber Abu-Gosh, Clinical psychology Intern
Maha SakallahTali, Social Worker, Couples And Family Therapist
Rana Shawahdy Social Worker, Psychotherapist
Raed Armaly, Educational Psychology Intern
Gawdat Aslih, Educational Psychology Intern