Samah Jabr https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/15936/all cached version 18/12/2018 20:02:19 en Professional solidarity with Palestine: a mental health imperative https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/samah-jabr/professional-solidarity-with-palestine-mental-health-imperative <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p> Palestinian mental health professionals will continue critical dialogue of the occupation until its hegemony is exposed and deconstructed.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="selectionShareable"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-38858667.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-38858667.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Friends of Naser Azmi Musabeh grieve with a wreath of flowers on his desk. Naser an 11-year-old from Khan Younis south of Gaza was hit with a live bullet in the head by Israeli troops during demonstrations in eastern Khan Younis. Picture by Hassan Jedi/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In the field of medicine, we often speak of the social determinants of health. In Palestine, not only social, but political determinants of health have a grave impact on the wellbeing and mental health of our community. I am not just talking about the political blackmail through recent blatant cuts of the US administration of millions of US dollars from East Jerusalem hospitals and defunding UNRWA educational and health services, but also through the daily realities of dismal work opportunities, a vacuum of leadership, the threat of political detention haunting our youth, and the pervasive experiences of loss and grief. Centuries of political oppression has created a cascade of damage to collective identity and individuals’ personalities.</p> <p class="selectionShareable">The ongoing siege of Gaza is only a single dramatisation of how the political realities of occupation deliberately destroy the quality of life for Palestinians.&nbsp; In a society where the sudden traumatic death of young people is common and the experience of detention and torture touch every family, psychological suffering and collective anxiety are pandemics. Who better than mental health professionals to understand how this omnipresent pain and fear can intimidate the population or even push individuals into radicalisation?</p> <p class="selectionShareable">In my governmental office at the mental health unit responsible for mental health services in the West Bank, I often receive donors and representative of international medical and mental health NGO’s, who are interested in supporting our mental health system. Some are ready to pay for medications, equipment, training; but they shy away from advocacy and political solidarity.</p> <p class="selectionShareable">But, solidarity with the Palestinian people and advocacy for their human and national rights is just a therapeutic stand in the face of their collective historical trauma and is not limited to mental health professionals. Without such solidarity, the interventions of mental health professionals may do more harm than good as such interventions fail to be preventive, might pathologise the experience of Palestinians, medicalises their reactions and inhibits their agency, while maintaining the status quo of their pathogenic context.</p><p class="selectionShareable">The decision by the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (IARPP) to hold its 2019 conference in Tel Aviv and the participation of the <em>Association de Conferences de Psychiatrie de l’Enfant et de l’adolescent de Langue Francaise en Israel</em> (COPELFI) – at a colloquium on Trauma in Rennes, France, this December – are recent examples of how occupied Palestine is overlooked by mental health professionals, demonstrating how Western identification with the Israeli experience is facilitated.&nbsp; But this bias is classical in my profession; I use search engines often to see how much is published in my professional domain in relation to Palestine and Israel: so little is published about Palestinian trauma, so much is published about Palestinian “terrorism” while so much is published about Israeli trauma, so little is published about Israel’s terrorism.</p> <p class="selectionShareable">Propaganda is not limited to media!&nbsp; Even in professional settings, Palestine is hushed, and the final considerations of the trauma of the Jewish nation are silencing much of the critical dialogue about the occupation.&nbsp; In 2014, just after the massacres in Gaza, I was invited to speak at the Tavistock and Portman Institute in London. After multiple attempts to intimidate me into silence, one of the professional participants shouted at the moderator, “This is one-sided; why didn’t you invite an Israeli speaker?” “It is a betrayal of the Jewish founding fathers of this place” to invite a person like “her!” a psychiatrist who raises questions about the role and responsibility that professionals share to engage with the political reality.</p><p class="selectionShareable">Europeans, Westerners, and Israelis do not own the profession of healing, nor do they possess the experience of Palestinians. To disregard the experience of Palestinians is—at the very least—neglect; to condition listening to and inviting Palestinians to inviting Israelis is an illusion of symmetry and a promotion of the Palestinian normalization with and dependency on Israelis to reach international professional venues; that ominous dependency that makes the trauma of the Palestinians more complex.&nbsp; Instead of questioning Israeli professionals about their ethical responsibilities as Israelis and as professionals towards the political trauma of Palestinians, international professionals become an accomplice in denial and that impedes their role as a third party with a potential role to promote psychological healing and encourage&nbsp;restorative justice and future reconciliation.</p> <p class="selectionShareable">Many professionals today take pride in having maintained solidarity with Nelson Mandela and the people he represented in his opposition to the apartheid regime of South Africa years ago. Few today would wish to be known as having brought pro-apartheid white South African professionals to conferences so that they could share the expertise of their trauma caused by black South Africans. Likewise, mental health professionals should not depend upon Israelis to provide expertise on the shock of our political reality. Instead, mental health professionals should take pride in supporting their colleagues in Palestine in their daily work and in generating knowledge and awareness of the human rights abuses perpetrated by the state of Israel which engendered trauma for both peoples. Meanwhile, we, Palestinian mental health professionals, will continue our critical dialogue of the occupation until its hegemony is exposed and deconstructed.</p><p class="selectionShareable"><strong>This article was originally published on <a href="https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20181129-professional-solidarity-with-palestine-a-mental-health-imperative/">Middle East Monitor</a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/anastasia-kyriacou/mental-health-in-conflict-occupation-therapy-needed-for-pa">Mental health in conflict: ‘occupation therapy’ needed for Palestinians</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/yosefa-loshitzky/ahed-tamimi-illegally-blond">Ahed Tamimi: illegally blond</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/jen-marlowe-fadi-abu-shammalah/great-return-march-and-women-of-gaza">The Great Return March and the women of Gaza</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/omar-talab-Bertie-Wnek/in-palestine-self-dehumanisation-against-disregard-of-human-value">In Palestine: self-dehumanisation against the disregard of human value</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Palestine solidarity Mental health Samah Jabr Tue, 04 Dec 2018 11:42:24 +0000 Samah Jabr 120832 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Palestine: our history haunts our future https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/samah-jabr/palestine-our-history-haunts-our-future <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>When Palestinians fight for their national rights, we are called “terrorists.” When we demonstrate in non-violent ways and are killed by the occupying forces, we are called “suicidal”.</p> </div> </div> </div> <span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36515586.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-36515586.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Palestinian woman during a protest near the Gaza border with Israel on 14 May, 2018. Picture by Sameh Rahmi/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>A French colleague once asked me, “Why are the Palestinians stuck in the Nakba? They commemorate villages no longer present on any map and bequeath to their children the keys to homes that have been long abandoned. Why don’t they leave it all behind, and look to the future?”</span><p>The answer is that the Nakba is not only an historical trauma but an accumulative affliction that continues to harm Palestinian identity, both collectively and individually; the Nakba is an ongoing injury that has never been bandaged or healed. The Nakba is a contemporary insult renewed with every Palestinian who is humiliated, arrested, and killed; salt is added to the wound of the Nakba with every demolished home and every bit of confiscated land.</p><p>The memory of the Nakba is not kept alive by the key that moves from the hand of the grandfather to the hand of the grandson. The memory lies in the damaged identity and self-image that has been thrust upon us and which is passed from generation to generation. We inherit the Nakba from the oppressed, expelled generation which came before – an anguished heritage which carries bad memories as if our genes themselves were anguished.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Commemoration of the Nakba is necessary in order to understand the present</p><p>Neither an attempt to forget or the senility of old age can dispel these memories. Silence cannot undo its shocking impact.&nbsp; On the contrary, commemoration of the Nakba is necessary in order to understand the present and to redress the injury of the past. A collective trauma requires a collective healing through popular narrative, rituals, and symbolic representation, as well as restorative justice. Silence and denial will only deepen the wound and inflict future calamities upon us.</p><p>“But the Palestinians who approach the fence in Gaza must be suicidal!” proclaims my colleague emphatically, without curiosity about the thoughts and feelings of these Palestinians. My colleague’s quick diagnosis does not acknowledge that these Palestinians may intend to communicate a need, may intend to alter the unchanging conditions of the status quo. These Palestinians may intend to protest the theft of their land or the siege or the partition of their people. But by making a quick diagnosis, my colleague forecloses the opportunity to listen and to negotiate better strategies; by drawing judgments on the basis of surface behavior, genuine understanding is short-circuited.</p><p>There is a difference between the psychological profile of a person who attempts suicide because of personal problems and the person who undergoes self-sacrifice in the context of social struggle. The suicidal person is hopeless and desperate, withdrawing from others pessimistically or fearing to be a burden upon them. Suicidal actions are often egocentric because the individual’s spark of life has lost its meaning in interpersonal terms. In contrast, the self-sacrificing person–even on the pathway to death–may be full of hope, indeed perhaps too much so. The act of self-sacrifice often involves an altruistic dedication to others and an eagerness to improve their future chances. Their hope is to extinguish their own soul in the service of giving light to others and brighten the road ahead.</p><p>I remember a dream that I had a few years ago. I was walking in the darkness and beheld creatures with brown fur walking slowly on their four legs. Every now and then, one stopped and turned its head upwards. It was too dark to see clearly, but I finally recognized a human face. That was a dream about my people and the poor insight in the world.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Human beings often make sacrifices for the sake of their values or on behalf of others for whom they care</p><p>When Palestinians fight for their national rights, we are called “terrorists.” When we demonstrate in non-violent ways and are killed by the occupying forces, we are called “suicidal;” Avi Dichter, the Chairman of the Israeli Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, called peaceful demonstrators “idiots.”</p><p>Are there people who are willing to open their eyes in this darkness to see the Palestinian human face?</p><p>Throughout history, millions have marched to have their voices heard. Human beings often make sacrifices for the sake of their values or on behalf of others for whom they care. When such persons die, they are glorified and considered to be martyrs to their cause. Why should it be so different when such persons are killed by Israeli forces? Two months ago, Arnaud Beltrame, a French policeman, exchanged himself with a hostage in a terrorist attack in Trebes; he was unfortunately killed, but his behavior was lauded as brave and heroic, not suicidal.&nbsp;</p><p>The great march which started on Land’s Day and continues as I write this text, on the bitter occasion of the establishment of the American Embassy in my occupied city of Jerusalem, is meant to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Nakba. This march signifies the special meaning of this land to the Palestinians. Whereas some landowners may regard their lands as mere property that generates economic profit and can be exploited for water, energy, and food, the Palestinians feel otherwise. As a landless people, the Palestinians view land as an aspect of their own souls, representing their injured identity. Attached to their land with deep emotion, many Palestinians are ready to die for it. Advocacy, strategies, planning and calculation of risks are needed so that Palestinians do not need to be killed in order for their plight to be recognized. Premature judgment, psychiatric labeling, or exploitation of self-sacrifice cannot advance understanding of this plight.</p><p>Land is the material space for the life story of Palestinians, as with all people. Let there be space on earth for the Palestinians, so that human beings will not search for their life stories underground. It is a great anguish that so many Palestinians are killed in defense of their dreams. Our only solace is to believe that if they have left us by choice to sleep forever, they continue somehow to pursue those beautiful dreams.</p><p><em><strong>This article was first published on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180515-our-history-haunts-our-future/">Middle East Monitor</a>&nbsp;on May 15, 2018.&nbsp;</strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/haidar-eid/on-70thanniversary-of-nakba-reflections-of-palestinian-refugee">On the 70th anniversary of the Nakba: reflections of a Palestinian refugee</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/omar-talab-Bertie-Wnek/in-palestine-self-dehumanisation-against-disregard-of-human-value">In Palestine: self-dehumanisation against the disregard of human value</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/yara-hawari/seventy-years-of-palestinian-resistance-since-establishment-of-st">Seventy years of Palestinian resistance since the establishment of the State of Israel</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Palestine Civil society Israel occupation Resistance Samah Jabr Wed, 16 May 2018 08:08:59 +0000 Samah Jabr 117905 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'More royal than the king': an encounter with French Zionism https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/samah-jabr/more-royal-than-king-encounter-with-french-zionism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The fabrication of lies and false accusations to intimidate their opponents is only to be expected from those willing to legitimize killing and torture in support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-29556944.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Mick Tsikas/AAP/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-29556944.jpg" alt="Mick Tsikas/AAP/PA Images. All rights reserved." title="Mick Tsikas/AAP/PA Images. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A child plays by the fenced-in house of al-Ghirayim family between the Jewish settlement of Givon Hahadasha and the West Bank village of Beit Ijza, north of Jerusalem, Dec. 11, 2016. Mick Tsikas/AAP/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>My latest encounter with international Zionism was in Paris, March 10, following the screening of the documentary film “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zO1-ftfVLvQ">Derrière<strong> </strong>les Fronts</a>” at Cinema 3 Luxembourg. </p> <p>I was there to participate in the debate that followed the screening as I appear prominently in the film itself. But immediately after one of the spectators asked a genuine and sincere question about the psychopathologies that I encounter as a clinician in Palestine, a friend of Israel took the microphone to occupy the occasion with a very long, hateful, and chauvinistic speech about “Palestinian paranoia” and “the Arab’s natural violence and racism” – until finally the audience could no longer tolerate his diatribe and a loud collective outcry arose demanding he let someone else speak.</p> <p>This person’s name, gender, color, religion&nbsp;and appearance are less important than his role, which is to arrive at every possible time and place and to any activity that gives recognition to Palestinians.</p> <p>I encountered “him” countless times in the past – when I spoke, as a student, at Saint Peter’s University in New York years ago; when I spoke among professionals at the “Thinking Space” special <a href="http://www.cpja.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Survival_and_Well-being_of_the_Palestinian_People-1.pdf">event</a> of The <em>Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust</em> in London after the 2014 Gaza war, and now at a cinema in Paris.&nbsp; </p> <p>His role is to occupy the time devoted to public debate in order to prevent a meaningful discussion from taking place; to <a href="http://www.france-palestine.org/Death-threats-from-pro-Israel-fascists-it-is-time-to-take-action">intimidate</a> the speakers and the audience by his aggressive and accusing attitude, and to make use of the occasion to defame and threaten the speakers and the people responsible for organizing the activity giving recognition to the Palestinian experience.&nbsp;</p> <p>At this moment, we see Israel is hastily cooking up new laws to criminalize and punish individuals involved in both BDS and in exposing Israel’s shameful illegal actions. </p> <p>Within just the past few days,&nbsp;Israel has <a href="https://www.palestinecampaign.org/psc-chair-hugh-lanning-deported-israel/">deported</a> Hugh Lanning, the Chairman of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, for his involvement in&nbsp;criticizing Israel; and Kahlil Tufkaji, the Director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and an expert in mapping and settlement, has also been <a href="http://www.palestinechronicle.com/israel-shuts-down-arab-society-in-jerusalem-arrest-its-chairman/">arrested</a>.&nbsp; </p> <p>Meanwhile, Israel’s friends in Europe and the USA are acting ‘more royal than the king,’ with regards to Palestinians and international friends of Palestinians, marking them, weaving lies to smear their reputations and attacking them through their means of livelihood. </p> <p>Everywhere the mighty truncheon of Israel is swayed to threaten all who dare criticize the occupation or mobilize nonviolent action to address human rights abuses in Palestine. </p> <p>I have friends who have been receiving threats to their lives for their involvement in supporting Palestinian rights.&nbsp;One must wonder what recourse is left for Palestinians when diplomacy fails and&nbsp;nonviolent action is criminalized – to ask this question is not to encourage violence but to observe the way in which supporters of Zionism, through systematically extinguishing all possible avenues of non-violent public response, are themselves implicated in the episodes of violence that follow.</p> <p>In this context, the monopolizer of the microphone in the cinema has made the deliberate false claim that the screening of this film had been organized in the framework of the "Israel-Apartheid" week. He makes the absurd accusation that both I and the director of the film are agents of terrorism – and by so doing, endangering our careers, our personal freedom, and our physical safety. He further asserts the colossal inflammatory falsehood that I identify Israeli civilians as legitimate targets of armed resistance!</p> <p>Finally, he admits that he finds the film “incomprehensible.” &nbsp;Maybe because in his conscious mind the well-worn untruth remains: the Palestinians “don’t exist – where are the Palestinians?” </p> <p>But the film gives life and an undeniable presence to the Palestinians in their beautiful diversity: the <a href="http://www.arabamerica.com/80768-2/">Archbishop Atallah Hanna</a>, the hunger-striking detainee <a href="https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/israeli-authorities-release-sheikh-khader-adnan-after-56-day-hunger-strike/">Sheikh Khader Adnan</a>, the director of a queer organization <a href="http://www.aswatgroup.org/en">Aswat</a> - Ghadir AlShafie,&nbsp;a university professor Dr. Abaher Al Saqqa, an additional member of a university faculty, and the x-prisoner academic&nbsp;Rula Abu Dahho, and Deema Zallooum, the young mother who saved her child from being kidnapped by settlers. </p> <p>All of these Palestinians join me in conveying a unified message:&nbsp;we will continue to&nbsp;share our&nbsp;variant testimonies about the occupation, no matter what power is used to break the tissues of Palestinian&nbsp;solidarity. We will&nbsp;strengthen&nbsp;our&nbsp;networking with the&nbsp;supporters&nbsp;of justice and extend our hands to the friends of Palestine.&nbsp;</p><p> This piece was first published on <a href="https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170316-more-royal-than-the-king-an-encounter-with-french-zionism/"><em>Middle East Monitor</em></a> on 16 March 2017.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/badia-dwaik-gilbert-ramsay/in-troubled-hebron-innovative-progamme-of-activism-trainin">In troubled Hebron, an innovative programme of activism training brings new hope</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/yara-hawari/un-report-confirms-that-israel-is-guilty-of-apartheid-and-endorses-bds">UN report confirms that Israel is guilty of apartheid, and endorses BDS</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> <div class="field-item even"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item odd"> France </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia France Israel Palestine Civil society Conflict Culture occupied territories freedom of expression Samah Jabr You tell us Sun, 19 Mar 2017 17:01:03 +0000 Samah Jabr 109526 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Adding insult to injury: when Israel and Britain celebrate the historical trauma of Palestinians https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/samah-jabr/adding-insult-to-injury-when-israel-and-britain-celebrate-historical-traum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Palestinians will not be silenced. We will voice our historical testimony and tell our narrative to make sense of the senseless grievances of colonialism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-30229477.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="DAVID MOIR/AAP/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-30229477.jpg" alt="DAVID MOIR/AAP/PA Images. All rights reserved." title="DAVID MOIR/AAP/PA Images. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pro-Palestine protesters gather during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Australia outside the Town Hall in Sydney, Feb. 23, 2017. DAVID MOIR/AAP/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>After one hundred years, Britain seems to be at the same moral stage it was at when UK Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balfour_Declaration">wrote</a> to the leader of the British Jewish community, Baron Rothschild, promising the establishment of a "national home" for the Jewish people in Palestine. </p><p>Instead of making redress, creating historical transformations, social developments and repairs to the Palestinians, the British prime minister has <a href="http://english.wafa.ps/page.aspx?id=qTpSvza54203285103aqTpSvz">invited</a> the Israeli prime minister to a celebration to mark the centile anniversary of the Balfour declaration. </p> <p>This celebration triggers the historical trauma that has left significant scars on Palestinian collective memory; over a century of displacement and military domination that have deprived Palestinians politically and culturally and treated them as problematic and inferior beings. </p> <p>Britain is also responsible for imposing massive Jewish immigration to Palestine, while the Palestinians who aspired for independence after 30 years of British mandate were crushed. The violence and defeat that was brought upon the Palestinian people was facilitated&nbsp;by Britain. The effects of which don’t only harm the people of that generation, who were killed or displaced and whose property was stolen, but all&nbsp;members of society till this day. The generations that have followed shoulder the burden of this historical trauma, and their future has changed ever since.</p> <p>Now, with the US' unprecedented financial and political support, and global powers' silence or&nbsp;collusion with the occupation and international&nbsp;acclaim of its criminals (the funeral of Shimon Peres, as an example), Palestinians realize that they live in a world where bullying prevails over reason, and hegemony over ethics. Israel is imposing its discourse with power.</p> <h2><strong>Racist laws</strong></h2> <p>During last year alone, Israel issued five racist laws: the “<a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/07/israeli-expulsion-law-violates-rules-democracy-160724071131444.html">Expulsion Law</a>,” which stipulates that a member of Knesset can be expelled from parliament through a majority vote of 90 legislators, a law that is aimed at the minority Arab Knesset members. </p> <p>The “<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-palestine-journalist-arrests-incitement-law-facebook-a7354236.html">incitement</a>” law incriminates political views and restricts freedom of expression. This law was passed to target those who utter opposition against the occupation, or oppose the character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. </p> <p>The third is the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/12/israel-passes-law-to-force-ngos-to-reveal-foreign-fundinghttps:/www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/12/israel-passes-law-to-force-ngos-to-reveal-foreign-funding">NGO law</a>, which is mainly targeting human rights organizations, mandating that they reveal the sources of their funding.</p> <p>The fourth, and probably worst, is the “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulation_Law">Regulation Law</a>” which will eventually allow the annexation of 60 percent of land in the West Bank to Israeli&nbsp;settlers.&nbsp;</p> <p>More recently, the “<a href="http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Ministers-approve-bill-muffling-muezzins-call-to-prayer-472519">Muezzen law</a>” which muffles the Muslim character of Palestine by banning the use of speakers for the&nbsp;call to prayer by mosques, calling it “pollution”.</p> <h2><strong>Trauma is the disaster of helplessness</strong></h2> <p>While Israel is expanding geographically and demographically at the expense of&nbsp;Palestinians, Palestinian leaders are making empty condemnations. </p><p>In fact, the Palestinian leadership is coexisting with the settlements and only rivals with Israel in the media. When Palestinian leaders complain of settlements, yet remain gatekeepers and passive recipients of colonial domination of the occupation, supposed friends of Palestine can only think&nbsp;"you deserve what you get."</p> <h2><strong>Blaming the victim</strong></h2> <p>Victim-blaming attitudes make it harder for the abused to protest and remind the world of their trauma. The world blames the occupied Palestinians for their ill fate and for disturbing the peace of the occupation whenever they make any efforts to stand up to Israel. </p><p>They reinforce the occupation’s narrative that it is the Palestinian’s fault the occupation prevails, absolving the occupation from responsibility or accountability for its actions, and allowing Israel to repeat and replicate the atrocities it perpetrated to displace Palestinians from their homes and towns. &nbsp;</p> <p>But like a cunning abuser, Israel uses tactics to maintain good public appearances. Recently, for example, it announced that it would be taking in <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-is-adopting-100-syrian-orphans-despite-the-fact-the-two-countries-are-technically-at-war-a7549741.html">one hundred Syrian orphans</a>, while Palestinians are denied the right of return and hundreds of Palestinian children are orphaned. </p> <p>In the "Amona" settlement Israel broadcasted dramatic scenes to the world, depicting itself as a state of law that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/31/israel-west-bank-settlement-homes">expels</a> settlers out of private Palestinian land. Neglecting the fact that private Palestinian land is being confiscated to build these settlements in the first place.</p> <p>Even the Arab powers of today blame the occupied Palestinians for confronting the occupation; an impotent strategy to distance themselves from the potential fate like that of the Palestinians. This gives the false feeling that if&nbsp;they ally with the perpetrators,&nbsp;occupation will never knock on thier doors. One only needs to look at Iraq, Lybia, Syria and Yemen to see the failure of such a strategy. </p> <p>The arbitrary propaganda that Palestinians <a href="http://www.yourmiddleeast.com/culture/palestine-how-the-land-was-lost_36973">sold</a> their land to Israel, which is gaining popularity in Egyptian media, is evidence of victim blaming and siding with the perpetrators. By labeling and accusing the Palestinians, these powers are hopelessly&nbsp;trying to make the Arab people see the Palestinians as different from themselves, which results in less empathy.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Denial is an obstacle to peace</strong></h2> <p>When the historical trauma of the Palestinians is utterly nullified, it makes it impossible to discuss, mourn and express their plight symbolically, thus preventing repair.</p> <p>The Balfour celebration represents a denial of the harm caused to Palestinians. It fails to acknowledge the trauma and human suffering or take moral responsibility for it. Britain has no shame in their imperialist history, its hegemonic attitude continues to consider the Israelis as culturally and racially superior to Palestinians. It is not the Israelis who are occupied and oppressed and deserve Britain’s solidarity (in celebration), but the occupied Palestinians! </p> <p>If the very existence of traumatic occupation is denied, responsibility, remorse and solidarity are repudiated. However, full immunity for Israel’s violations continues to be granted and the suffering of Palestinians is hardly acknowledged.</p> <p>The occupation always betted to break Palestinian collective consciousness through massacres and wars, maintaining the pain fresh in our memory. Nowadays, General Yoav Galant, the Minister of Housing, former commander of the southern region, and commander of the 2008 war <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/hamas-fighting-summer-israel-idf-general-naftali-bennett-palestinian-territory-west-bank-gaza-strip-a7573556.html">speaks</a> of “a fourth war next spring," on Israeli radio. Israeli Security Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview mid-February on an Israeli/Arab radio station that if the government decided to fight a new war, this confrontation must end with a great Israeli victory and crush the Palestinian resistance in Gaza forever. <em></em></p> <p>In fact, it is not the resistance preparations that Israel should fear, but the desensitization and declining levels of fear among the citizens as a result of repeated strikes, shocks and losses that affect most Palestinians.&nbsp;</p> <p>Acknowledgment rather than denial is capable of humanizing all involved parties. Cultivating empathy and trust could pave the way for healing history and reconciliation to build peace. Urging Israel to stop its colonial policies rather than celebrating the theft of Palestinian land is an important domain of trauma intervention and peace making.&nbsp;</p> <p>History will not be written by the powerful alone, no matter how irresistible Israel and its allies seem to be. Palestinians will not be silenced by the dreadful occupation of Palestine. We will voice our historical testimony and tell our narrative to make sense of the senseless grievances of colonialism. </p><p>Anti-oppression activism is our remedy against political trauma and it will heal us as individuals and help us heal the injured history of our homeland.</p> <p><em>A version of this piece was first published on </em><a href="https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170216-when-israel-and-britain-celebrate-the-historical-trauma-of-palestinians/"><em>Middle East Monitor </em></a><em>on 16 February 2017.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/samah-jabr-elizabeth-berger/thinking-behind-mental-health-workers-pledge-for-palestin">The thinking behind a mental health workers pledge for Palestine </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/samah-jabr/on-structural-violence-in-palestine">On structural violence in Palestine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/samah-jabr/internalised-oppression">Internalised oppression</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item even"> Palestine </div> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia UK Palestine Israel Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality International politics middle east occupied territories occupation Samah Jabr You tell us Violent transitions Wed, 15 Mar 2017 12:45:14 +0000 Samah Jabr 109234 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The thinking behind a mental health workers pledge for Palestine https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/samah-jabr-elizabeth-berger/thinking-behind-mental-health-workers-pledge-for-palestin <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Concerned professionals may need to move beyond their accustomed professional roles to support a genuine transformation in Israel and occupied Palestine that respects the human needs and rights of all who live there.</p> </div> </div> </div> <h2><strong>The Israeli occupation of Palestine</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Alvaro Minguito.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Alvaro Minguito.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Demotix/Alvaro Minguito. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In a time of global turmoil surrounding refugee crises in many areas, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the Palestinians compose one of the largest refugee populations as well as the most longstanding refugee population in the world. Of the 11.6 million Palestinians dispersed worldwide, 4.5 million individuals live today in stateless insecurity within the Israeli-dominated Occupied Palestinian Territory, a geographically discontinuous, increasingly fragmented, and ever-shrinking area including the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. The displacement of the Palestinians from their homes by Israeli forces, beginning in 1948 and continuing through the present moment, is fundamentally a consequence of a single factor: the Israeli ambition to clear the land for its exclusive use by Jewish/Israeli people. The catastrophic impact of this ambition has been endured by generations of Palestinians who have suffered the devastating ongoing military, political, economic, social, and ideological assault necessary to secure this land. The historical and current conditions for Palestinians, involving nearly 70 years of systematic ethnic cleansing and apartheid control in the name of political Zionism, thus pose an enormous moral challenge.</p> <p>The list of human rights abuses perpetrated by the government of Israel in its present occupation of Palestine forms a catalogue of terror: the killing and breaking the bones of defenseless demonstrators, arming Israeli settlers to commit acts of violence against Palestinians, bombing of hospitals and schools, home incursion and demolition, the use of toxic gas, mass arrests, detention, and torture—including the torture of children. It is estimated that since 1967, one third of all Palestinian men have been held in detention by Israeli forces, often without charges being brought against them and not infrequently for decades. Almost all of such detainees are mistreated and torture is so common that the physical and psychological consequences of torture by the Israelis form an important public health problem in Palestine. More insidious forms of community reprisal imposed by the Israelis involve the deliberate, systematic, and massive destruction of the economic, agricultural, educational, and legal systems in Palestine as well as the maintenance of total control over its road-ways, water, air space, human movement, and natural resources. The deliberate effort to decimate the leadership of Palestinian society through specific targeting of Palestinian journalists, attorneys, human rights advocates, community organisers, and legislators—including prominent mental health professionals and their families—has been an especially malignant aspect of Israeli policy.</p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-right">The mental health community is in a unique position to properly assess the gravity of the immense psychological and social damage being inflicted by the occupation.</span></p><p>The violent displacement, containment, and devastation of the people of Palestine could never have been achieved without the astronomical and ever-increasing quantity of military support given to the government of Israel by the United States—more cumulative military aid since the end of World War II than to any other country, estimated to be nearly $100 billion dollars—motivated by its own geopolitical interests in the Middle East. And this war of tanks and fighter jets has been justified through a war of words, a well-financed propaganda campaign which portrays the Israelis as brave victims defending democracy and the Palestinians as dehumanised dangerous fanatics.</p> <p>The distortions of fact undergirding pro-Israeli propaganda and the details of Israeli crimes against humanity have been documented by tireless reportage by the United Nations, by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and international organisations against torture, and by international scholars and journalists; an increasingly vocal number of Israeli organisations and courageous individuals in Israel speak out against the oppression of the Palestinian people by their own government and its pernicious effects on Israeli society as well as Palestinian society. Movements to educate and persuade the global public in solidarity with the Palestinian community have emerged in many places, dedicated to exposing the violent aggression, racism, and violation of international standards of human rights perpetrated by the state of Israel.</p> <h2>The role of mental health workers</h2> <p>Mental health professionals, skilled by training and experience to listen to agendas hidden beneath the surface, have the potential to defuse the power of the pro-Israeli propaganda narrative through distinguishing fantasy from fact and through identifying the motivating denial, self-interest, and self-deception behind its assertions. One such propaganda position, fundamental to the worldview of political Zionism, asserts the inherent “specialness” of the Jewish people: special in their history of victimisation in Europe, the Jewish people require an ethnocentric militarised state which is beyond criticism and exempt from international law. While playing on the guilt of the west for its passivity and collaboration with the Holocaust of World War II, the questionable assertion of Israeli specialness presents a seemingly-innocent surface while obliterating moral accountability for the covert colonialist greed, entitlement, and ruthless violence of the Israeli government by equating all criticism with anti-Semitism.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Ibrahim Khatib.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Ibrahim Khatib.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Demotix/Ibrahim Khatib. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Another propaganda position is the oft-heard “liberal” view that Israeli violence—although lamentable—is mirrored and justified by the threat of Palestinian violence; the questionable assertion of symmetry presents a surface of tragic inevitability with an apparently even-handed dispersal of blame and empathy on both sides, while covertly normalising and supporting the status quo. And overall, the mental health professional will recognise in the Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinian people the contours characteristic of abuse dynamics: the abuse itself and the ensuing relentless campaign to undermine the credibility of the victim, to destroy the victim’s self-respect, and to delegitimise and silence the victim’s narrative. By identifying propaganda manipulations such as these as politically motivated distortions, rather than self-evident truths, mental health professionals can elevate the level of reality-testing within discussion of Israel and occupied Palestine.</p> <p>In addition to bringing insight to discourse on the occupation, the mental health community is in a unique position to properly assess the gravity of the immense psychological and social damage being inflicted by the occupation through a professional understanding of the emotional consequences of war, occupation, and pervasive insecurity and especially through the viewpoint of child development. Through these lenses, the overt atrocities which now achieve public prominence in viral internet video clips (such as Israeli soldiers beating a Palestinian child) can be placed in a larger context of overall violence, racism, social fragmentation, detention without due process, unemployment, impoverishment, malnutrition, family dysfunction, humiliation, and human misery and the devastating everyday impact of all of these factors on the psychological well-being. The psychological assault of 1948 was simple—designed to instill fear with the goal of inducing Palestinians to abandon their homes; but the psychological assault of today is sophisticated—designed to destroy Palestinian morale, to induce a state of passive hopelessness, and to undermine the sources of individual, family, and social cohesion. The goal today is to achieve the pervasive psychological isolation and surrender in an entire captive population which has nowhere to go and to crush Palestinian resistance at its roots in the human spirit.</p> <p>The effects of the occupation on all sectors of Palestinian society is thus the driving force for a major burden of mental health distress afflicting millions of individuals, a distress in which very high rates of common psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder have been documented. But unlike the damage to a community in the wake of an earthquake or a flood, the harm to the Palestinian people includes and exceeds the domain of acute injury; the Palestinian people have suffered from chronic injury inflicted by chronic injustice. Under occupation, the people of Palestine face a purposefully inflicted degradation of the entire system of meaning which has given them identity as a people. Not only individual selves but the collective self has been damaged. We are challenged as healers to think in new ways to develop comprehensive theories and practices appropriate to this context.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Human rights must matter to mental health workers, requiring activism in response to their violation and disregard.</p><p>In our view, the mental health community is especially equipped to be active and proactive in addressing these clinical and—at the same time—moral challenges both in our daily practice whenever these issues arise and beyond, through our professional organisations and activities. Our professional skills as active listeners, as clarifiers of contradictions, as confronters of confused thought, as persuaders in the community and care-givers to the suffering, and as defenders of justice for the vulnerable and the victimised—these skills prepare mental health workers to be useful in multiple ways in the struggle against the occupation.</p> <p>We encourage mental health workers first to do no harm: for example, to speak out against the participation of fellow professionals in roles which advance the practices of the occupation, such as assisting in the development of “interrogation” techniques. In addition, we encourage mental health workers to join projects to open the scope of debate, to witness, to document, and to engage in research addressing the occupation and to seek out partnerships with Palestinians to expose the full extent of its consequences. There is great need to support Palestinian initiatives that provide direct mental health services for patients and foster forms of community life which are genuinely therapeutic for the Palestinian public. As mental health workers, we have skills as clinicians and trainers which may be of practical use on the ground.</p> <p>But just as no mental health professional would treat a victim of ongoing incest or torture without “calling the authorities,” no mental health professional can treat a victim of occupation in a vacuum. Our duty to report abuse is part of our professionalism and in many instances is codified in statute as our legal obligation. The abuse must stop or all of our therapeutic efforts will be meaningless or perhaps even harmful, because victims of abuse need justice in the world as well as therapy. The treatment of victims of violence is thus multi-disciplinary in its essence, because outside forces such as the police and the court systems are required to restore fundamental rights to the injured parties, acting in coordination with mental health as a discipline. It is consistent with our mandate as healers that we integrate public health agendas which examine and take action to address the root causes of human suffering. Therefore human rights must matter to mental health workers, requiring activism in response to their violation and disregard.</p> <p>The psychological and psychiatric consequences of the Israeli occupation are not only mental health events but legal and geopolitical events; restoring mental well-being requires us to call for the intervention of moral and legal authorities with international stature. Just as professional organisations in mental health have cooperated with legislators and judges to create and to enforce laws protecting the victims of incest, rape, and family violence, thus too the mental health community must work in mutually supportive ways with legal, political, and human rights organisations to seek justice for the Palestinian people and restoration of its human dignity.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Mohammed Zaanoun.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/Mohammed Zaanoun.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Demotix/Mohammed Zaanoun. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Thus, as concerned professionals, we may need to move beyond the confines of our accustomed professional roles and to act as a group in support of movements to achieve a genuine transformation in Israel and in occupied Palestine that respects the human needs and human rights of all who live there. We must commit ourselves not only to work as clinicians for the liberation of the individual but for the liberation of the community. We call upon mental health professionals to engage in sociopolitical solidarity with the people of Palestine as a therapeutic position. Dedicating ourselves to this work while the occupation continues will give us the insights we will need in the future, as facilitators involved in the process of reconciliation. Laying down a foundation of involvement during a time of crisis prepares us for participating in a resolution to the crisis that will bring genuine redress, justice, and full civil rights to the people of Palestine.</p> <h2>The pledge</h2> <p>As mental health practitioners we hope to promote the integrity of the individual. Similarly, the goal of our public health agenda should be to promote the emotional well-being of the community. Preconditions for this are social justice and the enjoyment of universal human rights.</p><p>For that reason, we join with the Palestinian people in their resistance to the military occupation imposed by Israel. We voice particular opposition to Israeli policies that inflict widespread physical and psychological suffering:&nbsp;<span>the intentional and systematic destruction of the Palestinian economy, governance, healthcare infrastructure, educational institutions, and cultural integrity;&nbsp;</span><span>the deliberate undermining of community cohesion and family stability upon which healthy childhood development depend; and&nbsp;</span><span>the pervasive violation of human rights— including seizures of land, demolition of homes, kidnapping and detention, imposition of racist policies, humiliation, killing and maiming of unarmed civilians, and torture including the torture of children.</span></p><p>In solidarity with the people of Palestine and to support our colleagues in Palestine who work under these extreme circumstances, we pledge:<strong>&nbsp;</strong><span>to “do no harm,” refusing to lend our support to activities which explicitly or implicitly normalise the occupation and justify Israel’s role in it;&nbsp;</span><span>to support and, where possible, to participate in acts of witnessing, documenting, and researching the experiences of the Palestinian people; and&nbsp;</span><span>to support initiatives&nbsp;encouraging our professional groups and organisations to take a moral stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine.</span></p> <p><a href="http://ukpalmhn.com/mental-health-workers-pledge/">Sign the pledge here</a>&nbsp;(see&nbsp;<a href="http://ukpalmhn.com/campaigns/pledge-signatories/">list of pledge signatories</a>)<span>.</span></p> <p><em><span>First published by </span><a href="http://ukpalmhn.com/2015/11/12/the-thinking-behind-the-mental-health-workers-pledge-for-palestine/">The UK Palestine Mental Health Network</a><span> on November 12, 2015.</span></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/samah-jabr/on-structural-violence-in-palestine">On structural violence in Palestine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/annie-kaminsky/from-gaza-to-uk-mental-health-isn%27t-just-medical-problem-it%27s-politica">From Gaza to the UK: mental health isn&#039;t just a medical problem, it&#039;s political</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Palestine Civil society Conflict middle east Mental health Elizabeth Berger Samah Jabr Violent transitions Social innovation Wed, 02 Dec 2015 14:54:22 +0000 Samah Jabr and Elizabeth Berger 98076 at https://www.opendemocracy.net On structural violence in Palestine https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/samah-jabr/on-structural-violence-in-palestine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The structural violence, economic inequalities, and pervasive injustice that characterise Palestinian society under occupation have created a crisis of the spirit.</p> </div> </div> </div> <h2><img src="http://opendemocracy.net/files/shutterstock_93242665.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></h2><h2><strong>Flying out of our cages</strong></h2> <p>"I used to fly, but you broke my wings and locked me back in my cage.” </p> <p>This was the reproach of a patient who had just recovered from a manic episode during which he jumped from the top of the four-metre high Israeli separation wall and broke both legs. His mania had been a temporary release from the social inhibitions, economic frustrations and political obstructions symbolised by the wall itself. The pills I had given him ended his colourful euphoric experience and thrust him back into a gloomy reality. No wonder he was dissatisfied with my interventions.</p> <p>In a two-week period in May, seven murders were committed in Palestine. The victims were women, children and a mentally disabled youth. In my capacity as a psychiatrist, I have interviewed some of the accused perpetrators. To my surprise, they do not resemble the antisocial psychopaths who typically commit such ugly crimes. </p> <p>Most of those I interviewed suffer from enduring humiliation and an injured sense of manhood. They live in conditions of mounting stress, experiencing the pressure of poverty in a society increasingly obsessed with material possessions and wealth. Such men lose their sense of honour and respect when they are unable to provide for their families; they struggle to regain the illusion of control through misogyny and acts of domestic violence as expressions of their manhood.</p> <p>Humiliation, poverty and low social status have made some people in Palestine feel like losers and failures at life. They often attempt to medicate their frustration and anger with alcohol and drugs. And, just as many seek an altered state of mind through these routes, some try to soothe their injured dignity by projecting and externalising their sense of powerlessness onto members of their families. Such people become abusive and some commit violent crimes. The structural violence, economic inequalities, and pervasive injustice that characterise Palestinian society under occupation have created a fertile psychological environment for sociopathy to grow.</p> <p>We don’t yet have organised crime and gangs, but there has been a dramatic upsurge in violations of the law and in domestic violence. But policing Palestine more intensively and expanding security forces are not the answer to a phenomenon brought about mainly by a crisis of the spirit.</p> <h2><strong>Structural violence</strong></h2> <p>The establishment of a ruling class, binding social structures, and oppressive institutions exclude many people from sharing the fruits of nationhood. These exclusions establish criteria—at once widely recognised and covertly concealed—that determine who is heard and who is silenced, who is favoured and who deprived. </p> <p>One example is membership in the right political party. If you belong to the proper political party and begin work in the proper type of job, your years of party loyalty will be counted as years of “professional experience.” This illegitimate arithmetic automatically conveys an advantage in employment and in promotions compared to those who actually have better credentials and work harder. The same system that greases loyal wheels will put sticks in the wheels of anyone who expresses opposition to or protests such a system.</p> <p>Strange voices are liable to be heard in support of direct violence and structural violence, attempting to legitimise it and render it socially acceptable. We are informed, for example, that a murdered woman was disloyal to her husband; lawyers might say, “Of course, you are right—but you don’t want to get in trouble with the political elite.”</p> <p>Our context is everything, of course: we experience strong emotions to our occupation by Israel. The national humiliation and the personal grievances suffered by the Palestinian people through our political and economic misery filter down into the conflicts in our daily lives. </p> <p>Our political parties have provided some people with a sense of belonging, and thus achieved an unprecedented psychological significance. Intense loyalty and highly emotionally charged participation in a polarised society seems to result in an atmosphere of destructive competition, unfair comparisons, hunger for power, and hatred. These strong emotions eventually have undercut our capacity for logical reasoning and ethical judgment.</p> <p>The murder of the Palestinian soul is taking place, an annihilation of our spirit, expressed in a hunger to dominate the weak and to inflict our aggression on those who are smaller. We pass down our humiliation to a dumping ground of those who are unable to defend themselves, inducing in them our own sense of shame.</p> <p>Our inner life is becoming empty. Our dreams are destroyed by structural violence or melted into a collective trance. Everywhere apathy and distrust is growing. Palestinians took to the streets to celebrate the triumph of Mohammed Assaf as the celebrated Arab Idol, but when we saw the reconciliation agreement sealed with embraces once again we were not impressed. There were no celebrations in the street.</p> <h2><strong>We are born free</strong></h2> <p>New research in psychology and neuro­imaging has revealed that human beings demonstrate an innate aversive reaction to inequality and unfairness. In the “ultimatum game,” where responders are given a choice to approve or to block a particular division of a quantity of money, it was discovered that people—regardless of age, gender or race—found unequal divisions to be aversive. It was also found that people are more sensitive to unfair proposals when these are made by those of the same race.</p> <p>But long before this psychological research, and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights—“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”—Umar Ibn Al Khattab, an influential caliph who earned the title Al-Faruq for his fairness and ability to distinguish between right and wrong, rebelled against the social structure of his time by asking: “Since when have you taken people for slaves and they were born free?” </p> <p>French philosoper Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued, “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains.” He also stated, “man’s natural sentiment of self-esteem is coupled with pity, the dislike of seeing fellow creatures in pain.”&nbsp;The mildest Qur’anic teaching on the duty to oppose injustice is: “And incline not toward those who do unfairness” (Hud 113).</p> <p>Thus, apathy toward injustice, crime and human pain is incompatible with our innate feelings. Apathy deviates from our natural humanitarian instincts, and is the result of a distorted process of education and conditioning. The outcome of programmed selfishness and egoism, it eliminates our capacity for spiritual growth, instead promoting compliance with injustice and submission to rigid authoritarian systems of domination.</p> <h2><strong>Searching for spaciousness inside</strong></h2> <p>What can we do to escape the bars of our reality? I have no wings and will not fly out—not even with a first class ticket. I remain here on the ground, searching for a human connection with equals who aim to nurture relationships of mutual respect and to co-create new forms of living together. I seek companionship in my long journey to decondition and deconstruct the forms of oppressions and injustice around me. </p> <p>I will find myself sometimes at a loss and in despair, but I understand that there can be a revival of hope even while recognising disappointment; there can be fulfilment in surviving the heat of tyranny, a fulfilment that makes a person more willing to dedicate oneself to those who are marginalised and degraded in society.</p> <p>The spirituality of Palestinian society has been one of the most important factors in our resilience and steadfastness. Spirituality can transform one’s sense of worth from unequal to equal, dismissing the social stratifications where ‘higher’ beings exercise control over ‘lesser’ beings. The current promotion of materialism and individualism within Palestine, however, is increasingly limiting the inner spaciousness that has helped us survive despite the cages imposed on us from without.</p> <p>We are in the midst of a process of losing our traditional serenity and enlightenment, through our participation in this on-going spiritual decline. For so long, we found meaning and nourishment in song, poetry, stories and prayers. Today, however, there is a deeper impoverishment lying beneath the surface poverty—an impoverishment for which materialistic answers do not suffice.</p> <p>Our souls and our spirits are being injured and damaged. People assess their self-worth using the yardsticks of money, education and social status. We are imprisoned in our socioeconomic status, forced into repetition and boredom of the finite and the familiar, not realising the great love, outstanding courage and lucid awareness that can endure in the minds and hearts of simple people. </p> <p>Love for ourselves, compassion for others, the liberation of our personal sense of agency, and the freedom to choose and develop sophisticated modalities of survival will restore our sense of independence and value – in spite of the external cage.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/samah-jabr/internalised-oppression">Internalised oppression</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/charlie-hoyle/battle-to-preserve-bethlehem%27s-cultural-heritage">The battle to preserve Bethlehem&#039;s cultural heritage</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/raffaele-piccolo/life-must-go-on-in-palestine">Life must go on in Palestine </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Palestine Civil society Culture Ideas conflicts middle east Samah Jabr Palestinian Israeli conflict You tell us Arab Awakening Tue, 23 Sep 2014 13:53:15 +0000 Samah Jabr 86239 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Internalised oppression https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/samah-jabr/internalised-oppression <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Palestinian officials too often assume the role of oppressor, condemning spontaneous reactions to Israeli violations and promoting meek submission in its stead. They cast the Palestinian people in the roles of suspect and offender. Such attitudes only feed into the occupier’s spin on reality.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The ongoing tyranny of the Israeli occupation has been devastating to the Palestinian community’s wellbeing. One of its most debilitating effects is the internalisation of oppression and the undermining of Palestinians’ collective self-image. Since the free and fair 2006 elections in Palestine—followed by Israel’s arrest of elected parliamentarians and an international boycott of the elected government—I have observed that the vigorous spirit of the Palestinian community that evolved during long years of resistance has finally been reduced to a state of demoralisation.</p> <p>The undermining of that election represented an additional bitter blow, following as it did on the more subtle impact of the Oslo accords, originally promoted as a step on the road to Palestinian liberation. Reports published on the twentieth anniversary of the accords, however, revealed that during those two decades the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank had doubled and the area controlled by settlements had expanded to 42 percent of Palestinian land. Israel’s systematic restrictions on Palestinian movement and trade continues to divide Palestinian families and decimate the economy. The infamous collaboration between Palestinian and Israeli security forces has further secured for Israelis a profitable tourism trade through bed and breakfast hotels overlooking the magnificent hills of the West Bank; a dismantled Palestinian resistance; and more Palestinians incarcerated in Israeli prisons.</p> <p>Over years of occupation, young Palestinians have seen their fathers dragged from homes by Israeli soldiers, humiliated at checkpoints, and rendered unable to provide for their families’ safety and basic needs. In reaction to their feelings of shame, such vulnerable children came to identify with the oppressor, with a self-loathing which some expressed by oppressing weaker members of their own community. So I have been told by one Palestinian Jerusalemite, “On holidays I don’t go to Eilat because it will be full of Arabs!”&nbsp;</p> <p>Some Palestinians shop for their clothing in Israeli boutiques, have their hair done in Israeli salons, and listen to loud Hebrew music on their car radios. More than one Palestinian patient suffering a relapse of manic illness has spoken to me in Hebrew as an expression of grandiosity. Meanwhile, the dismal lack of job opportunities and the miserable conditions in the West Bank have made many labourers eager to work for Israelis, even if they must work in settlements or participate in projects such as building the apartheid wall. </p><p>Their Israeli employers often treat them as sub-human. A few months ago Ahsan Abu-Srur, a 54-year-old unauthorised Palestinian construction worker from Askar refugee camp, was seriously injured while doing renovation work in Tel Aviv. Realising that he was critically injured, the Israeli contractor and two of his workers dragged the man to the sidewalk across the street from the workplace and left him there to die.</p> <p>Oppression makes people selfish and greedy, prone to infighting and competition over scarce resources—the scraps of opportunities left over from the oppressor. Oppressed people easily become resentful and envious of one another, creating an atmosphere of mutual distrust.</p> <p>This is a vicious cycle. Treated as inferior—and in the absence of resistance, resilience and self-defense—we internalise belief in our own inferiority. We come to assume that we indeed are less capable and less worthy than others. Palestinians begin to distrust and devalue our own educational and medical systems. Other manifestations of our internalised oppression include a spiteful oppression of women, contempt toward people of a lower socioeconomic class, and an exclusionary and intolerant attitude towards political opposition.&nbsp;</p> <p>Nowadays, there is such a widespread, corrupt system of influence and cronyism in Palestine that most people are government employees. As a result, our agriculture is suffering, small independent businesses are crushed, and only a small minority of enterprises, closely allied to the government, are able to flourish. Young people are trapped in a cycle of consumerism, with new apartments, cars and big loans from banks resulting in a lifetime of debt. The result is decreased social interaction and productivity, along with rising rates of crime and addiction.&nbsp;</p> <p>Community leaders and politicians fail to take any steps to breaking this vicious cycle. Rather than restoring our national dignity and pride by&nbsp;promoting instead resilience, productivity, authenticity and steadfastness, recall the submissive words of President Mahmoud Abbas following the western boycott of the 2006 election results: “If we have to choose between bread and democracy, we choose bread.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Our officials have assumed the role of the oppressor, condemning spontaneous Palestinian reactions to Israeli violations and promoting meek submission to Israeli oppression. They cast the Palestinian people in the roles of suspect and offender. Such attitudes only feed into the occupier’s spin on reality, casting us as us evil perpetrators while the occupier claims the role of victim.</p> <p>The submissiveness urged on us by our leaders goes beyond condemning armed resistance to include the trivialising of such nonviolent measures as the imposition of boycotts and the use of international law to hold Israel accountable for its actions—as illustrated by the official Palestinian position on the Goldstone report on Israel’s war crimes in Gaza.&nbsp;</p> <p>We should not be deceived by the exaggerated festivities surrounding the UN General Assembly’s change of Palestine's status as “entity” to that of “non-member observer state.” The change in status was just a smokescreen to distract us from the revolutions taking place within the Arab world. </p><p>We may have added the words “State of Palestine” to our postage stamps, but we have yet to take a single war criminal to The Hague or pursue our legal right to our own land, waters or airspace—as any sovereign state recognised by the UN surely would. Instead, “secretive” negotiations continue behind closed doors, while Israel continues to approve the construction of more settlement homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and the demolition of ever more Palestinian homes.&nbsp;</p> <p>Internalised oppression is driven by several engines, the first of which is the media. Anger and dissatisfaction create the momentum for social change, but a superficial leisure and entertainment industry will blind and distract a frustrated public from the reality around them, creating a false consciousness. Local media bombardment dulls our critical faculties and weakens our ability to protest, resist or revolt.&nbsp;</p> <p>A good example is Mohammad Assaf, the Palestinian who won last year’s “Arab Idol” competition—a charming, sincere young man with a beautiful voice. But the media promoted his triumph as symbolising “the Palestinian plight,” encouraging the public to become consumers of a simplistic, reductionist and deceptive exploitation of his charm. One might ask why the local media has failed to make an equal effort to mobilise against Israel’s siege on Gaza, the Prawer plan, or on behalf of transparency regarding the ongoing negotiations—matters which directly affect most Palestinians and their plight!</p> <h2>A seeming paradox</h2> <p>International donations are the second engine behind internalised oppression. On the face of it, it seems paradoxical that oppression can result from such efforts to do good. However, in her study “Promoting Democracy in Palestine: Donation and the Democratisation of the West Bank and Gaza,” Dr. Leila Farsakh concludes that international aid projects serve to promote the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority rather than empowering the Palestinian public to challenge the PA’s dominance or critique its definition of the national liberation project.&nbsp;</p> <p>Donor-driven projects fail to devote sufficient attention to such important institutions central to democracy as parliament, political parties, and the electoral process. In the end, these projects tend to entrench the occupation rather than help Palestinians create the conditions for national liberation; rather than strengthening independent channels they tend instead to intensify the Authority’s grip.&nbsp;</p> <p>The third engine is education and institutionalised religion. This year, five Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem replaced their Palestinian curriculum with the Israeli one. The Jerusalem municipality went on to award the administration of these five schools by increasing their principals’ salaries and paying them 2000 NIS for every student registered at their schools.&nbsp;</p> <p>A mere glance at the Israeli curriculum reveals how it distorts history, religion, geography and eventually the mindset and the national culture of its pupils. In one textbook, two young people discuss how Israel brought electricity to their village and granted national insurance to children and their elders, and conclude that they should join the celebration of “Israel’s Independence Day.”&nbsp;</p> <p>And while some of our children are being fed this dose of Israeli indoctrination, others are anaesthetised by some misleading religious leaders who form an unholy alliance with political and financial power elites. The “teachings” of these leaders promote a fatalistic, mystical frame of mind, and the <em>“fatwas” </em>they issue promote compliance and conformity. By encouraging people to pin their hopes on the afterlife rather than dealing with the misery of the here and now, these religious figures promote the status quo, with all its agony and injustice, and inhibit people from embracing genuine reform and social change.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the face of such inadequate leadership, which must result in internalised oppression, it becomes the social responsibility of ordinary people to work actively to recognise and alleviate this threat to our wellbeing, in order to prevent the demise of the Palestinian spirit and cause. </p><p>Bearing witness, calling for empowering economic development, resisting consumerism, connecting Palestinians with our own history and community, and thereby helping to analyse reality—these are just a few tools that can help liberate Palestinians from internalised oppression.&nbsp;</p> <p>So much has been done to efface, harm and eradicate the Palestinian nation, or to disfigure it forever. We cannot simply wait for justice to happen—justice is something we must work hard to realise. Sacrifices must be made and risks taken at times. Commitment, awareness, wisdom and planning are required for the recovery and salvation of this injured life—as we want a decent life, not just any life. Our work for healing and recovery cannot be separated from our work for liberation.</p><p>The full version of this article was published on <em><a href="http://www.palestinechronicle.com/internalized-oppression-yet-another-loss-for-an-occupied-nation/#.UzvYH17oZPO">The Palestine Chronicle</a></em> on 23 March 2014.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> <div class="field-item even"> Israel </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Israel Palestine Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality International politics Samah Jabr Wed, 02 Apr 2014 16:07:01 +0000 Samah Jabr 80976 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Samah Jabr https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/samah-jabr <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Samah Jabr </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-country"> <div class="field-label">Country:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> </div> </div> <p>Samah Jabr MD is a psychiatrist and writer living in East Jerusalem.</p> Samah Jabr Wed, 02 Apr 2014 09:35:43 +0000 Samah Jabr 80977 at https://www.opendemocracy.net