70th Anniversary of Nakba: Bint Nakba


Musallam Bseiso

By Jehan Bseiso

For Mohammed El Dura who died in his father’s arms in Gaza, in front of the whole world.


Bint Nakba


And don’t ever forget it, my grandfather warned me.

“Nakba daughter”, one among millions dispossessed.


This time last year I was a guest at home(land).

For hours,

Waiting, for permission and approval,

For the “private security company” to give me back my passport.

Wishing, I could walk through the metal gate, rip the barbed wire with two hands.

Beyond the entitled occupiers with their big guns and yellow smiles.

Something about May in Palestine is all waiting and loss.


In Ramallah, streets were covered with slogans and banners declaring:

“we have the right to return”

Could a march to Palestine begin from Palestine?

I think of all the cities I can hold in one breath

Inhale: Amman, Beirut, Cairo.

Exhale: All the layers of refuge and return.


In Hebron, I asked a shop keeper: How far?

He said: Gaza is as far as all these checkpoints,

armed settlers

and 10 years of siege.


In Amman, I am holding two photos in my hands.

In this one the sea is black and white, Jido and his friend look at the camera wet and grinning.

(1929, Gaza)

Older in a leather jacket, standing alone at the beach. Silver hair perfectly parted.

(1994, Gaza)


The border is a frontline where thousands march for their right to exist and resist.

A doctor explains: The snipers target the back of the knee, to force amputation.

And If we lose our legs?

we will crawl,

on our hands and elbows.

(2018, Gaza)


Something about the end of apartheid and occupation in my lifetime.



Photo Credit: Sima Diab

Jehan Bseiso is a Palestenian poet, researcher and aid worker. She has been working with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières since 2009. Bseiso co-authored I Remember My Name, winner of the Palestine Book Award (2016). Some poems can be found online on various sites including Mada Masr, Warscapes and The Electronic Intifada.






70th Anniversary of Nakba: Watan

by Shadi Zaqtan



Translated by Stephen Sheehi


491305436_1280x720.jpgIt was not a dream

Which climbed up through years

A dream which the body and place breathed

To remain with me, coming to me when tired.


It was not a dream

That became silenced despite the songs

Despite the prayer of my grandmother in the morning, every morning.

How will we be now, my Destiny?

How much longer will it last?

Rise and tell me.

Ma’am, how can I leave it?

Who other than me, will leave it sleeping in me

over years?

Sixty Years or more

How can I leave it?

How will we be now, my Destiny?

How much longer will it last?

Rise and tell me.


It was not a dream.

It was not a dream.

Which climbed up through years

A dream which the body and place breathed.


It was not a dream

That became silenced despite the songs

Despite the prayer of my grandmother in the morning, every morning.


It was not a dream.

Shadi is a guitarist, composer, singer and songwriter from Palestine. Shadi was born in exile and raised in Damascus, Beirut, Amman and Tunis. His songs are inspired by the daily lives of the Palestinians. He writes his lyrics in classical Arabic, colloquial and Bedouin dialects from poems of Palestinian and other Arab poets. His first album “About a Country” was released in 2008, the second album “Singing at the Checkpoint” in 2013.



70th Anniversary of Nakba: Nakba As Stubborn Trauma

By Manal Abu Haq.

IMG-20180423-WA0004نحن لم نبك ساعة الوداع! فلدينا لم يكن وقت ولا دمع ولم يكن وداع! نحن لم ندرك لحظة الوداع أنه الوداع فأنى لنا البكاء! طه

محمد علي

We did not weep / When we were leaving –/ for we had neither/ Time nor tears, / and there was no farewell/ We did not know / At the moment of parting / that it was parting, / so where would our weeping / have come from?

Taha Muhammad Ali, Translated by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, Gabriel Levin

To this day, many Palestinians around the world hold keys to the houses they left behind in Palestine, and customarily present them at demonstrations or large events as concrete proof of ownership. The vast majority of these houses have been either demolished or renovated in a way which completely obliterates their origins. New residents arrived who established, and continue to develop, an existence and hold on this land. A new collective was created – the Israeli collective, one that believes this land is rightfully theirs.

The majority of Palestinian refugees, especially those living in the refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank or in Arab countries, continue to dream and hope for the day when they will be able to return to their pre-Nakba homes. They stubbornly insist on holding on to this dream even after 70 years. Holding on to this dream, its connection to reality being as it may, and the probability of its being fulfilled being as it may, is a defense against “falling apart”, an insistence on preserving memory and national identity, and a defense against descending into a hopeless melancholic state.

In psychoanalytic theory, a person who has experienced trauma is thought to perhaps repress the traumatic events, with the aim of living life as though they had never occurred. While these defenses may initially be adaptive, at the same time, the person might experience intrusive memories, engage in problematic behaviors such as acting out, and utilize rigid defense mechanisms, such as dissociation. The traumatized individual may find it difficult to take responsibility for their life and to feel fully integrated; as such, they may continue to live in a cycle of trauma. One clinical method that has been found useful for trauma therapeutically is remembering the difficult events in detail. This may include working through and mourning loss alongside creating an externalized representation (artistic or linguistic) for heavily traumatic events.

In this same vein, many Palestinians invested serious efforts in preserving the memories and events of the Nakba, and some created archives and collected materials and testimonies around its events. But these archives, books and other written materials, along with the libraries where they were kept, were confiscated by the Israeli military government and declared secret army material. Some examples of this are the testimonies about the massacre in Deir Yassin, the library of the Orient House in East Jerusalem and the Palestinian archive in Beirut which the army took over. Materials IMG_4951.jpgfrom these were shown recently in a 2017 film by Rona Sela, called Looted and Hidden – Palestinian Archives in Israel.  In addition, the Nakba law, a law which forbids mentioning the Nakba or commemorating it in any way, was passed by the Knesset a few years ago.
Not only, then, were the Palestinians expelled from their homes and on a larger scale, their homeland, but, to this day, the state of Israel uses excessive force to erase any memories or proof of these events. That is, the State does so by confiscating materials meant to preserve the memory of the Nakba and forbids, through legislation, the marking of the memory of the Nakba. It is as though the State is wanting to say, “This never happened. The Nakba is a Palestinian collective hallucination.”
Clinically, one might see this as an act not only of physically disinheriting Palestinians from their homeland, but also psychically preventing them from any meaningful chance to heal and grow. By erasing, persecuting and destroying any memory around the Nakba, the present-day situation perpetuates the Palestinian experience of the Nakba as an everyday event, ongoing until this very day.
Not only, then, were the Palestinians expelled from their homes and on a larger scale, their homeland, but, to this day, the state of Israel uses excessive force to erase any memories or proof of these events. That is, the State does so by confiscating materials meant to preserve the memory of the Nakba and forbids, through legislation, the marking of the memory of the Nakba. It is as though the State is wanting to say, “This never happened. The Nakba is a Palestinian collective hallucination.”

In this context, one can adopt the definition of the Nakba as a “stubborn” trauma, a phrase coined by Efi Ziv describing severe and continuous trauma. Unlike traditional traumatic events that are thought to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, Palestinians therefore continue living within the trauma, as they experience, alongside land confiscation, physical injuries and killing, everyday instances of humiliation and abjection from the Israeli apartheid authorities.

Manal Abu Haq is a clinical social worker (M.S.W.) and psychotherapist working with children, adolescents and adults in East Jerusalem and Ramleh. She works as a therapist both in the public sector and in private practice. She is an active member of Psychoactive – mental health professionals for human rights where she is on the steering committee of the program for politically sensitive psychotherapy and the child detainee evaluation project, and is member of the child arrest project. Manal has led workshops and classes on politically sensitive psychotherapy and has presented in several conferences on topics to do with the psychological and the political. Manal is special editor for Born-Equal.net.

70th Anniversary of Nakba: Prisoners of Narcissism

أسرى النرجسيّةCaesar

بقلم: د. سيزر حكيم , أخصائي نفسي اكلينيكي


نتذكر نكبتنا في هذه الفترة من السنة ويتوحد الاسرائليون في هذا الوقت للتباهي بما قد انجزوه في غضون السبعون عام الأخيرة. سبعون عاماً من الانجازات وبناء الدولة “الأكثر ديموقراطية” في الشرق الاوسط وطبعا الجيش “الأكثر أخلاقيا”ً في العالم. عبارات ومعتقدات يرددها الاسرائليون في وسائل الاعلام. وفي الاحتفالات الرسمية للاستقلال السبعون، تجسد هذه الخطابات و الممارسة اليومية في السياسات إدارة الدولة تجاه مواطنيها الفلسطينيين و خاصة نحو الفلسطينيين تحت الاحتلال في الضفة الغربية وغزة المحتلة.

تعبر هذه الممارسات والمشاعر عن الشعور الباثولوجي بالتعالي والعظمة. في مصطلحات علم النفس التحليلي، تُسمّى أوهام العظمة grandiose group self، مشاعر عظمة الذات والجماعة – النرجسيّة. فالنرجسيّة بتعريفها كمرض: هي حب الذات الذي يجعل الأنا تحتقر الأنوات الأخرى. الانطواء على الذات والإفراط في تقدير صورة الذات الجليلة (وهذا في الواقع تعويض لصورة الذات المُستنبطة سلباً). تلك هي عوارض الإصابة النرجسيّة, فالنرجسي لا يرى الا ذاته, يتوهم في قدراته العظيمة وفي أهميته , فيبدو لطيفا عندما توافقه الرأي وتقدره اما واذا لم تعره انتباهك او تنتقده فيهاجمك بعنف شديد حامل غضبه النرجسي.

تنبع أوهام العظمة هذه والقدرة المُبالغ فيها عند الشعوب من نرجسية ذهنية قد يعاني منها الشعب بسبب تاريخه. والصورة الذاتيةّ المُبالغ بها تنبع من إجراءات لا واعيّة هدفها المحافظة على الذات من الشعور المؤلم بالنقص ، انعدام القيمة وقلق من انعدام المقدرة. فنحن كأفراد نُعبّرعن الشعور بعظمة الذات بتوجّهنا الطفولي للعائلة فتكون عائلتنا في الصغر هي الاعظم، ومن ثم الحضانة، الصف، المدرسة، الحركة الشبيبية، الجيش أو أي مجموعة أخرى ننتسب إليها، فننسب لها صفات أحسن وأفضل من صفات المجموعات الأخرى.

أن الانفصال الى “نحن” و”هم” من شأنه أن يشكّل جهازًا حاميًا أكثر متانةً من حيث أنه يوفر في الوقت ذاته الانتماء واحتمالات إسقاطات النواحي الغير مرغوبة في هوية الـ “نحنُ” على هوية الـ “هُم”. لكن عندما يصاحب هذا الانفصال ايدولوجية دينية او ايدولوجية الضحية كما هو الحال في إسرائيل, فهذا قد يخلق المشاعر العظيمة بالوحدة القائمة على اختبار الظلم والألم، ولكن أيضًا على أوهام العظَمَةِ الكاذِبَة وعلى مطالب إصلاحٍ عدائيّة. يغدو العُدوان مباحًا على اعتبار أنه دفاع عن النفس وتصحيح للظُّلمِ.

يحتاج المصاب بالنرجسية الى التقسيم إلى “انا \وليس انا ” حتى يتم تصفية الانا من الشعور المؤلم بعدم تقدير الذات فيسقط ما لا يحتمله بذاته على الاخر. هذا التقسيم ورد اكثر في ادبيات علم النفس التحليلي للفرد ويوازيه التحليل النفسي الجمعي حيث ان التقسيم الى “نحن” و “هم” هو أمر عام عند الشعوب، مع ذلك قد تكون هناك مؤثرات مُشَدِّدةً أو مُلَطِّفَةً، متطرِّفة أو معتدِلَة، نتيجة ظروفٍ تاريخية، أو ثقافية أو دينية أو نتيجة صدمات اجتماعية كما هو الحال في تطور الشخصية النرجسية للفرد. فإن الأجواء الاجتماعية، الثقافية والتاريخية في إسرائيل، التي يتم فيها هذا الانقسام،

حيث ان المجتمع الإسرائيلي يناصرُ استعلاء الـ “نحنُ” ويُقلِّلُ من قيمة الـ “هم”، حتى أنه يوصي مسبقًا باعتبارِ الـ “هم” عدوًّا مُحتَمَلًا، قد دفعَ المجتمع إلى التقسيم القطبي في داخله وهكذا ينال الانقسام من أبناءِ الثقافة الواحدة.


فنرى مثلاً الانقسام داخل المجتمع الإسرائيلي منذ بداية بناء الدولة, حيث اعتبروا مواطنو القدس مدينتهم أكبر وأجمل وأفضل من مدينة


After seventy years…there is much to be proud of” – current Israeli TV advertisement

تل-أبيب. وامن سكان تل-أبيب أن مدينتهم هي الأفضل في إسرائيل. واعتبر أساتذة الجامعة العبرية في القدس أنفسهم بمستوى أعلى من أساتذة الجامعات الأخرى. كما واعتبر اليهود الغربيين انفسهم بمستوى اعلى من اليهود الشرقيين . واعتقد وما زالوا يعتقدوا العديد من اليهود الاسرائيليّين أن الدولة التي بنوها هي الأفضل، الأجمل، الأقوى والأكثر أهمية بين جميع دول العالم. فالحوار داخل المجتمع الإسرائيلي له ميزات شمولية: فمن خلال المعانقة يرفض الاختلاف. نرى ذلك أيضا في خطاب اليهود لفلسطينيي الداخل, ونرى ذلك في خطاب إسرائيل مع دول أوروبا والعالم, كما ونرى ذلك حين ينتقد اليسار الحكومة اليمينية فينقسم الخطاب الى “نحن” و”هم” ويعتبر اليسار المُنتقد في هوية العدو. هذا النوع من الحوار هو ثنائي لا يقبل الاختلاف: نعم – لا، معنا – ليس معنا، مُنتَمٍ – غير مُنتمٍ.

ينتقل الطفل من Paranoid-schizoid position الى depressive position حتى يستطيع بناء ذات

مترابطة؛ ليصبح إنسان بالغ فبإمكانه رؤية الأمور على حقيقتها. فرغم كون إسرائيل دولة ذات قوة عسكرية عظيمة، تُحالف الولايات المتحدة، فإنها تبقى بقعة صغيرة من الأرض في الشرق الأوسط، ذات قدرات عسكرية وطاقات ذهنية محدودة، واقتصاد ضعيف قياسًا بسواها من الدول، تعيش فوق طاقتها، معتمدةً على الولايات المتحدة للصمود اقتصاديًا وعسكريًا. تقلقها عدة مشاكل اجتماعية تتمثل في عدم قبول الفئات المختلفة بعضها، وتكثر قضايا الفساد السياسي وقضايا الاعتداء الجنسي من قبل ذوي النفوذ وغيرهم. كما انّ تشغلها مشاكل أمنية، وقضايا عنف في المجال التربوي، وتطرف ديني وايديولوجي.

فإذا استطاع لاسرائليون العدول عن مشاعر العظمة، التي تغطي على الشعور بالخوف والقلق من الملاحقة التاريخية، وخسارة دفاعياتهم النفسية للأذية النرجسية في اللاواعي، وخسارة الحاجة للعب دور الضحية في الواعي، فسيستطيعون رؤية الواقع الحقيقي والاعتراف بأخطائهم وبالأذية والمعاناة التي سببوها للشعب الفلسطيني، وعندئذ يمكنهم الدخول في حوار حقيقي مع الآخر.

Dr. Caesar Hakim

Trans. by Stephen Sheehi

During this time of the year, we remember al-Nakba. In the meantime, the Israelis unite in boasting about all that they have accomplished over the past seventy years: seventy years of achievements in building the “most democratic state” in the Middle East with, of course, the “most moral army” in the world. Israeli media regurgitates these statements and principles of faith. Amongst the formal celebrations of seventy years of independence, these speeches and daily practices embody themselves in the state administrative policies towards its Palestinian citizens and especially towards Palestinians under occupation in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

These sentiments, practices, and behaviors exhibit pathological feelings of superiority and grandiosity. Within psychoanalytic nomenclature, this would be called “delusions of grandeur” or an expression of a grandiose group self, i.e., narcissism. Narcissism is understood as an illness; the love of self that makes the Ego denigrate all others. It is being self-absorbed and it is the excess of overvaluing one’s shining self-image (which, in fact, is a compensation for a negatively autogenetic self-image). These are symptoms of a narcissistic wound. The narcissist sees no one other than his own Self. He is deluded in imagining the grandiosity of his abilities and his self-importance. He seems pleasant when you validate his opinion and appreciate him. But when you withhold your attention or criticize him, he attacks you violently with his narcissistic rage.

These delusions of grandeur, and the exaggerated feelings of power that accompany them, stem from a narcissism of a people who suffer from their history. The exaggerated self-image stems from unconscious processes that aim to protect the self from painful feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness, and powerlessness. We, as individuals, express feelings of self-grandeur in our childish approach to the family. In its smallness, it appears greater than it is. This continues in kindergarten, then school, in youth groups, in the army or any other group to which we belong. We belong to these groups, thinking that they are superior and better than other groups.

The separation between “us” and “them” functions as an effective and durable mechanism of self-formation in that it simultaneously provides identification and the prospect of other kinds of projections needed for an identity of the “We” against the identity of the “them.” When this separation is accompanied by religious ideology or the ideology of the victim as is the case of Israel, it creates grandiose sentiments of unity based on the experience of oppression and pain, but also based on delusions of false grandeur and the demands of a hostile repair. Aggression, therefore, perfidiously becomes permissible on the basis of defending the Self and justifying inequity toward the Other.

The narcissist needs the splitting off of the “I/not-I” until it purifies the Ego from the agonizing feelings of lack of self-worth. Therefore, he splits off what he cannot bear in his own Self and projects it onto the Other. This splitting is prevalent in the psychoanalytic literature of the individual but it parallels collective group processes where the splitting into “Us” and “Them” is a common issue among peoples in general. However, it may have intense or palliative, extreme or moderate effects resulting from historical, cultural, or religious conditions or resulting from social traumas just as with the development of the narcissism of the individual.

This is the case with the social, cultural, and historical atmosphere of Israel in which this splitting occurs, where Israeli society champions the supremacy of the “Us” and devalues the “them” to the extent that it is preemptively designates “them” as a potential enemy on the mere basis of being “not Us.”

The child moves from the paranoid-schizoid position to the depressive position when he is able to build a Self who is invested in becoming an adult, where he can see matters as they truly are, not delusional grandiosity. Despite the fact that Israel is a state itself of significant military strength, and an ally of the United States, it remains a small dot on the map of the Middle East, with limited military capabilities and intellectual energy. Its economy is weak compared to other countries. It lives above its means, reliant on hand outs from the United States for its economic and military stability. It is rife with a number of social problems, which include the lack of accepting a variety of groups different from them. The cases of political corruption and sexual harassment are proliferating by the day among the influential and others, all the while it remains preoccupied by security issues, cases of violence in schools and religious and ideological extremism.

Yet, if the Israelis can abandon these feelings of grandeur, which cover their feelings of fear and anxiety arising from their historical persecution, and they can overcome both their unconscious psychological defenses that result from narcissistic wounds and their conscious need to play the victim, then they will be able recognize the true reality around them. They will be able to admit to their own errors and realize that these are the sources of anguish and suffering of the Palestinian people. With this recognition, perhaps then they can enter into a true dialogue with the Other.

Dr. Hakim is a clinical psychologist. He got his Ph.D in Clinical Psychology from Haifa University, Israel. He has been a psychotherapist in private practice in Haifa for the last 10 years. He is currently the clinical director of the Guidance and Training Center for family and children in Bethlehem, Palestine, an Assistant Professor at An Najah National University, Nablus, and he is an honorary lecturer at the University of Glasgow in the Global Mental Health program, UK.

70th Anniversary of the Nakba: The Oasis City: A tale of profound loss and the struggle to persevere


By Hammam Farah

unnamedWhen I was eight years old I lived in a small oasis city in the desert, where the palm trees hung over a verdant landscape covered with date groves and natural springs, and enfolded by sand dunes of varying texture to the north and east of the city.

Farms of all sizes surrounded the city and produced a staggering amount of salad produce—tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and even strawberries.

A limestone mountain with hot spring spa pools at its base overlooked the city from the southeast, shielding it like it was the world’s best-kept secret destinations.

A group of white villas sat next to each other and formed a large circular-shaped neighbourhood, leaving only two roads leading out onto the main street. One of those villas was ours, and the others belonged to other families with children my age, more or less.

And so when we all went out to play, the heart of this circular neighbourhood would come to life.

We played in the sand and on the street, and our families had large lively gatherings in the evenings and coffee and gossip between the housewives in the afternoons.

I had played a central role in the daily activities of the children, from organizing games, sports, and setting out on various adventures and feats of exploration, to searching for the thought-to-be extinct dinosaurs under the sand, or picking up broom sticks to wage a months-long “war on bees” as we tore down a bee hive invasion that plagued the palm trees in our beloved neighbourhood.

I was known as a troublemaker. Like the time my friends’ older brothers surrounded me, carrying sticks with sharp ends, threatening to kill me if I continued to teach their younger siblings dirty words.

Or the time when I placed a grasshopper (or was it a cockroach) in a makeup kit and had my younger sister give it as a gift to the stuck up girl next door. I can still remember her mother barging out of the house yelling at us as we scurried away.

But then there was the other girl. The one who pulled me away from the rest and gave me a glimpse of what it meant to feel alive.

We were taking a walk around the neighbourhood’s circular road under the starry night when she confessed a childhood crush that stirred strangely arousing butterfly feelings in me for the very first time.

“Kiss me,” she commanded as we huddled closely behind one of the villas on a hot summer day.

Drawn by her intensity, I willingly complied as I held her hand close and pulled her closer into me, feeling the warmth of her waist and the moisture on her lips.

“That’s the big dipper over there,” I’d point to the constellations as I held her hand in the night. “And the little dipper there.” I was a lover of space, having learned the names and shapes of the planets and stars when I was four.

It didn’t take long for the kids in the neighbourhood to talk about us. But that didn’t matter. The neighbourhood was mine by that point. And I was invincible.

But as we learn as we get older, things often have a way of blindsiding us and turning our world upside down.

We were moving. All the way across the world. To Canada.

I remember it quite vividly. She stood there, almost numb.

“So this is it,” my voice shook.

We stood outside in front of the house. At any moment I’d be called back in so we could depart.

I held her hand and stared into her eyes, only to be met with an anguished emptiness.

“It’s going to be okay,” I said as I embraced her in my arms and kissed the softness of her neck.

The last thing I remember was being in the back seat of the car with my sister, looking out the back windshield and waving our hands to the chorus of the children of the neighbourhood as they poured out of their homes to wave us farewell.


In the years that followed I developed a childhood depression, filled with anxiety, and my adult personality was largely shaped by the experience of childhood immigration.

I was a stranger in a cold land, having to rely on supportive teachers and sympathetic classmates when I wasn’t facing the bullies and their racist remarks on the playground.

Eventually I succumbed to my new role as stranger and follower. I became quiet and withdrawn. My imagination became my solace, my books my escape.

And wherever I went, the neighbourhood in the oasis city lived in the back of my mind, and in the depths of my heart.unnamed-1.jpg

But as hard as change was for me, it would be change that would drive me forward; the desire to understand myself and improve, to do the work that would be necessary to become the person I am today.

I developed an interest in psychology, which became one of my majors (the other being political science). I read tons of books and articles. Sometimes it felt like I was starting from scratch.

But nothing impacted me as much as when I began my training in psychotherapy.

It was there that I learned the value of relationships and the importance of a special kind of self-awareness.

And I had to experience psychotherapy as the client before I could become a therapist myself.

There was a point in my third year of training when I realized I was seeing a different side to life that I had been blinded from: that of relating to another person on a deep emotional level.

I developed the capacity to listen deeply to another person and become attuned to them, to truly understand them.

I felt that I had been living my life in black and white, and now someone had taken a paint brush and filled it with colour.

In the entries that follow I will write about these lessons in the hopes of sharing them with others struggling to understand their relationships and themselves in the context of their relationships.

Today, I am a therapist in training, practicing and studying the approach of psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapy. I have also worked for a year assisting Syrian and Iraqi refugees with their re-settlement process.

I saw my own struggles in theirs.

Many of us are familiar with the experience of exile, of being disconnected from both our communities and ourselves.

But we must empower ourselves to seek help and guidance when we need it. There is no shame in that. There is also no shame in sharing your story and talking about your experiences.

Everyone has a story. No matter who you are, you have a story to tell, whether you tell it to yourself or to others.

Many of us have experienced different degrees of trauma and dissociation. How do we reconnect with the part of ourselves that was lost?

And how do we make connections with others who have similar struggles, and those whose struggles are different?

Because those with different struggles have something to offer; they have experiences we can learn from, experiences that add to our understanding of our common humanity.


When I immigrated I lost my world, and I lost myself. I became dependent, anxious, silent, disconnected, and dissociated.

Palestinians refer to their displacement from their homeland as the “Nakba,” the Catastrophe. Leaving the oasis city was my own personal Nakba.

On some level I struggled to make sense of the changes that were happening around me and within me. I was overwhelmed with separation anxiety and feeling robbed of my agency.

Probably the worst part was that I was too young to know these labels and identify what was happening to me.

But now I have taken my life back into my own hands. And it’s time that I shared it with you in the hopes that if you could relate to my struggle, even a tiny bit, you could also take matters into your own hands.

Change became my nemesis. Little did I know it would also become my ambition.


Hammam Farah is a Palestinian Canadian activist and psychoanalytic therapist in training. He is co-founder of the Association of Progressive Palestinian Canadians. His family’s resilience in Gaza is a source of fierce inspiration for him.
This piece was previously published at: https://medium.com/@hammamfarah

70th Anniversary of the Nakba: Resistance as Conversation—the 2019 IARPP Conference in Israel and the Actions in Protest

By Elizabeth Berger, Rebecca Fadil, Samah Jabr and Christine Schmidt


The recent massacres in Gaza have only reinforced the legacy of the Nakba as an ongoing arc of atrocities rather than a single event of 70 years past, isolated in time. To resist the Nakba as a historical and current reality is thus a staggering challenge to us as mental health clinicians and as human beings. Nonetheless, we like to believe that our professional tool-kit prepares us especially for this work to some degree, as students of motivation who place a premium on truthful realities; and more, as healthcare professionals pledged to advocate for public well-being and to attempt to speak on behalf of the victimized, the silenced, and the oppressed.

Although this mission is steeply uphill with regard to Palestine, we see the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) issued by Palestinian civil society as offering powerful non-violent routes of resistance now gathering increasing international interest and commitment. We report here on protest action which was recently undertaken in parallel with the BDS movement working toward the same goals.

In December 2017, the Board of the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (IARPP) revealed its plan to locate its 2019 annual meeting in Israel. We, the undersigned, sent an email letter to the Board requesting that it reconsider this choice of location, citing Israel’s policies of human rights violations and the extreme difficulty faced by Palestinian clinicians in even attending such a meeting. The Board promptly refused, claiming that our request was “silencing conversation.” We then enlisted help from the UK-Palestine Mental Health Network and from the Jewish Voice for Peace to re-issue our letter as a petition which now has been signed (as of April 2018) by over 1,300 mental health professionals worldwide.

Far from closing debate however, the protest action very clearly opened the door to vigorous debate both within the IARPP membership and in many places elsewhere. The protest action was subject of many supportive statements such as those issued by the UK-Palestine Mental Health Network’s Steering Group and published by Alice Rothchild MD of the Jewish Voice for Peace–Health Advisory Council. Importantly, 24 Palestinian mental health professionals who are citizens of Israel crafted a separate Statement in support of the protest petition and 34 mental health professionals who are members of the Israeli human rights organization Psychoactive (eleven of whom are also members of IARPP) also issued a separate Statement in support of the protest petition. At times, the group processes that led to these statements were very painful. In some instances, those supporting the protest were subject to intimidation by those defending the Israeli official position and threats were issued to silence voices of resistance, calling for considerable bravery on the part of those who spoke up.

We have been gratified to see that the protest has gathered not only signatures but also many volunteers eager to organize their own communities in coordinated action. The petition and other documents and letters have been translated into several languages and groups of mental health workers in other countries have expressed interest in forming their own local Networks in support of Palestine.

In addition, considerable focus has been aimed at the 2018 international conference which IARPP is holding in New York City, stimulating a spectrum of protesting responses. Some participants in scheduled panels have chosen to withdraw their participation; one entire panel is thus not taking place. Other IARPP members have written letters to IARPP explaining their withdrawal from the organization altogether. Others however are presenting papers in support of Palestine at the New York meeting.SeparationWallPalestine

The undersigned have arranged for a three-hour alternative forum entitled “Voices on Palestine,” a session by and for mental health workers sympathetic to Palestine. Our forum will be held at mid-day in a conference room within the same hotel as the IARPP meeting and has been scheduled to avoid conflict with any IARPP speaker. We invite all interested mental health workers to join us. The Board and the membership of IARPP have been invited to attend as well, with the hope of expanding a genuine interaction with them.

We can conclude, therefore, that protest initiatives of a professional nature do not silence dialogue, as has often been argued in criticism of cultural and academic boycotts. Protest initiatives silence no one. The process and the goal of such protest actions, on the contrary, bring to the surface in creative ways latent disagreements so that they can be discussed openly. Although no one can speak for the silenced except the silenced themselves, we observe that protest actions can widen the debate among all parties and deepen engagement internationally. Resistance is thus itself a vigorous mode of conversation, making it harder for the voices which have been silenced to remain forever unheard.



Dr. Berger is a New York-based child psychiatrist who has been working with clinicians in Palestine for many years developing training programs in mental health, consulting on policy planning, and writing articles and book chapters on well-being in Palestine for both the academic and popular press. She is a member of the Steering Committee of the USA-Palestine Mental Health Network. 

Rebecca Fadil, LCSW,  attended Tel Aviv University during the Oslo years and ended up working for a small village on the green line.  Fadil has worked at the Karen Horney Clinic, The Arab American Center in Brooklyn, and the Council on Foreign Relations as special assistant to the Director of the US/Middle East Project.   Fadil is involved with the Palestine Israel Network of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Kairos USA, The Tree of Life, and co-founder with Liz and Christine, of the USA Palestine Mental Health Network.   With family and friends living in the diaspora, and on both sides of the green line,  the consequences of the Nakba have of course become deeply personal for her.   Fadil is a psychotherapist in private practice and splits her time living between Washington DC and Charlottesville, Virginia.

Dr. Jabr is a psychiatrist and psychotherapist based in East Jerusalem who has been a thought-leader within the field of mental health in Palestine, serving as consultant to many international agencies and teaching within the faculties of several medical schools. She is well known internationally as a prolific author and speaker on human rights in Palestine.

Christine Schmidt LCSW, CGP is a psychotherapist in private practice in Brooklyn, New York, a mediator, and an educational consultant. She has published about the psychological dynamics racism with particular focus on the impact of whiteness. She is on the Steering Committee of the USA-Palestine Mental Health Network.



Special Edition: 70th Anniversary of the Nakba


By Lara Sheehi

LaraI am honored to be the guest editor of this special edition of the Psychoanalyst Activist which commemorates the 70th Anniversary of the Nakba. Nakba, or “the Catastrophe” is the Arabic term that refers to the dispossession of more than 700,000 Palestinians in 1948 by Zionist forces.

Seventy years later, Trump’s White House contravened long standing international norms, UN Security Counsel Resolutions, and official US policy by moving the United States Embassy to Jerusalem.  Finding kindred political visions with the ethno-nationalist Netanyahu regime, Trump’s administration punctuated the prejudice of this unilateral decision by announcing that the United States embassy in Jerusalem will be inaugurated on the anniversary date of the Nakba.  Continue article


By Mustafa Qossoqsi

تعديلات على شرح بعض خصائص كاميرا الهاتف المحمولmustafa-qosqase

Auto: وهو التصوير الذي سيقوم بتعديل كل شيء من تلقاء نفسه مع إمكانية التصوير بشكل سريع، خاصةّ في حالات الموت المباغت أو انهيار المباني والمعاني على رؤوس ساكنيها.

Beauty Face: يسمح بتصوير الوجه وتحسينه عند التصوير بمقطعٍ عامودي، مناسب لوجه يطلع من الركام ملطّخاً بالدم والغبار وبعيون مغمضة نهائياً عن تفاهة الشرّ وتكنو لجيّته البدائيّة الحديثة جداً.

BestPhoto: يتيح إمكانية اختيار أفضل صورة من مجموعة صور، لتسويق أفضل لموتٍ عنيف على شاشات تتجمّل مهرولة إلى موعدها القادم مع ضحايا أكثر ألقاً فوتوغرافيّاً وأقلّ شبقاً للحريّة.

Continue article 



By Christine Schmidt

001I&M201712284T0A9804I knew that Mrs. Daoud was Palestinian Bedouin and her husband identified as a Jordanian. They were living in their Brooklyn house when I moved next door in 1984. They welcomed me as their new neighbor.

We practically raised our children together. Mrs. Daoud had eight and I had three. Our children ran between our houses, playing on the swings in my back yards or riding bikes on the sidewalks out front. They played, laughed, teased and generally really liked each other. In good weather, Mrs. Daoud always sat on the patio out front. She was the matron of our block. As soon as she saw me she would motion for me to come visit and watch our children together. For hours. Continue article


By Lama Z. Khouri

234503-1192125-1_320x400.jpgMy mother is finally mustering the strength to tell me about the day she left the home of her birth.

“I am 12 years old.  Nadia [her sister], our neighbor Lily, and I are playing hopscotch in front of the house. Your grandfather and grandmother are going in and out loading the car and getting ready to head to Amman. Our dog is strangely excited or agitated, I’m not sure which. Every time a suitcase is loaded in the car, she barks at the bag and her whole body shakes, as if the bag is a collaborator in some conspiracy. Maybe she knows what we do not anticipate.”

She pauses.

Continue article


By Martin Kemp


My first public intervention regarding Israel/Palestine appeared in the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis in 2005. I wrote a letter challenging the IJPA’s dismissal of the academic boycott of Israel on the familiar grounds that politics should not be allowed to intrude into the realm of scientific endeavour[i]. The sacking of two Israeli academics from the editorial boards of international journals had been the precipitating cause of the ‘special editorial’[ii]. Its wording, published simultaneously in ten psychoanalytic journals, for me exemplified a determination not to engage with a tragic and enduring crisis for which the West had a particular responsibility. Rather than effectively reinforcing the status quo by denouncing the boycott, I urged that the profession ought to engage with the arguments for and against taking action[iii].

Continue article


By Hala Alyan


Wind churning a daub of Haifa seawater into my eye. Tomorrow,

a strip of sunburn,

skin peeling auburn.



Word scuffing my throat at Qalandiya checkpoint

as a man nods and

click rotates metal bars. Word rasps at Ramallah windows facing


the burly settlements—No—even during autumn

weddings. Word nests like a sunflower seed between

teeth and only

later do I spit it out

beneath a harvest moon in Manhattan.

Continue article

70th Anniversary of the Nakba: Souvenirs

By Hala Alyan


Wind churning a daub of Haifa seawater into my eye. Tomorrow,

a strip of sunburn,

skin peeling auburn.



Word scuffing my throat at Qalandiya checkpoint

as a man nods and

click rotates metal bars. Word rasps at Ramallah windows facing


the burly settlements—No—even during autumn

weddings. Word nests like a sunflower seed between

teeth and only

later do I spit it out

beneath a harvest moon in Manhattan.



Hot cheek kiss from Jimmy. Naming the dead, and their

cities. Hawaii

ambered his eyes and Jerusalem keening

for Shabbat as we strode the dawn.



A photograph of the sunlit souk: prayer


kaffiyehs, ceramics, carpet. Finger pricked on the crown

of thorns fashioned out of cedar wood.



Shukran from the Palestinian shopkeeper when I translated

to the American women for him:

no the kitten is his not injured she likes to sleep in the tire

Blond eyebrows knitted

and when they left, the shopkeeper shrugged and said— bemused,


The Americans, their hearts bleed for cats.




At the top the hill dips clefted

Photo from Lama (7)

Palestinian shawarma kiosk circa 1900, Jaffa, Palestine – courtesy of Lama Khouri.

over the granite. Coffins cluster

between the groves of green-

tipped olive shrubs. A man shovels

dirt, the blade copper in the sun.

He shuffles soil for a new grave,

intent on his task (tiny in this

monstrous land), ignoring the

Indian tourists rustling maps and

the Austrian men arguing about

soccer over flasks. Was it an olive

in the hands of a woman choking

dirty water in the camps (the other

camps, not the camps of Sabra

Baqa’a Zarqa Rashidieh Kalandia

Khan Yunis Jabalia Aida Shatila)?

Was it an olive steadied between the

teeth of one who spoke god and

lived another sun? Was the olive

the clay, then, was it the air that

kept bodies alive and hurtled

across the sea for this crescent

of land? The ancients said

plants took the scent of their

tenders. When they ate a leaf,

they thanked the hand that

plucked it. Who picked the olives

that crowded a bowl on that first

table in 1948 Yazur Umm al-Faraj

Kafr Sabt Qira Ibdis Kafra Danna

Kudna Nitaf Saffuriyya Hatta

Ayn Ghazal Sajad Dimra Aqir?

And what was the taste as

tongue rolled over the sphere

what was the memory lodged

like scar onto that green skin?

Did you taste it, do you still taste

it—the salt from the hands that

shuffled life from the dirt bitter

salty and sharp as any truth.


Hala Alyan is a Palestinian American writer and clinical psychologist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Guernica and elsewhere. Her poetry collections have won the Arab American Book Award and the Crab Orchard Series. Her debut novel, SALT HOUSES, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2017, and was longlisted for the Aspen Words Literary Prize.

70th Anniversary of the Nakba: Slouching towards Salem: reflections on Zionism and the “new anti-Semitism”

By Martin Kemp


My first public intervention regarding Israel/Palestine appeared in the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis in 2005. I wrote a letter challenging the IJPA’s dismissal of the academic boycott of Israel on the familiar grounds that politics should not be allowed to intrude into the realm of scientific endeavour[i]. The sacking of two Israeli academics from the editorial boards of international journals had been the precipitating cause of the ‘special editorial’[ii]. Its wording, published simultaneously in ten psychoanalytic journals, for me exemplified a determination not to engage with a tragic and enduring crisis for which the West had a particular responsibility. Rather than effectively reinforcing the status quo by denouncing the boycott, I urged that the profession ought to engage with the arguments for and against taking action[iii].

Close friends warned me to expect a robust response. My major fear was that my argument would be demolished. The loss of my political virginity, when it came, was not nearly as painful as I had anticipated. In a pompous and aggressive dismissal, the US psychoanalyst, Warren Poland, decried my ‘passionate prejudice’, ‘intemperate partisanship’ and ‘incendiary provocations’, and implied my letter had been composed by someone unfit for clinical practice. Little attention was paid to what I’d actually written.[iv]

The Journal’s editors, Glen Gabbard and Paul Williams, sought neither to defend their decision to publish nor to protect their correspondent from this unprincipled assault. Instead, presumably bowing to pressure, they made their own abject apology: ‘The Editors regret publishing Kemp (2005) that contained partisan hatefulness.’[v] My italics: they would not deign to making a frank accusation of anti-Semitism, but the euphemism conveyed their meaning clearly enough. At this point, the editors declared the discussion closed: it took the threat of legal action (backed by a solicitor’s opinion from Liberty[vi]), and an intervention over their heads by the President of the British Psychoanalytic Society, the journal’s owners, to secure an opportunity to reply.

In 2008 I travelled to Palestine with a group of health professionals: we were hosted by two Jewish Israeli[vii] human rights organisations[viii]. As well as visiting medical and community facilities in the West Bank, we met professionals at Israeli facilities in Beersheba and Jerusalem. Unable to cross into Gaza – this was in the run up to ‘Cast Lead’ when entry was impossible, even for humanitarian workers and journalists – we visited a new health centre serving a Bedouin community in the Negev/Naqab[ix]. A few weeks later it was flattened by Israeli bulldozers, along with the rest of the village, in the ongoing process of ‘judaizing’ the land. (The settlement building in the West Bank provokes more international attention, but the taking of land for Jewish-only towns continues inside the ‘Green Line’ too.)

During that trip I grasped, experientially, the meaning of ‘secondary trauma’[x]. It was not only the encounter with preventable suffering: it was coming to terms with the totality of a system consciously designed to inflict maximum fear and insecurity, distress and humiliation, grief and pain. It seemed that no opportunity, no matter how petty or trivial, was let by to impress upon the Palestinians their status as non-humans. What was and is happening there goes beyond any rationale that could be considered acceptable or sane. It had nothing to do with enhancing security – if that was the intention, one could hardly imagine a more self-defeating approach[xi]. What aggravated the difficulty in containing one’s outrage was the knowledge that Western politicians and journalists knew what was going on, or had made a conscious choice not to know.

The totalitarian nature of Israel’s attempt to degrade Palestine’s indigenous population plays in the oppressor’s favour. If one attempts to detail the myriad ways in which the misnamed ‘Occupation’ works, to describe it as a system, one is bound to sound fanatical, deranged[xii]. As Chomsky keeps saying, what happens inside the 1967 borders of Israel is an apartheid system, what happens in the West Bank and Gaza is ‘much worse’ – but what is it? The manufactured hysteria linking anti-Zionism with Judeophobia is – I am sure – intended to frighten away those tempted to enquire too closely.

Not long after returning from Palestine, with these impressions still fresh, I found myself talking to a London-based Jewish Israeli psychotherapist at a conference in London. I was keen to discuss our visit – the Jewish clinicians we had met in Israel were as dismayed as we had been by what was happening. At first this colleague treated me as a well-meaning simpleton who had been misled by sinister extremists. In an attempt to educate me about the true nature of the problem, she told me a story. Her family had lived in Tel Aviv and had employed an ‘Arab’ domestic. They treated their employee well and thought they had a good relationship. One day, he poured concrete down the toilets and other plumbing facilities around the house, and disappeared. I had no reason to disbelieve her – in fact, given what I knew of the nature of inter-communal relations in Israel/ Palestine, the story didn’t surprise me at all.

I asked her why she thought her employee had behaved in this way. This seemed an obvious question to ask – we were at a psychotherapy conference, presumably attended by people with an interest in motives and meanings. But no, I had misunderstood the moral of the tale: my discussant became angry, and abruptly walked away from the conversation with the taunt: ‘You won’t be happy until another twelve million of us are fried in the ovens’.

Later that year I co-authored a journalistic piece called ‘To Resist is to Exist: notes on the psychological impact of military occupation of Palestine’. It was accepted, warmly, by Therapy Today, the magazine of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists, BACP[xiii]. It was not particularly original, merely reporting what was widely known to anyone who took a direct interest in the subject. But, it seems, facts and opinions that were supposed to be kept outside of polite society had been smuggled into a mainstream professional magazine, circulation over 30,000, with open online access. There were howls of protest. The British Zionist Federation complained, along with the Board of Deputies of British Jews and large numbers of individuals, some of them members of the BACP. Again, few attended to the content of the article. Its poisonous nature was so self-evident that their ire was focused on the editor who had allowed its appearance. Didn’t they realise this was anti-Semitic?

You have to laugh; or cry, perhaps, because the shock and fear inflicted on unsuspecting publishers by these tactics is real, and the strategy is successful. I doubt if another clinician approaching Therapy Today with an article about Palestine would be welcomed as we had been.

During this furore the London-based Jewish Chronicle printed a little article under the headline ‘Therapists’ Nazi Slur‘, which took exception to the fact that we had ‘claimed there were “strong echoes between the period of Nazi rule from 1933 to 1938 and what we witnessed”’[xiv]. Why had we written in such a provocative and offensive manner?

At Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum we had watched video testimony from men and women who, when young, had been stoned on the way to school in Nazi Germany: the day before we’d talked to elderly Jewish Israeli women who travelled to Hebron each day to protect local Palestinian children from being stoned by Jewish Settlers[xv]. This too was documented on video, filmed on cameras provided to Palestinian families by the Israeli human rights group, B’tselem[xvi]. It would have been an act of self-censorship not to note the parallel. But for the Jewish Chronicle the stoning of Palestinian kids was only ‘alleged’, sinister accusations whose authors were to be the focus of concern, not disturbing possibilities to be investigated. We were also taken to task for reporting that we had heard comparisons made between Gaza and Warsaw. Again, the paper showed no interest in wondering why such links were being made[xvii].

In 2014 I was involved in the formation of the UK-Palestine Mental Health Network, a group committed to raising awareness about Israel/Palestine amongst British colleagues[xviii]. We hired the hall of The Guild of Psychotherapists, a training organisation based near London Bridge. Immediately afterwards, The Guild received a number of complaints, some posed in the most lurid tones. Sometime later, a colleague published a letter in the magazine of the British Psychoanalytic Council expressing concern that one of our professional organisations could have hosted an event that dabbled in anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and attacks on psychoanalysis![xix]

I became interested in the poisonous nature of public debate about Israel/Palestine in the West, and produced a couple of papers for peer-reviewed psychoanalytic journals which offered an explanation in terms of the difficulties that large groups have in acknowledging guilt and managing shame[xx]. The West’s problem with its anti-Semitic past is often commented upon. Since the Holocaust, Judeophobia has become taboo, so much so that we haven’t been able to address it in the mature and reflective ways that we’ve been able to engage with white-on-black racism. As a psychic ‘no-go area’, we are left incapable of acknowledging its presence or exploring its nature, of mastering it in


The Palestine Poster Project Archives (PPPA)

such a way that our understanding of it could help inform our moral sense. The Zionist claim that Israel speaks for Jewish people everywhere, though easily disproved, has gone by default: as a result, accusations of anti-Semitism against those who challenge this political ideology are easy, obvious and effective ways of neutralising Western criticism of Israel. Rather than grasping the ghastly potential of any racialised nationalism, (surely the true lesson of the Holocaust), we have embraced one version in an attempt to shield ourselves from the consciousness of our collusion with another. Our culpability in the perpetration of a further extended process of ethnic cleansing and settler colonialism reinforces the need of both Jewish Israeli and Western consciousness more generally to deny the legitimacy of Palestinian rights by blaming – and demonizing – the victims.

‘Re-defining’ anti-Semitism not only silences criticism, it also reassures those identified with Israel that it is they who are the object of aggression, that they have no reason to reflect on the morality of Israel’s behaviour or the rightness of their political affiliations. Jewish Israeli society has been built – and is being built – on a legacy of murder, expulsion and plunder, and here walls have to built around the truth both to ensure Israel’s continued acceptance as a ‘democracy’ and to ward off the emotional consequences of its being revealed as an apartheid ethnocracy. The myths that accompanied the birth of the new society have long been invalidated by historians, but the challenge of re-constructing a national narrative that incorporates this knowledge has proved too difficult for the majority. Those Israelis who do so – who have recognised the Palestinians as people with rights like themselves – are dissidents, and are treated as traitors. More commonly we encounter self-idealisations accompanied by an extreme sensitivity to criticism. From well before the Holocaust and the establishment of Israel, the premier strategy used to obliterate all consciousness of wrong-doing, and the possibility of being held to account, has been the demonization and dehumanization of the Palestinians[xxi]. (To listen to all the things that Israel accuses the Palestinians of as a projection makes for an interesting exercise: who is promoting states of terror? who wants to drive who off the land?).

Reactions to this model have provided some evidence for its veracity. After presenting a paper at a congress of the International Psychoanalytic Association, my thesis was ignored while members of the audience – oblivious to the racism inherent in what they were saying – gave lengthy speeches explaining the conflict’s longevity as a consequence of the hatred and violence fostered by ‘Arab’ child-rearing techniques[xxii]. A short while back, at a friend’s birthday dinner, I got into conversation with an academic guest about the pleasures of writing. I was asked what I wrote about and began to describe the ideas outlined above. ‘I have to stop you there’, my acquaintance announced, before I had proceeded very far: ‘The Palestinians are evil… Look at the people they elect as their leaders.’ It all makes sense so long as the Palestinians are the source of everything bad: their humanity, above all, is not to be encountered, our compassion and principled curiosity must not be diverted towards an understanding of their situation. To humanise them, it seems, evokes the feeling of having been attacked.

While the Zionist theory of history retains its hegemonic status it is, paradoxically, the advocates of universalism who can be portrayed as the splitters, lost in a world of idealisation and denigration. Their efforts have to be racialised, (as white supporters of reform in South Africa were once called ‘kaffir-lovers’), because Israel’s adherence to those ideals which are supposed to characterise Western society cannot be questioned or investigated. This is one of those ‘malignant normalities’ described by psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton: a situation where, while we confuse Power with the Truth, we are in danger of losing our moral bearings.

Lifton has used this concept to explain the scandal of APA psychologists assisting in the torture of detainees at Guantanamo Bay[xxiii]. In the case of Israel, the damage to ethical practice extends well beyond the borders of Palestine itself. Readers will have their own experiences of authoritarian practices employed by liberal institutions to cope with these difficulties. When the decision by the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy to hold a conference in Tel Aviv was questioned in January 2018, an open debate on the IARPP members’ listserve was closed down in less than twenty-four hours[xxiv].

An instance of censorship that particularly riled me was the successful lobbying by the Anti-Defamation League that prevented the worldwide broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer in November 2014. It was said that this work of art indulged terrorism, and that there was a danger that its showing – especially in Europe – would encourage anti-Semitism[xxv]. The opera’s offence was to include a Palestinian narrative alongside a Jewish Israeli one: to show Palestinians as human beings, who had been wronged. Even this creative attempt to contextualise the hijacking of the Achille Lauro is subversive of a Zionist narrative where the past suffering of Europe’s Jews provides sufficient justification for anything done in their name. Once the contemporary ‘other’ is discovered to be human the whole propaganda facade, and the set of psychological constructs that buttress it, begin to crumble.

We can hope that, eventually, shifts in public opinion and the persistence of those who insist on the right to challenge the ideological basis for Israeli policies, will weaken this complex. For the moment, these psychological constructs can rely on what one Haaretz writer described as a ‘powerful right-wing slander machine’ working in their defence[xxvi]. While deeply conservative in its purpose, however, maligning Israel’s critics it is not a tactic restricted to the political Right: self-styled ‘liberal Zionists’ are, perhaps surprisingly, active in giving the slander machine credibility. The demonization of the Palestinians and their allies is, I suspect, particularly necessary if one’s self-image incorporates both Zionism and a belief in universal human rights. The most prominent liberal Zionist in the UK, Jonathan Freedland, protests vehemently against Israel’s plan to deport its African refugees on the grounds that this is racist and a betrayal of Jewish values[xxvii]. Yet he has been a leading proponent of the notion that those who protest when this racism is directed against the Palestinians are infected by a ‘left anti-Semitism’[xxviii]. Jewish non-Zionists, of course, frequently cite Zionism itself, and Israel’s treatment of its own racial other, as a betrayal of the self-same values to which Freedland claims allegiance. Right wing Zionists, meanwhile, have less difficulty in accepting that to maintain a Jewish majority State in Palestine, Israel needs to violate Palestinians’ human rights[xxix].

There are two assertions, I think, that form the basis for claiming that ‘anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism’. First is the belief, sometimes made explicit, that adherence to Zionism is an aspect of being Jewish and always has been. The violation of the historical record is, in the current context, a minor offence, but still worth noting: this is a formula that does violence to Jewish history and to the complex and evolving allegiances of Jewish people in the West, and even to Jewish opinion within Israel. The second allegation, whose loud proclamation does not make it any more true, is that there are only two options: a Jewish State, allowed to break whatever rules it feels necessary to guarantee an ethno-religious majority, or the elimination of the Jewish Israeli community. There is no intellectual or psychic space for visions of a non-racist future, and those who look forward to a unitary state guaranteeing the rights of both national communities are, consciously or unconsciously, wishing only for ‘the destruction of Israel’. From this blinkered mind-set, the branding of all non-Zionists as racists naturally follows.

Last Spring, Steven Botticelli suggested that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) could become a potent ‘moral third’, forcing open a space between these two concretely held alternatives of Israel-as-it-is or Armageddon[xxxi]. Netanyahu’s dogged attempts to upset liberal sensibilities, and in particular the successive, terrible onslaughts on Gaza, have contributed to a strengthening of this non-violent, rights-based solidarity movement, and the attempt to close this space has led to an intensification of irrationality and intolerance. While the equation ‘anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism’ has been kicking around for a long time, a sinister shift has taken place in its use. From being a defensive strategy employed to confuse and silence, it is now being elevated to the position of an official truth, with teeth. The coercive power of the State is being mobilised to police the public mind. A raft of laws are being proposed across the Western world to restrict the right to protest against the Occupation, based on the binary thinking described above.

As the Chair of the UK group Campaign against Anti-Semitism, Gideon Falter, wrote in a chilling letter to the Guardian: ‘The particular brand of antisemitism that disguises itself as discourse about Israel is finally becoming political, social and professional suicide.’[xxxii] We have arrived back in the world brilliantly portrayed in the 2015 film Trumbo. It was shocking to be described as an anti-Semite in 2005. Now it’s reached the point where, if you’re not so described, you feel you can’t be challenging racism effectively enough. However, whereas in 2005 the danger seemed limited to public ridicule, today banks are refusing to provide services to civil rights groups and even humanitarian charities, activists’ social media accounts are being closed, and people are losing their jobs. It is unclear how my own psychotherapy registration body would respond to a formal complaint about my “new anti-Semitism”.

Our societies – national and professional – are increasingly mired in this contemporary form of fellow-travelling. The liberal intellectuals who somehow found common cause with Stalinism in the 1930s remained on the fringes of power, but those who today mistake Israel for a democratic paragon are in the mainstream. This does not make the attempt to confuse anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism any the more intellectually coherent. The partisan function of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s attempt to re-define anti-Semitism can be judged by reading through their list of ‘contemporary examples’ of the phenomenon, most of which aim to discourage thinking that undermines the Zionist narrative [xxxiii]. To take one example, one cannot ‘[claim] that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor’. While grammatically odd – how can something’s ‘existence’ be an ‘endeavor’? – the meaning is clear. Yet nowhere have I come across an explanation of how an ideology aiming to create a State with a guaranteed Jewish majority in a territory in which the overwhelming majority of people were Palestinian Arabs could avoid being racist, and of course discrimination and ethnic exclusion have been central to the policies enacted in pursuit of that goal, from the 1920s until the present day.

Strangest of all, the ardent anti-racists unearthing anti-Semitism where you least expect to find it, those who push for the direst punishment of those they implicate, do not consider Naqba-denial, or the assertion that the Palestinian people don’t actually exist, as a hate crime! [xxxiv]

My intention in writing this piece has been to ‘call out’ the mis-use of accusations of a anti-Semitism re-defined to protect a political culture that is itself, I believe, deeply imbued with racism. I would not want to be understood as denying the continuing presence and menace of anti-Semitism itself. The primary focus of Western ‘eliminatory racism’[xxxv] is now squarely directed at the ‘threat’ from Islam and Muslim communities, taking the part played by the Jews in earlier centuries[xxxvi]. We can be sure, however, that the Islamaphobe racialises – by denigration or idealisation – all ‘peoples’ – and that the resurgence of populism in Europe and North America, while appearing to benefit Israel politically, increases the danger faced by Jews, and all other ethnic minorities.[xxxvii]

The re-framing of anti-Semitism is immensely harmful. It is an attempt to exclude from public scrutiny a framework of assumptions and assertions that constitutes (I believe) a fundamental block to a future in which both Jewish Israelis and Palestinians could equally enjoy the rights and protections to which they are both entitled. It is intended as a material threat to human rights activists across the Western world, including Jewish Israeli dissidents who ally themselves with the struggle for Palestinian rights. Far more disturbing is the fact that those who are promoting this discourse are facilitating a regime that inflicts systematic damage on the bodies, minds and spirits of the Palestinians.

Martin Kemp, Ph.D., is a psychoanalyst in private practice in London. He has been involved in the UK-Palestine Mental Health Network since its inception in 2014

[i] Special Editorial (2002) ‘A Boycott by Passport’ Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 83(5):1001.

[ii] This was prior to the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions made by Palestinian civil society in 2005 which explicitly excluded individuals from its remit. See: https://bdsmovement.net/

[iii] Kemp, M. (2005) ‘On: A boycott by passport’ Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 86(2):551-553.

[iv] Poland, W.S. (2005) ‘On: A boycott by passport’ Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 86(3):902-903.

[v] ibid

[vi] A body that defends civil liberties in the UK.

[vii] 20% of Israeli citizens are Palestinian. I try to avoid referring simply to ‘Israeli’ opinion as this involves eradicating the views of one fifth of the population, an intellectual slippage akin to the erasure of Palestinian culture within Israel itself.

[viii] Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

[ix] It had been built in one of the so-called ‘unrecognised villages’ as the result of a court action by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel.

[x] This both seems an appropriate term and at the same time an absurd over-statement. I use it to convey the sense of shock and horror that burdened me after my return. For a more measured discussion of the psychological impact of the Occupation on local activists by an Israeli psychotherapist, see here

[xi] The reliance on repression and the use of excessive force of course sometimes provokes a violent response, which Israel persuades the world is primary rather than reactive, retroactively confirming that Israel only acts in self-defence and further dehumanising the Palestinians. The idea that the racism endemic in Israeli society is linked to security issues has hopefully been put to rest with the plan to forcibly deport tens of thousands of African refugees, because they threaten ‘the identity’ of Israel. See here

[xii] Saree Makdisi’s 2008 account Palestine Inside Out can be recommended. The devastating crimes committed against the two million inhabitants of Gaza is explored in Helga Tawil-Souri and Dina Matar’s (eds) Gaza as Metaphor (2016).

[xiii] Therapy Today, March 2009   Available online

[xiv] Martin J. ‘TTherapists’ Nazi SlurJewish Chronicle

[xv] They belonged to the human rights group Machsom Watch

[xvi] To explore B’tselem’s camera project, see here

[xvii] Recent definitions of anti-Semitism that seek to protect Zionism from criticism have made comparisons between Zionist Israel and Nazi Germany prima facie evidence of an offence. Meanwhile, comparisons with fascism and nazism proliferate in the Opinion pages of Haaretz. Sara Roy, a child of two survivors of Auschwitz, writes: ‘While there is no equivalence between the Holocaust and the Occupation – just as there is no equivalence between the occupier and the occupied – there are parallels. After nearly fifty years of occupation, twenty-one years of closer, eight years of blockade, and three wars waged against it in six years – Gaza pleads for those parallels to be made’. From ‘Gaza: No Se Puede Mirar – ‘One Cannot Look’: A Brief Reflection’, in Gaza as Metaphor, (footnote 12), p220

[xviii] See here

[xix] Hillel Mirvis ‘Contemporary prejudice within the profession of psychotherapy’, New Associations 15, 2014 p9

[xx] Kemp, M. (2011). Dehumanization, guilt and large group dynamics with reference to the west, Israel and the Palestinians, British Journal of Psychotherapy 27. 383-405, and (2015) ‘Collusion as a defense against guilt: Further notes on the West’s relationship with Israel and the Palestinians’; International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies. 12. 192-222.

[xxi] The splitting and denial, the idealisation and denial can, I think, be heard encapsulated in the short extract from Simon Shama’s lecture celebrating the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, at this link

[xxii] I am sure readers will have become familiar with this theme whenever the issue of terrorism is discussed in psychoanalytic symposiums: wild analysis serving to disavow the terrible inhumanity underlying Western policies towards the Middle East (in my opinion). For me, this is evidence of our difficulty in analysing the internalisation of hegemonic assumptions and its unconscious impact on our thinking. See my ‘First they came for the Muslims: the threat and the challenge of contemporary populism’, International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, forthcoming.

[xxiii] See here

[xxiv] See here

[xxv] Adams protested this act of censorship: “My opera accords great dignity to the memory of Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer, and it roundly condemns his brutal murder. It acknowledges the dreams and the grievances of not only the Israeli but also the Palestinian people, and in no form condones or promotes violence, terrorism or anti-Semitism. The cancellation of the international telecast is a deeply regrettable decision and goes far beyond issues of ‘artistic freedom,’ and ends in promoting the same kind of intolerance that the opera’s detractors claim to be preventing.” See here

[xxvi] Chemi Shalev was commending Ronald Lauder for his ‘courage’ in criticizing President Netanyahu and his government’s policies. The full sentence reads: ‘Lauder surely realizes that his public rebuke could turn him into a target for the powerful rightwing slander machine that can chop him up and make a lefty traitor out of him in no time.’ It seems that even the President of the World Jewish Congress, a ‘magnate’, should be afraid of character assassination for forgetting the script. See here

[xxvii] See here for more.

[xxviii] See here

[xxix] See eg: here; also Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land: the Triumph and Tragedy of Israel.

[xxxi] S. Botticelli, ‘How do we talk about justice in psychoanalysis?’, unpublished paper 2017.

[xxxii] hSee here

[xxxiii] See here. . The definition inside the black box is uncontroversial: it is the list of ‘contemporary examples’ that reveals its sectarian and ideological purpose.

[xxxiv] Denying the existence of the Palestinians is becoming a trope of those standing up for Zionism, being repeated by the likes of Sheldon Adelson, Melanie Phillips and Brooke Goldstein, who organises the ‘lawfare’ project targeting pro-Palestinian activists. See here; and here One used to think that legislation on hate crime was intended to protect the powerless, but in practice it can operate the other way around. If Palestinians were powerful, these statements would be criminalized, but they’re not, so the verbal obliteration of a people is treated as if compatible with ‘our values’. We can only make sense of this by clearly distinguishing between the ‘formal’ from the ‘effective’ characteristics of the cultures to which we belong.

[xxxv] For the distinction between ‘racism of super-exploitation’ and ‘racism of elimination’ see Wolfe, P (2015) Traces of History: Elementary Structures of Race London Verso, and Hage, G (no date) ‘Writing anti-racism

[xxxvi] See eg Plenel, E (2016) For the Muslims: Islamophobia in France Verso London, p7

[xxxvii] Cf Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks: ‘It was my philosophy teacher from the Antilles who reminded me one day: “When you hear someone insulting the Jews pay attention; he is talking about you.” And I believed at the time he was universally right, meaning that I was responsible in my body and my soul for the fate reserved for my brother. Since then, I have understood that what he meant quite simply was the anti-Semite is inevitably a negrophobe.’


70th Anniversary of the Nakba: It Was A Warm April Day In 1948 In Jerusalem

By Lama Z. Khouri


234503-1192125-1_320x400.jpgMy mother is finally mustering the strength to tell me about the day she left the home of her birth.

“I am 12 years old.  Nadia [her sister], our neighbor Lily, and I are playing hopscotch in front of the house. Your grandfather and grandmother are going in and out loading the car and getting ready to head to Amman. Our dog is strangely excited or agitated, I’m not sure which. Every time a suitcase is loaded in the car, she barks at the bag and her whole body shakes, as if the bag is a collaborator in some conspiracy. Maybe she knows what we do not anticipate.”

She pauses.

“My brothers are playing marbles. At 15 and 17, they aren’t getting into mischief, as they used to do. My father is roaming around, seemingly busy, but doing nothing. He seems to be all in a spin. My sister, Hala, is with my mother. She is barely two and not allowed to play outside.”

“Are you sad to be leaving?” I ask.

“No!” she says emphatically. “I am relieved. Zionist gangs are terrorizing the Arabs. They are laying mines in markets and in the backyards of houses. My mother spends the night on the roof of our house to make sure no mines are laid in ours. Going to school is dangerous – we could be caught in the

left to right Mother, Lily, Nadia 1948

Left to Right: Mother, Lily and Nadia in 1948

crossfire. When the sun sets, we run back home and pray to be alive the next day.”

“Why are you leaving?”

“The Zionists have bombed King David Hotel, which was owned by the British, as if to say: ‘even the British won’t stop us.’ The last straw was when we got news about a massacre in Deir Yassin — hundreds of Palestinians murdered, and in the most atrocious ways. We were told that the bellies of pregnant women were slit open. Yesterday morning, British soldiers knocked on our door and told us to leave for two weeks. The situation is becoming increasingly dangerous. They said we can come back in a week or two when the danger has subsided.”

She stops talking, lost in thought for a moment, then goes on.

“I think my mother knows that it will be longer than that because she has packed winter clothes. My father asks her: ‘why winter clothes, when we will be back in two weeks?’ She doesn’t respond. My uncle, aunt, and their daughter left to go to Amman a couple of months ago to seek safety. I sing to myself: ‘Ami bi Amman, ou kullo aman’ [my uncle is in Amman where it is all safe]. But, when we get to Amman, we receive news that the Zionists have invaded West Jerusalem and taken it over. We are told that we cannot go back to the house, because it is occupied by someone else. When we return a year later, we have to live in a one-bedroom apartment in East Jerusalem and barely scrape by. My two sisters and I sleep in my parents’ room and my two brothers in the living room.”

My mind stays with the dog, as if it is too painful to think about the betrayal which the Palestinians would have had to contend. I have heard about her before. My aunt Nadia loved her. Nadia hated meat and would sneak her lunch to the dog.

“What happened to the dog?”

After a moment of silence, my mother continues, but as if she hasn’t heard my question.

“My mother looks sad and sullen. I feel the heaviness in my parents’ hearts but I don’t particularly care to know why. Two weeks earlier a stray bullet entered the house and missed my head by this much.”

She makes a space of about an inch with her fingers.

“What happened to the dog?” I ask again.

Left to right Hala, Nadia, Mother, Cousin In front of the house they lost in 1948

Left to right Hala, Nadia, Mother, Cousin In front of the house they lost in 1948

“Nadia is crying,” she responds. “She wants the dog to come with us. When we finally are seated in the car and close the doors, the dog stops barking, lays her head between her paws and begins to whimper, as if she knows she won’t see us again. As we pull away, she runs after us until she can’t catch up.”

“Why don’t you take the dog with you?”

“I think because there is no space. And my mother says the dog needs to stay to guard the house.”

“But how will the dog survive if there is no one left behind to care for her?”

My mother has a dissociated look on her face, as if she doesn’t understand or something is amiss. She repeats:

“The dog has to stay to guard the house. My mother has placed the sewing machine behind the entrance door, with a mortar and hammer on top. She thinks if someone tries to enter, the hammer will fall, and they’ll get scared, thinking the house is occupied.”

For days following this conversation with my mother, I think about the dog, my heart heavy. Why was she barking? What might she have known that they didn’t know? Could she have known what was coming, the betrayal and deception? How did she fend for herself when they left? What happened to her? In dark moments, I imagine her roaming the streets emaciated looking for food. It is easier to feel sad for the dog than for the Palestinian people, homeless and destitute. I wonder how the dog felt when strangers entered the house. In my daydreams, I wish that there had been another 12-year-old girl, who might have fallen in love with the dog and protected her. Perhaps this girl wouldn’t have liked meat either and would have also sneaked it to the dog. Most likely, the dog, who was supposed to guard the house, barked and growled at the intruders. My worst thought is that they shot her dead.

I always found it peculiar that my mother could not recall the dog’s name. Perhaps the trauma is too great to remember it. I fantasize her name was Lady, perhaps because of the Disney movie The Lady and the Tramp. Was this Palestinian Lady forced to become a Tramp?

“What did you take with you when you left?”

A moment of silence. “The Christmas decorations,” she mumbles.

“All of them?” I ask with astonishment.

She goes quiet and looks lost in thought, staring at the Turkish coffee cup next to her.


She forces the words out, as if barely able to breathe.

“The North Star.”


Lama Khouri is a Palestinian  psychotherapist, who was raised in Jordan and now resides in New York. She is the Executive Director and founder of Circle OASIS, which is a not-for-profit serving Arab immigrant and refugee school-aged children and their families. Lama comes to the field of mental health following a 14-year career at the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, where she was a Political Affairs Officer.