Introduction to Special Edition: 70th Anniversary of the Nakba

By Lara Sheehi

I 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.  At the same time, Gaza, effectively the world’s largest open-air prison, is under attack as Palestinians exercise their right to protest and alert the world to the failures of the Oslo Accord with the Great Return March.

Against this sobering backdrop, this special issue of the Psychoanalytic Activist humbly offers an opportunity to hear, listen and witness. This issue hopes to offer space for indigenous voices as well as to their clinician-allies who may have the privilege to speak louder on this solemn anniversary and during this troubling time. This space hopes to begin to reintegrate the dissociated and represent the marginalized.

This issue is a timely, evocative and welcomed shift in psychology, in general, and psychoanalysis in particular, where clinicians of conscious have worked diligently over decades to help amplify the narratives of the oppressed and disenfranchised in order to acknowledge and witness, but also make amends, heal, and rectify.

The Palestinian narrative is one such unrepresented narrative. Within the context of psychoanalysis, it has largely been missing from the psychoanalytic oeuvre until recently.

While the Nakba is the organizing metaphor of this issue, the issue itself is intended to

Art by Banksy on the Israeli West Bank barrier

provide a psychoanalytic holding space for witnessing, but also processing, mourning, and repair. A space where we, as Psychoanalyst Activists, can extend the reach of the clinic, engaging critically in the global call for justice against the backdrop of an increasingly dire political climate.

The contributors will not always directly take up the Nakba. Yet, they all center and prioritize the Palestinian experience and perspective. They do so consciously and conspicuously, calling us to attend to the nuanced texture of Palestine and its inhabitants.

Many of the Palestinian contributors themselves are clinical colleagues, engaged in important psychoanalytic work under and within occupation.  Others are artists or poets, engaging in the social and political work of unpacking the lived experience of the Palestinian diaspora. Still others are clinicians from “home”—many of whom you may know.

Psychoanalysis uniquely provides us with the tools to engage with, hold, and unpack the many histories and emotions that the words on our pages may evoke over the next six weeks. We will alert you to each new post, each progressively unfolding the issue, a visual parallel process representing a march toward the anniversary date of the Nakba

We invite you to join us in this solidarity march, steadfast and hopeful in our call to witness and acknowledge.