USAPMHN hotly debated on the American Psychological Association’s “Division 39” forum

On July 11, 2017, the launch of the USAPMHN was announced through an email posting on the internet forum of Division 39, the branch of the American Psychological Association devoted to psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Over the next few days, there was a passionate exchange of email commentary from over 50 members of Division 39. The Steering Committee of the UAPMNH wishes to thank the many supportive comments that have been posted to date, emerging from a diverse group of national and international individuals– including many who are well-known activists for Palestinian rights.

There were a number of important issues and objections raised in the Division 39 email exchange. A number of the postings complained that the USAPMHN was not balanced, as evidenced by its failure to articulate a concern for the suffering of Israelis in parallel with the sufferings of Palestinians. Some postings complained that USAPMHN clinicians seem to take one side in a conflict in which there is blame on both sides; others objected that human rights in Saudi Arabia should be highlighted if Israel is to be criticized. There was considerable call for “nuanced” views and avoidance of terms such as “apartheid” which were seen as offensive when applied to Israel and thus were seen as shutting down discussion. We wish to respond with the following commentary and clarification of our organizational positions. As healthcare workers, we insist upon the importance of political neutrality in our dealings with our patients. We believe that our patients deserve respect and empathy for their beliefs—whatever their individual beliefs may be—and compassion for their suffering in all circumstances. This is our commitment as professionals.

Maintaining professional neutrality in our clinical work does not mean that we cease to be human beings with political views and political agendas. The USAPMHN is explicitly an organization attempting to build community among mental health workers around views regarding Palestine which have considerable trouble being expressed at this time in any context in the United States. Although we are happy to join in any more-or- less reasonable dialogue with anyone, it is not our aim to provide a welcoming forum for the equal expression of pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist opinion, nor to take special pains that pro-Zionist supporters might not have their feelings hurt by the use of words such as occupation, apartheid, oppression, ethnic cleansing, fascism, racism, imperialism, or colonialism. It is clear enough that the world offers many appalling circumstances of human rights violations on every continent. It is also obvious that many Jewish people in Israel and elsewhere experience considerable suffering as downstream consequences of the very occupation that the state of Israel has imposed. But it is the human rights violations of the Palestinian people by the state of Israel that concern us. We are activists intending to give support to like minded persons globally and to connect with other individuals and organizations to advance this broad agenda. We are not wedded to any particular technique, strategy, political party, group, or organization and do welcome open discussion of any of these or related issues.

17 July 2017 The USAPMHN Steering Committee