Palestinian Childhoods Conference: Report, podcasts, comment

Dear friends,

We are delighted to bring together materials from the 8/9th March 2019 “Palestinian Childhoods” conference, co-sponsored by the UK-Palestine Mental Health Network and the Centre for the Study of Embedded Human Rights, Birkbeck University.

We were extremely fortunate in being able to hear directly from Palestinian clinicians and academics, many travelling specifically to attend the conference. They were joined by Palestinians from the diaspora, and by other UK-based contributors. (A full list can be found below this message). We would like to express our deep gratitude to all those who took part.

1. Summary Report on the Conference
Follow this link for the conference report written by Gwyn Daniel:

Palestinian Childhoods Conference report

2. A comment from Professor Lynne Segal:

Once more I have learned so much from attending the brilliant conference Surviving Childhood, organised by the UK/Palestine Mental Health Network at Birkbeck over the last two days. Simply absorbing the full complexities of the climate of terror and constant trauma for children living in the West Bank or open prison of Gaza is shattering. It has been allowed by the world to continue for so long. Nowhere is safe or free from pain for these children. The constant violence, brutality & imprisonment remains a structuring principle of life, designed to smash any hope in any form. Yet, as we saw & heard from the young Palestinians at the conference, & the amazing talks from Palestinian clinicians and researchers, no fear can totally obliterate resistance. People do resist, & children do insist on protesting their unliveable lives where, as in Gaza, there is an Israeli imposed shortage of everything, even clean water – triggering the ongoing Great March of Return, and its brutal repercussions. So much fear & terror for those who resist, as too for those trying to deal with the psychic & physical injuries, maiming, mutilation and murder, meted out to those daring to struggle for change. Yet also so much courage and love, always flickering, between those determined to insist that the violence of the Israeli occupation must end.

3. Audio Recordings of the Conference available on Podcast

Go to the link below to find podcasts covering the proceedings of Saturday 9th March:

  • the opening address by Victoria Brittain;
  • the two keynote presentations by Prof. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian and Dr. Samah Jabr, and a response from Prof. Jacqueline Rose;
  • two panel discussions;
  • the workshop led by Dr. Marwan Diab

4. ‘“A void no one can fill”: Gaza’s children face trauma of losing friends, family in protests’

Hind Khoudary, with Chloé Benoist who attended the conference, have since published this article, available at this link:

5. Facebook posting by Shahd Abusalama, participant on the panel on Friday night of the conference.

“Very moved by the power, eloquence and political awareness of Palestinian young teenagers Meran Zahran and Reem Yaghi, who came all the way from Occupied Jericho and Ramallah to inspire us at the UK-Palestine Mental Health Network conference. They stood very strong as they shared their traumatic lives in Jericho and Ramallah refugee camps which is shaped by the uninterrupted violence of the Israeli colonial occupation. Stories of their sleep being interrupted by arbitrary night raids carried out by heartless armed-to-teeth Israeli soldiers as young as 5 years old. Stories of having to carry an onion rather than an apple to school to cope with the toxic teargas canisters thrown at them by Israeli soldiers. Stories of having to cross through military checkpoints, encountering Israeli settlers who terrorise them under the protection of the Israeli Occupation Forces. Stories of seeing their parents, their main source of security, being beaten up or arrested in front of their eyes, sometimes from their homes. Stories of dispossessed childhoods under Israeli settler-colonialism that have been met by determination and active mobilization to expose Israeli crimes and overturn their dehumanising reality into a reality where Palestinians reclaim their humanity and enjoy freedom, justice and equality. Stories that are so hard to tell but they still communicated them with their powerful fragility that shock the hearts and minds of everybody in the room.
Reem and Meran are young researchers, actively involved in the Child Protection Group which documents human rights violation against Palestinian children. Reem and Meran represent the untold story of children of Palestine who long to live a day of peace in a reality where Israeli apartheid structure is dismantled. They speak of a generation with so much potential whose dreams have no limits despite the Israeli matrix control that penetrates and limits children’s dreams and imagination. Reem and Meran represent the Palestinian hope to return that will never fade away. Stories that help us imagine Palestinian children not only as victims of a brutal colonial terror but change makers who actively strive to make our world a better place.”

6. List of contributors

Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Hebrew University; Dr Samar Jabr, Chair Mental Health Unit, Palestine; Riad Arrar, Defence of the Child International; Dr Marwan Diab, Gaza Community Mental Health Programme; Dr Ghada Karmi, Exeter University; Shahd Abusalama, Sheffield Hallam University; Reem Yaghi, and Meran Zahran, Childrens’ Parliament, Palestine; Mohamed Altawil and David Harrold, Palestine Trauma Centre; Victoria Brittain, UK human rights activist; Lynne Segal, Birkbeck University; Jacqueline Rose, Birkbeck University. Also Professor Bruna Seu, Birkbeck University; and Mohammed Mukhaimer, Gwyn Daniel and Martin Kemp from the UK-Palestine Mental Health Network.

UK-Palestine Mental Health Network Steering Group