Palestinian Clinicians Challenge the Mental Health Community


We mourn our esteemed colleagues, psychiatrist Dr Moen Alalul, psychologist Raja Abu Al-Auf and neurologist Dr Ayman Abo Elouf among those we have lost in the current aggression. See the section below ‘Attacks on Clinicians and Health Facilities’. 

Palestinian Clinicians Challenge the Mental Health Community

“The Palestinian people everywhere are one people… We are one people, whether in exile in refugee camps, under occupation, or within racist Israel..”
Hannah Ashwari  14th May

 We are in the midst of another horrific aggression launched by Israel against the people of Palestine, “an escalation of the ongoing Nakba and colonial warfare, which the occupying forces have waged for more than 70 years”.As Palestinians everywhere unite to defend and uphold their dignity, Palestinian mental health workers have issued a forthright challenge to their counterparts around the world.In their ‘Statement Addressing the Escalation and Resistance of Colonial Violence’ from 15th May 2021, the Palestine Global Mental Health Network calls upon us to name what we see before our eyes:

“Make no mistake that the state’s denial of historical and present injustices and memories, coupled with the dismemberment of the Palestinian social, cultural, and spiritual fabric are all forms of intentional, racialized dehumanization to situate Palestinians outside the limits of humanity.”

The Statement concludes by addressing colleagues across the world:“As mental health workers, we call on professional health providers everywhere to speak out against the Israeli state’s violent technologies of terror and dispossession, and simultaneously re-imagine their responsibilities to act against these colonial cruelties. As mental health professionals we urge you to speak, to organize, and to act against the racialized disciplinary and eliminatory practices that pose major ethical concerns for critical mental health professionals and action oriented scholars.

Being a silent bystander at this critical moment in the Palestinian freedom struggle is not an option for mental health workers, as it helps to maintain the ideology and criminalities of settler colonial racialized governance. When mental health professionals act as an ‘authority-based-profession’, they violate their own code of ethics, and can become the operating arm of the colonial state, an extension of its power.

To refrain from turning our mental health profession into an accomplice to dismemberment, murder, and dispossession of an Indigenous people, we call on you to name this violence, and act immediately in whatever capacity you can to intervene, to stop these atrocities, and take a stand for immediate decolonization.”

The UK and other Networks will shortly launch an initiative to help mental workers meet this challenge. The links below provide further essential reading, as we consider our collective responsibilities to the struggle for peace and justice in Palestine.

 1. Dr Yasser Abu Jamei, Director Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, has written these two powerful appeals for international intervention:“Letter from Gaza: This Must End in the Psychoanalytic Activist.“How long will the world sit idly by while we in Gaza suffer like this?, in The Independent

2. Dr Samah Jabr: “Resistance as Therapy .
Also by Dr Jabr, on the same theme: “Resistance to Israel’s occupation is an essential element in the recovery of the occupied mind“.

3. Prof. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian: “On the violence of Apartheid

4. Alice Rothchild, of the Health Advisory Council, Jewish Voice for Peace: “The Nakba Continues

5. Peter Beinart: “A Jewish Case for Palestinian Refugee Return”, writing in the Guardian.

Other links

6.. A DCI report on a teenager murdered by live ammunition, at a demonstration in the West Bank. We remember Obaida Akram Abdurahman Jawabra.

7.Palestine-UK Social Work Network resources: Statement about current situation

8. Dr Samar Zebian and Guy Shennan, mental health professionals currently working with colleagues in Palestine: A statement of solidarity with the people of Palestine

Attacks on Clinicians and Health Facilities

We mourn the murders of psychiatrist Dr Moen Alalul, psychologist Raja Abu Al-Auf and neurologist Dr. Ayman Abo Elouf. All died along with their families. They were killed as Israel targeted the streets around Shifa Hospital, impeding access by ambulances carrying the wounded for treatment. Other clinical facilities were also destroyed:

Gaza Physician: Israel Is Targeting Doctors & Health Facilities to Overwhelm Our Crumbling System” in Democracy Now

British Medical Journal “Bombing Gaza, killing whole families, and cutting off Al-Shifa Hospital”:

‘The roads leading to the hospital entrances have been were bombed, apparently intentionally, and so are now impassable to ambulances. Rescuers have to walk while carrying the wounded over the rubble for several hundred meters. Even emergency supplies have to be carried manually over the rubble…’

One more casualty in Gaza

In the recent bombing of Gaza, the Child Accelerated Trauma Treatment (CATT) child mental health clinic based in the Adam Centre in Gaza City was totally destroyed in one of the tower blocks (Al-Jawhara Tower) deliberately targeted in Israeli air strikes. This clinical service was designed to treat children with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

This destruction should provoke outrage in all mental health workers and demands expressions of solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues and those in these charities who have had their work-base destroyed. The clinic had been making an important contribution towards long-term peace by helping children to overcome the impact of violence in their lives and thereby breaking this terrible ongoing cycle of conflict. The children who have benefitted from the clinic’s work have had yet another support system knocked away. It has to be re-built along with their hopes for a peaceful future.

The service was supported by three UK-registered charities:

Action for Child Trauma (ACT)
Firefly International
International Medical Education Trust 2000 (IMET2000)

Donate to Emergency Appeals
Palestine Trauma Centre
The Shalom-Salaam Trust