The Trojan Horse

The Trojan Horse’

The PCCA Cyprus Conference ‘On History Repeating Itself’ in context


By M. Kemp and L. Khouri


The dangers of normalisation.

The international community has failed to hold Israel to account for effectively annexing the whole of Palestine while refusing to enfranchise its inhabitants, using its monopoly of power to dispossess and subjugate the Palestinian population. In 2005, Palestinian civil society requested that we distance ourselves from Israeli institutions complicit in this situation. What is proposed is a principled and peaceful approach rooted in the experience of challenging colonialism and racism in India, the USA and South Africa. Palestinian mental health professionals have urged that this includes non-involvement in conferences sponsored by Israeli organisations or taking place in Israeli.

The Israeli Psychoanalytic Society, and OFEK – an Israeli group relations organisation – are co-sponsoring a conference in Cyprus, (organised by the Partners in Confronting Collective Atrocities, PCCA), joined by the Tavistock Institute; the IPA and the European Psychoanalytical Federation are ‘supporting organisations’ii.

International psychoanalytic organisations have thus taken a decision to ignore the Palestinians’ request. This not only undermines a campaign whose primary objective is to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people: there are supplementary reasons why institutions whose creative work is founded on the freedom to think and act independently, and whose healthy development is contingent on the maintenance of an open and pluralist culture, might balk at the consequences of their indifference.


Evidence of the demeaning consequences of the Western countries’ obeisant attitude towards the Israeli regime is visible to the naked eye. Governments show an increasing willingness to undermine the civil liberties and human rights of their own peoples in order to suppress challenges to the official dogmaiii. The meaning of ‘democracy’ has been massaged to encompass an apartheid reality, and the transparently racialised standards employed to achieve this are sustained by social controls reminiscent of McCarthyism. In Orwellian fashion, to advocate anti-racism in regard to Palestine/Israel is increasingly regarded as evidence of a ‘new anti-Semitism’. Political parties, whose founding inspiration was a passion to redress social injustice, now rush to adopt guidelines designed to police expressions of solidarity with the oppressediv.

There is mounting evidence that our own professional world is likewise compromised by its attempt to conform to the hegemonic reading of Middle Eastern politics. Acts taken to suppress discussion about Palestine within the psychoanalytic world (Berger and Jabr, in press; Sheehi 2019) express and reinforce one of our congenital weaknesses, elevating the interests of the institution above the ethical calling of the profession, and sacrificing the intellectual environment required for psychoanalytic research to prosper. It is not fitting that those in positions of authority scramble around for reasons to avoid conflictual and emotionally challenging issues that pertain to the psychological anguish of people less privileged than themselves.


The Cyprus Conference is due to consider whether the resurrection of xenophobia in today’s world presages a reoccurrence of the horrors of the 1930s and ‘40s. This is an important question, particularly as the psychoanalytic movement’s response to the mid-20th century crisis (and other emanations of fascism) has been the subject of critical deliberation. However, there are grounds for doubting if this is an appropriate forum within which to address such issues.

The Conference’s theme touches on the prospects for the survival of a universalist humanism as the value base to which Western societies aspire. This philosophical stance, the proclaimed basis of international morality since 1945, is vigorously proclaimed but regularly betrayed in practice. But it is precisely recalling the calamitous history of fascism that convinces us that even that even an insincere veneer of humanist values is infinitely preferable to ideologies that consciously reject them.

It would seem important, then, for international psychoanalytic organisations to be explicit in their commitment to democratic and anti-racist principles, and to seek to deepen their appreciation of the threats to democracy with partners similarly invested. The Israeli organisations mentioned above have not, to our knowledge, challenged the ideological basis that informs their own government’s apartheid practices. They have not, to our knowledge, distanced themselves from the Israeli Government’s disregard for international law, nor from the range of interlocking procedures often referred to as ‘the Occupation’, that for over fifty years has ensured absolute Israeli control over land on which live a people denied their political and civil rights.

To the Tavistock Institute, the IPA and other international psychoanalytic bodies associating themselves with this event, we ask whether it matters to them that they cooperate with parties who share a vision of humanity that could not tolerate a society in which the right to have a life is conditional upon one’s ethnicity?

National identity’ as opposed to ‘ideological affinity’: the ‘Nazareth’ Conferences

We suggest that the conceptual framework adopted by ‘Partners Confronting Collective Atrocities’ (PCCA), under whose auspices the Cyprus conference is being organised, is flawed. The PCCA takes forward the structure and process developed in the ‘Nazareth Conferences’, group relations events organised by members of the Israeli Psychoanalytic Society and various German psychoanalytic groups in the 1990s. Our conclusions are based on a reading of the book Fed with Tears – Poisoned by Milk (Erlich et al 2009), a work that offers an ‘experiential “collage”’ (Erlich 2009 p33) of the first three events.

The intention of the Nazareth Conferences was to engage with the powerful and resistant internal representations that each group held of the other, rooted in their particularly intimate, though diametrically opposite, relationship to the Nazi genocide. What transpired was no doubt deeply meaningful for those who took part. At the same time, we believe that the conference design unthinkingly encapsulated a politically regressive and psychologically defensive relation to Israel’s own history of aggression, and thus unsuited to a broader engagement with political reaction.

The Nazareth meetings were not imagined as an encounter between Germans and the actual target of Nazi hatred, Jews as a people regarded as contaminants of otherwise potentially pure ‘national’ cultures. Rather than begin from a critique of the mythical (and racist) underpinnings of such a formulation, they were planned as encounters between Jewish Israelis and Germans, the Jewish side now bearer of its own ‘national identity’: ‘this conference was aimed and recognized at the outset two distinct conflicted nationality groups – Germans and Israelis’ (sic) (Erlich 2009 p 31)v. Apart from their different roles, associated either with ‘perpetrators’ or ‘victims’, the organisers assumed a symmetry between the German and Israeli participants, and in doing so overlooked some crucial distinctions.

Within German society, the Holocaust is a fully acknowledged aspect of their history, a source of deep shame and regret: certainly, this was the outlook shared by the German analysts who came to Nazareth. The relationship of Israeli society to the Holocaust is more complex. It is not to diminish the nature or meaning of the Nazi genocide to recognize that, within the majority Israeli political culture, it is memorialised by the State to serve political purposes, and acts to rationalise Israeli aggression. It contributes to a defence against an ego-dystonic reaction to the fact of Israel being itself engaged in a process of ethnic cleansingvi.

Making yet another use of Winnicott’s adage, we suggest that, in any discussion of identity and culture, ‘there is no such thing as an Israeli, only an Israeli in the presence of a Palestinian’ – however much this might be denied. A collective sense of having survived the threat posed by European anti-Semitism, cannot be isolated from the psychic impact of an unceasing and oppressive relationship to Palestine’s indigenous residents. In other words, we suggest that the Nazareth Conferences were formulated on the basis of a mythologyvii designed to evade a fundamental truth about Israeli history and society.


In the contemporary world, the status of being an acknowledged victim brings with it considerable social power, particularly in relation to those who accept responsibility for the offence. (This is to be distinguished from a situation of actually being subject to victimization – an almost exactly opposite state involving extreme vulnerability and helplessness.) At the Nazareth Conferences the Israelis, as the recognised representatives of the victims of the Holocaust, were in a privileged position, one they held onto tenaciously. Understanding their attachment to the victim role became a central question for the conferences to grapple with, and is frequently alluded to in the book: the ‘key’ staff interpretation related to the difficulty of ‘giving up of precious parts of identity, such as the role of victim (for the Israelis)’ (Erlich 2009 p135).

There was little reported appetite for considering whether Israel’s relationship with its own racial ‘other’ might be contributing to this outcomeviii, although during the third conference an opportunity appeared to do just this. Responding to a particular sense of stuckness in the Israeli group, an American staff member

gave the interpretation … that the group had projected its own Israeli fascism, which after all existed at home, onto the Germans… The interpretation was so friendly and matter of fact that it worked. The group was able to work better… (Erlich 2009 p 139)

Despite the interpretation’s therapeutic impact, the German staff member writing up this session immediately discounted the significance of what had been said, diffusing it in a re-iteration of the central and oft-repeated conclusion of the book, that the Israeli analysts’ defensiveness was driven by a reluctance to betray the memory of those killed by the Nazis (ibid eg 140, 165, 173). As described in Fed with Tears, such containment as was provided did not enable the Israeli participants to grapple more seriously with the contradictions in their own ‘national identity’.


It is ironic, and further evidence of an entrenched denial, that Nazareth was the location for conferences dealing with the aftermath of an attempt to eradicate a people under the banner of ethnic nationalism. Nazareth was ‘the only Palestinian city to escape the Naqba, with most of its residents in situ’, its place in the Christian world providing it with some protection. Nazareth Ellit, built in the 1950s on ‘vast swathes’ of Nazareth’s agricultural land stolen for the purpose, was ‘the flagship of the Judaization of the Galilee programme, establishing the blueprint for the later settlement project in the Occupied Territories’ (Cook 2013).

Nazareth could, then, have been an especially appropriate choice, if there had been an interest in unravelling the complex mix of conscious victimhood and scarcely acknowledged perpetrator-hood in Israeli consciousness. We can imagine an awareness of Jewish history being brought to bear in an empathic reassessment of inter-communal relations within Palestine/Israel, in a way that might have led organically to a meaningful encounter involving Palestinian clinicians. But this was neither the intention, nor the outcome.

There were, later, two conferences to which Palestinians were invited as participants, in 2008 and 2010. A full account of these events has not been published (but see Davids, F. 2016, and Tal D. 2012). In a report on a workshop on the Nazareth model, Dorothee v. Tippelskirch-Eissing described the inclusion of Palestinians (wrongly, we think) as an ‘organic’ development, yet then revealed that they had run into difficulties, as ‘the experience turned out to be difficult to contain’ (Tippelskirch-Eissing D. 2015).

Given our impression that the Nazareth Conferences had been designed in such a way as to avoid engaging with the very relationship with which they were now expected to engage, failure was perhaps inevitable. The situation diverged fundamentally from that which had existed for German and Israeli analysts in 1994. Then it was understood that they were giving themselves an opportunity to shift a psychic phenomenon rooted in a historical context for which none bore any personal responsibility, but which yet interfered with their ‘realistic’ relation to one another in the present. And still they approached the encounter tentatively – half a century after the fall of Berlin. Whatever powerful emotions may be evoked in relations between Israelis and Palestinians, they do not derive from mutually reinforcing misconceptions to do with abusive encounters now safely in the past.

A nearer parallel to the Israeli-Palestinian meetings would be attempting a therapeutic encounter involving Afrikaner supporters of the South African regime and their black colleagues, while the Soweto uprising was being bloodily suppressed. Anecdotally, Palestinians have reported that attempts to engage them in joint activities with Jewish Israelis where the background of racial oppression could not be acknowledged have been psychologically harmful, in circumstances that are far less emotionally exposing than a group relations event. (For a profound psychoanalytic exploration of the fallacies at the heart of conventional ‘dialogue initiatives’ between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians, see Sheehi 2018, Sheehi and Sheehi 2016).

Veronika Grueneisen, PCCA Chair, wrote of these meetings:

One of the things we learned during these was that, when a current conflict is being addressed, enactments become even more intense and need to be understood as expression of those emotions which are specially difficult to contain – hence the persistence of the societal conflict. At the same time we began to understand the idea that the Nakba cannot be thought about together with the Holocaust, as an expression of a deep anxiety which is – among other things – most likely impeding the peace process, in the Middle East. (Grueneisen 2015)

We would disagree that the conference ‘enactments’ and the ‘societal conflict’ are best understood and addressed as issues of emotional containment. The fundamental cause of the inter-communal divide was, and remains, an asymmetrical power relationship used by one to dispossess and – what? – the other. Grueneisen’s last comment seems to confirm our impression that the attachment to the role of victim by most participating Israelis continued to impede an empathic response to Palestinian realities, and that there was little appetite for considering whether an identity in which trauma was a central aspect might contribute to the likelihood of enactments in the role of perpetrator, as suggested long ago by Elaine Schwager (2004).

An approach based on ‘national identities’ might on first hearing sound appropriate for addressing the ‘Israeli-Palestinian conflict’. We would argue that, on the contrary, it is a formula in which ethnocentric ideological predispositions that need to be brought to light and interpreted are disguised as sacrosanct aspects of the personality, and so beyond serious critique. The myths that protect a particular Israeli consciousness from Naqba guilt are effective because they refuse to acknowledge Palestinian personhood, nationhood, history and rights. Nor is adherence to these myths a ‘symptom’ of ‘Israeli-ness’: because a widespread political viewpoint is invested with deep emotion does not render it intrinsic to the group. Just as there were personal and political relationships between anti-Nazi Germans and Jewish people in the 1930s and 1940s, so there have all along been friendships and relationships of every kind between Palestinians and Jewish Israelis, including successful professional conferences. What is critical is whether there is the basis for a genuine mutuality, unburdened by ideological beliefs that naturalise the apartheid reality of life in Palestine/Israel, and which deny Palestinians’ collective experienceix.

Further, a model built around the notion of a ‘national identity’ falsely homogenises Jewish Israeli society, rendering invisible its internal differences. This dovetails with the actual suppression of dissent within Israel. It is an approach analogous with the one which regards an anti-Zionist Jew in Britain as ‘not really Jewish’. It marginalises a hopeful development, the unbroken tradition of a non-Zionist discourse amongst Jewish Israelis (and, of course, non-Israeli Jews). It conceals from view the dissident and the doubter, those in the process of dis-identification from received assumptions, on the road from harbouring private misgivings and troubled feelings to public acts of disaffection – and towards a position in which meaningful de-racialised alliances against oppression can prosper.

An emphasis on ‘Israeli-ness’ likewise hinders a discriminating and critical exploration of the politics of those who remain married to the mainstream narratives promoted within the dominant political culture. We think that Ruchama Marton’s phrase ‘Zionist Israeli Collective’ is a most appropriate way of describing the currently dominant outlook within Israeli society (Marton 2016).

After Nazareth: ‘Partners in Confronting Collective Atrocities’ (PCCA).

‘Partners in Confronting Collective Atrocities’ (PCCA) was established to progress the work begun by the Nazareth conferencesx. The philosophical continuity with the earlier encounters between German and Israeli analysts is confirmed on its website, where the ‘primary task’ of a recent conference is described as:

to provide opportunities for participants to explore how the full range of feelings and fantasies about ‘German-ness’, ‘Israeli-ness’, ‘Jewish-ness’, ‘Palestinian-ness’ and ‘Other-ness’ influence relations within and between the different groups in the conference, and how they affect and influence perceptions of the future.xi

As we have seen from our review of Fed with Tears, this is not to be confused with a radical critique of fantasies about ‘national communities’ as an especially potent source of social calamity.

PCCA’s ambitions extend beyond the exploration of representations of historical catastrophes on the internal worlds of future generations of survivors. It seeks a role in addressing contemporary political developments, and in particular the threat that these pose for inflicting further collective traumas. ‘Will history repeat itself’ is the subject of its September 2019 meeting in Cyprus.

We are entitled then, to ask searching questions about PCCA’s outlook, as gleaned from a reading of its website.

The webpage promoting the Cyprus conference ( is assured in the language of the trans-generational transmission of trauma. It has less to say about the interplay between ethnic nationalism, and the psycho-socio-economic matrices that mobilised its destructive potential in the cataclysms of the mid-twentieth century. Yet it is these phenomena which are being disturbingly reproduced in the austerity programmes and recourse to xenophobic demagoguery in many of today’s liberal democracies. This may reflect a limitation in the reach and capacity of group relations events, but it may also reflect an unhelpful attempt to isolate and privilege the psychological from other and more important aspects of the rise in populism.

The page talks of ‘third, and even fourth generation of perpetrators and victims’, as if we are witness to a psychically determined process, unaware of those contemporary psycho-political imperatives that result in young people being actively socialised to embrace such identities, and which contribute too to the sense of grievance and entitlement that feeds racist aggression. This is especially relevant to the political psychology of Jewish Israeli society, and relates also to the status of victimhood being extended to the inhabitants of former Eastern bloc countries.

An organisation dedicated to ‘confronting atrocities’ displays little interest in any actual atrocity that is taking place today. The PCCA website raises concerns, rightly, about the resurgence in anti-Semitism, but does not protest the calculated manipulation of Holocaust guilt to protect settler colonialism in Palestine/Israel (Electronic Intifada 2018). The Rohinga, victims of another form of ethnic nationalism, are not mentioned. Nor is Islamophobia, the most pernicious form of racism surfacing in the Western world, a prejudice that has surely contributed directly to the West’s recurring military adventures in the Middle East, with their attendant catastrophic impact, including the traumatisation of the hundreds of thousands of refugees created in the resulting societal breakdowns. The unashamed war-mongering of the USA towards Iran, a particularly ominous aspect of the contemporary situation, is passed over in silence.

We doubt that this selectivity is casual. Rather it seems consistent with an uncritical take on the current distribution of power, in which a focus on victimhood is more about an assertion of self than an expression of solidarity with those currently at risk.

Letter from Jerusalem’

For our purposes, in considering the context of the forthcoming Cyprus conference, the most significant omission is any indication of an awareness that an atrocity has been taking place in Palestine/Israel itself throughout the period in which the Nazareth Conferences/PCCA have been operating.

During this time, we have seen an intensification of the Naqba, understood to encapsulate relations between the Israeli State and the Palestinian people since 1948 and continuing today. We limit our comments to those in just one geographical area, Gaza, (even though it is quite beyond our powers to convey the losses and terrors people there have suffered over the past twelve years). Gaza has been subject to a purposeful ‘de-development’ (Roy 2016, United Nations 2017) that, in human terms, amounts to a form of torture (Shehadeh 2015). Its water is contaminated, sewage left untreated, crops purposely poisoned, cattle killed. Electricity provision is minimal, exports are largely prohibited, factories and farms have been destroyed by bombing. Youth unemployment is over 70%. The rhetoric of Israeli leaders makes plain that the objective of its economic and military assaults is to break the capacity of Gazan society to function. The targeting of journalists, paramedics, women and children during the Great March of Return conveys the message that nobody should feel secure.

The succession of military onslaughts, with their attendant massacres of civilians and huge toll in maimed and bereaved, have inflicted cumulative trauma on the whole population. Israeli policies are consistent with application of the Dahiya doctrine, aiming to punish and deter popular resistance through persistent disproportionate pressure on every aspect of civilian life (Khalidi 2014/5; for the views of Palestinian mental health workers see the film, Gaza: Still Alive, Fear 2019).

It was in 2014, during the third and most devastating military assault on Gaza, code-named ‘Protective Edge’, that Israeli psychoanalyst Mira Erlich-Ginor sent a ‘Letter from Jerusalem’ to members of a German psychoanalytic institution, asking that they choose this moment to express their solidarity with anxious Israeli colleagues.

Predictably, given previous experience, the toll amongst civilians – men, women and children – was shocking, and mounting day by day. Ultimately, at least 2,104 Palestinians died, including 1,523 civilians, of whom 519 were children and 253 women (United Nations 2014). Erlich-Ginor’s letter sought to justify the carnage, defending the bombing of homes (20,000 were destroyed) and schools as the only way to protect Israelis, placing the blame on the Palestinians themselves:

We are in the midst of a war that we did not initiate or want, that was forced on us by Hamas who, in a nutshell, is a terrorist organization which dominates Gaza, whose declared aim is to destroy the state of Israel and later to create an Islamic Halifat (Erlich-Ginor 2014).

To further confuse Hamas with Islamic fundamentalism, she added that the group had a ‘monstrous’ plan for the wholesale massacre of Jewish Israelis. Israel was the moral party, remorsefully forced to kill, while the evil Hamas actively planned an atrocity. The civilised Israelis mourned even the Palestinian dead, the multitude that Hamas had wantonly sacrificed to procure emotive propaganda:

Our hearts bleed for the innocent people in Gaza that lose their lives and homes, that get killed by the hundreds. This is part of the strategy of Hamas: to use children and women as weapons, have the world see the terrible consequences of Israel’s retaliationxii. The pictures come across so poignantly in the media (ibid).

She wrote of her fear that a failure to appreciate the ‘complexity’ of the situation would fuel ‘the new wave of anti-Semitism, especially in Europe’, echoing the propaganda that smears the Palestinian solidarity movement as socially repugnant. In all respects Erlich-Ginor’s message harmonised with the hegemonic discourse of the Israeli State, disguising its continuous and violent expansionism always in terms of self-defence, a framing in which there is no call for Jewish Israelis to feel shame or guilt, no space required for introspection of any kind.

The crisis of 2014, that Erlich-Ginor believes ought to induce in us a sense of pity for Israeli society, turns out, increasingly clearly over time, to be just one moment in the deliberate destruction of an ethnically-defined community. Debating whether this meets the criteria for an attempted genocidexiii becomes increasingly valid (United Nations 1948, and see Wolfe 2006) but, for now, public discourse on the nature of Zionism is so circumscribed that meaningful deliberation on the nature of Israeli objectives takes place only on the periphery (eg CCRJustice 2016).

Our concern is for organisational responsibilities and organisational cultures in relation to this ‘collective atrocity’. But cultures are carried by individuals, and reinforced by those in positions of authority, and here Erlich-Ginor is significant. She was a senior participant in the Nazareth Conferences and co-editor of the book Fed with Tears; she was Associate Director of the first Conference that included Palestinian participants, and Co-Director of the second; she is an office-holder within PCCA, and is to be Conference Director of their forthcoming Cyprus meeting this September.

With her use of the collective ‘we’, she identifies fully with the Zionist project, the progressive despoliation of Palestine and fragmentation of the Palestinian people needed for its realisation, and with the network of rationalisations required to avoid a confrontation with the guilt that would surely attend a full realisation of the human cost entailed.


Erlich-Ginor’s presence as Director, it could be argued, suggests that the September meeting has the potential to grapple internally with the anti-democratic and xenophobic tendencies it has been called to consider. We doubt that this will happen in Cyprus, any more than it happened in Nazareth. For how can we imagine a critical intellectual and emotional encounter, engaging with the socio-political forces and psychodynamic factors that have conspired to make fascism once again an attractive option to Western electorates, while leading organisational participants are embedded in a consensual relationship with a settler colonial, apartheid social process, collusion with which presents a potent threat to all our civil liberties? We recall Aimé Césaire’s suggestion that Western colonialism and European fascism were twins, distinguished only by their geographical location.

If a proper exposure of these issues does not happen, we would have to conclude that the opposite had occurred: that what was most psychically conflictual and politically urgent was being denied and evaded. In other words, the Cyprus conference would have replicated the wider difficulty that the Western world has with Zionism and Israeli policies. The compromise solution, generally, is to keep up appearances, to smuggle Zionism in as if it were compatible with liberal democracy, and debasing language and intellectual lucidity where required to avoid any contradictions as they emerge. The costs of this self-deception, we suggest, are too high, for the Palestinians, and for those who believe that the values of universal humanism provide both an essential bulwark against future collective atrocities, and the only philosophical basis for psychoanalytic work.

The great shift in the prospects for Palestine took place when Jewish immigrants, instead of aiming to integrate into an already existing multi-faith society, were organised instead under the banner of a new and exclusive ethnic nationalism. Rather than accepting their dependency on what existed, the Zionist movement perceived itself as taking back what had already belonged by right to the ‘Jewish Nation’. We are speaking here of an ideology ‘based on the negation of the Palestinian people’ (Sheehi 2018)xiv.

While the Palestinian collective does not exist, or is not present as a subject – for us outsiders – there is nothing to spoil an easy co-operation of Israeli and Western professionals. The succession of defeats and traumas inflicted on a nascent Palestinian resistance, culminating in the PLO effectively abandoning its claim to represent a people at Oslo, seemed to confirm the Zionist claim that ‘there is no such thing as a Palestinian’. While demonstrably untrue, it could form the effective basis of relations with the Israeli State and the apartheid society it had constructed.

This is the significance of 2005, and the call for us to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign. At that moment Palestinian civil society came together to send a message to the world, like a baby’s first cry, indicating the presence of a community struggling towards integration, relationship and agency. Not new-born, actually, rather anticipating the re-integration of what violence had torn asunder. This spirit of renaissance is reflected in the ambition of the recently formed Palestine Global Mental Health Network, to represent colleagues across Palestine/Israel and in the diaspora. Outsiders can collude with Israeli attempts to crush this subjecthood, covering their eyes and blocking their earsxv; or they can consistently defend those values which inform both the struggle against colonialism in Palestine/Israel and the basis for the preservation and enhancement of democratic culture globally.



Berger E., Jabr S., ‘Silencing Palestine: Limitations on Free Speech within Mental Health Organizations’ IJAPS, in press.

CCRJustice (2016) ‘The Genocide of the Palestinian People: An International Law and Human Rights Perspective’ at

Cook J. (2013) ‘Nazareth Dispatch’ Middle East Report No. 267, (Summer 2013), pp. 15-17, at

Davids, F. (2016), ‘Psychoanalysis and Palestine-Israel: A Personal Angle’, Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, April 2016, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 41–58

Electronic Intifada (2018) ‘Watch the film the Israel lobby didn’t want you to see’ at

Erlich, H.S., Erlich-Ginor, M. and Beland, H. (2009) Fed with Tears – Poisoned with Milk: The “Nazareth” Group-Relations-Conferences. Germans and Israelis: The Past in the Present. Giessen: Psychosozial-Verlag

Erlich-Ginor M. ‘Letter from Jerusalem’ at

Fear H. Documentary film: ‘Gaza: Still Alive. Mental Health in the Encaged Enclave’, at

Grueneisen V. (2015) ‘Letter of Chairperson’ at

Halper J. (2015) War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification Pluto Books, London.

Jabr S. and Berger E. (2016) ‘An occupied state of mind: Clinical transference and countertransference across the Israeli/Palestinian divide’, Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society Vol. 21, 1, 21–40.

Khalidi R. (2014-15) ‘The Dahiya Doctrine, Proportionality and War Crimes’, Journal of Palestine Studies, 44 p5, at

Marton R. (2016) ‘Forced Existence’, Mondoweiss at

Middle East Monitor, (2019) ‘Following pressure, mental health academics may reverse decision to cancel conference in Israel’

Roy S. (2016) The Gaza Strip: the political economy of de-development 3rd edn.,

Schwager, E. (2004) ‘Transforming dualism and the metaphor of terror, Part II: From genocidal to dialogic mentality: An intergenerational struggle’, Psychoanalytic Review 91: 543–89.

Shavit, A. (2014). My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, Scribe Books London

Sheehi L. (2018) ‘Palestine is a Four-Letter Word’, Division/Review 18 (2018) at

Sheehi L. (2019) ‘Disavowing Israeli Apartheid’ Middle East Research and Information Project, at

Sheehi S. (2018) ‘Psychoanalysis Under Occupation: Nonviolence and Dialogue Initiatives as Psychic Extension of the Closure System,’ Journal of Psychoanalysis and History, 20:3; 353-369, at

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Shehadeh S. (2015) ‘The 2014 War on Gaza: engineering trauma and mass torture to break Palestinian resilience’, IJAPS 12, 3, 278-294 at

Tal D. (2012) ‘Curfew in the Occupied Territories’ at

Tippelskirch-Eissing D. (2015) ‘Perpetrators and Victims –Then and Now’ at

United Nations (1948) ‘Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide’ at

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i ‘Dr. Samah Jabr, senior psychiatrist and head of the Mental health Unit at the Palestinian Ministry of Health, urged international mental health professionals to show “solidarity” with the Palestinians, including through “stopping professional collaboration with official Israeli organizations and reconsidering the choice of Israel as the location of future professional conferences”. (Middle East Monitor 2019)

iii We do not pretend to understand why. The question ‘how does Israel get away with it?’ is the starting point for Jeff Halper (2015). War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification.

v This conceptualisation alienated Jewish analysts who did not ‘fit’ (Erlich 2009 p46; see also discussion of attitude towards non-Israeli Jews as a threat to the ‘national’ identity of Israeli Jews, (ibid p172).

vi The part played in silencing voices critical of Israeli policies by the ‘International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’ demonstrates how according proper respect to those lost in the Holocaust, and learning as best we can how to avoid its recurrence, requires a critical engagement with its political instrumentalization.

vii The attempt at such a separation did not begin and end with the Nazareth Conferences. The organisers’ assumptions reflected their internalisation of a series of myths about the history of the Zionist movement that has informed the self-image of most Jewish Israelis, and which keeps out of consciousness any awareness of the collective with whom they are identified acting in the perpetrator role.

viii One Israeli participant concluded, after a session where the roles ascribed to Germans and Israelis seemed to weaken, that ‘something could be (or shall I say, should be) learned about current Israeli aggression, which of course has its roots in the traumatic past’ (Erlich 2009 pp72-3, 84-5). Her comment is recorded, but not elaborated upon.

ix This is not to suggest that once ideological obstacles have been removed that there will not still be significant ‘baggage’ carried by those who have been raised within each of the two communities that reside in Palestine/Israel. But at least then the situation will be closer to that facing the German and Jewish Israeli analysts when they met in their first gathering in Nazareth. For a psychoanalytic discussion of both kinds of encounter, those involving incompatible ideological investments, and others between protagonists from each side of the communal divide but released from the need to deal with such a fundamental philosophical gulf, see Jabr S. and Berger E. (2016)

x From Desmond Tutu’s Foreword: ‘… the group working on these conferences has now set up a new organisation … whose specific aim is to apply what has been learnt from work that focused on the Holocaust to other atrocities that live on in people’s minds’ (Erlich 2009 p14).

xii Mira-Erlich here appears to have been inspired by Golda Meir’s infamous remark: ‘We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.’

xiii Article 2 of the 1948 United Nations Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide reads: “In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical,

racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”.

xiv We are saying that this is a pre-requisite to supporting the Zionist project. Describing his ancestor’s tour of the area in 1897, Shavit explains why Herbert Bentwich did not see the Palestinian cities, towns and villages in front of his eyes: ‘My great-grandfather does not see because he is motivated by the need not to see. He does not see because if he does see, he will have to turn back’ (Shavit, 2014, p. 13).

xv A new folie á deux is suggested by news that the Paris and Israeli Psychoanalytic Societies are planning a conference, in Israel, on the subject of Collective Trauma. As venue we suggest the excellent facilities provided by the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Centre.