Draft DNH

DO NO HARM: Refrain from Locating your Conferences in Israel

A call to all mental health organizations from the UK-Palestine Mental Health Network, the USA-Palestine Mental Health Network, and the Irish-Palestine Mental Health Network, in solidarity with the people of Palestine:

We call on you, our colleagues in the field of mental health, to join us in taking a “don’t go, don’t support” position in regard to international mental health-related events held in Israel, or external events sponsored by, or in collaboration with, Israeli organizations. We believe we must do so in order to honor our primary professional obligation to do no harm.

While there is strong commitment in our field to encourage dialogue across divides, we also know that we must ensure that our interventions do not replicate or reinforce abusive relationships. Such an extreme asymmetry of power exists in Israel/Palestine that we must take special care not to inadvertently support an oppressive environment that is inimical to ordinary life and to psychological well-being.

The Israeli Government uses coercive force in a violent and illegal process designed – at the very least – to ghettoise and marginalize the indigenous population on the basis of their ethnicity. To disregard the profound and enduring physical and psychological damage that results would be inconsistent with our professional ethics. These include a commitment to justice, inclusivity, reciprocity and anti-racism. To turn a blind eye to Israel’s human rights abuses inflicts further injury on the Palestinian people, including mental health professionals, routinely exposed to the systemic violence of the regime.

The Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, has concluded that, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, Israel has created an apartheid state1. The same moral imperatives that required the stand taken by people of conscience against Apartheid South Africa apply again.

Both Palestinian civil society as a whole and our colleagues in the mental health field have called on us to honor a policy of non-engagement with Israeli institutions and organizations. This call, which does not apply to individuals, has been supported by a number of Jewish Israeli colleagues. A collective response from us, declining to participate in any proposed event, will send a powerful message that collusion with Israel’s systemic dispossession of and discrimination towards Palestinians contravenes our professional ethics urging us to support the struggle for human rights.

This is an appeal to join a form of non-violent resistance, made with clear objectives in mind. Implicit in the struggle for racial justice and equality is an end to the many specific policies that routinely inflict psychological harm on the Palestinians. These include the siege of Gaza and the de-development of the Palestinian economy; shoot-to-kill policies and the deliberate maiming of civilians; imprisonment without trial and the use of torture; the night-time arrests, abusive interrogation and incarceration of children; the kidnapping of the bodies of Palestinians killed by the armed forces; unrestrained settler violence; the demolition of Palestinian homes and villages, and the appropriation of their lands.

We therefore urge that your association reflect carefully on the obligations enshrined in its ethical codes of practice prior to committing to events, ‘live’ or ‘virtual’, that involve co-operation with Israeli institutions. Should such a possibility arise, we trust you will first consult with the Palestinian mental health community. We would be pleased to arrange the necessary introductions. Consistent with this, we urge mental health organizations to review their financial affairs—including the location of investments and the nature of their donations to lobbyists, political action committees, and political candidates—to ensure that they are not unwittingly investing in, or profiting from state crimes, the consequences of which are directly contrary to our core purposes as mental health professionals.

Many colleagues have committed themselves to ‘do no harm’ by adding their names to the ‘Mental Health Workers’ Pledge for Palestine’. We invite you and your members to join them. The Pledge and further information about professional solidarity with Palestine can be found at https://ukpalmhn.com/pledge/ and https://usapalmhn.com/portfolio-item/mental-health-workers-pledge-for-palestine/

Very truly yours,

The Steering Group of the UK-Palestine Mental Health Network

The Steering Committee of the USA-Palestine Mental Health Network

The Steering Committee of the Irish-Palestine Mental Health Network

[Additional groups and individuals]

1 https://www.btselem.org/publications/fulltext/202101_this_is_apartheid