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1,000 sign petition against holding mental health conference in Israel

Palestinian psychiatrist Dr Samah Jabr [File photo]
Palestinian psychiatrist Dr Samah Jabr [File photo]

Over 1,000 mental health workers and professionals have signed a petition protesting the decision of the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (IARPP) to hold its 2019 international conference in Tel Aviv, citing Israel’s human rights abuses against the Palestinians.

The petition was launched in December through the USA-Palestine Mental Health Network and Jewish Voice for Peace, after Palestinian psychiatrist Samah Jabr and a number of other American therapists called on the IARPP to consider “the grave crisis posed by the Israeli occupation and its currently escalating attacks on the Palestinian people”.

Since then, the petition has gained support from mental health professionals all over the world, with many arguing that the conference could not be deemed a “safe space” and many Palestinians would be prevented from participating.

“Holding the conference in Israel inevitably severely limits conference participation by Palestinian clinicians because of the longstanding imposition of movement restrictions, curfews, and checkpoints by Israel as well as its targeting of community leaders in Palestine,” the organisation said in a statement.

Read: Israel holds international conference against BDS

The IARPP has so far refused to cancel the event but promised delegates that it would create a forum for open debate in Tel Aviv.

“But it is clear that open debate cannot take place in Israel, because of the ongoing human rights violations that preclude open debate,” the statement said in response. “It is the state of Israel that limits academic freedom.”

It further listed the numerous measures taken by Israel that supress freedom of speech of those criticising Israel, including banning entry for members of certain groups, including co-signatory Jewish Voices for Peace.

Last month Israel moved to publish a blacklist comprised of 22 NGOs from Europe, the United States, South America and Africa, whose employees or members are banned from entering Israel due to their alleged support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. The list is the latest move in Israel’s battle against the non-violent BDS movement and broader criticism of Israel, which it labels as anti-Semitic.

Anyone interested in signing the petition to urge the IARPP to relocating its conference can do so here.

Read: UK university removes Israel brand following BDS campaign

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