On Palestinian Children and Families at the International Congress of Psychology, 2012

The International Congress of Psychology (ICP) is held every four years and is the largest event on the global psychology calendar. At the 2008 ICP gathering, American psychologists’ collusion with the torture at Guantanamo was first raised in the international community of psychologists. The 2012 Gathering, which was held in Cape Town, South Africa, was organized around the theme “Psychology Serving Humanity”, hosting the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Dr. Navi Pillay, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, And others.

One of the papers that was presented in the congress, by Despina Constandinides (OPT) and Sarah Kamens (US), focused on the effects of psychosocial work with Palestinian adolescents in the West bank. A previous paper on a close subject was published by the same authors (et al.) at the July 2011 issue of Journal of Peace Psychology 17(3), presenting the results of an intervention program with children on the west bank, and the effects of external sociopolitical variables on the children.

Additionally, an entire Symposium at ICP 2012 addressed the issue of “Psychologies of Occupation – The Palestinian family context“. The Symposium was presented by a multidisciplinary group of mental health scholars and activists from DCI-Palestine, UNRWA and EJ-YMCA, PsychoActive, WCLAC and MAP, and addressed the dangerous reverberations of political violence impacting children, families, and the next generation in Palestine/Israel.

The panel first presented the reality on the ground: The unequal treatment of Palestinian and Israeli children arrested for similar offenses, the arrest of Palestinian children, and the breaking of international law (Gerard Horton, Australia).  The Panel then turned its focus to three psychological dimensions of this situation: The effect on Palestinian health professionals attempting to relieve traumatization, when they share their society’s “normalized” condition of abnormal perpetual danger (Laila Atshan, OPT); The psychological processes of young Israeli soldiers perpetrating violence against young Palestinians (Efrat Even-Tzur, Israel); and the destabilizing impact of violence on Palestinian families, as evidenced in extensive interviews with mothers (Salwa Duaibis , OPT, and Judy Roth, USA).

The papers all shared a common theme: the normalization of political violence in Palestinian and Israeli societies, and the desensitization and refusal of the international community to hear the anguish on the ground.

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