The therapists in need of therapy

On April 2, at the London HQ of the Guild of Psychotherapists, 60 practitioners of the psychotherapeutic arts resolved to establish “The UK-Palestine Mental Health Network.” Being neither a psychotherapist nor a psychotherapeutic fellow-traveller I knew nothing of this gathering until Almighty God arranged for me to receive the official “report” of this meeting. It does not make for pleasant reading.

The report opens with the boldest of statements: “The meeting heard how Israel targets the psychological well-being of the Palestinians. One speaker described its aim as being to reduce them to the point where they have to be permanently concerned only about their survival… It was noted that these policies are not only employed against the inhabitants of the Occupied Territories, but are also used against non-Jewish citizens of Israel itself… These circumstances call for the organised expression of solidarity by British-based mental health workers.”

Having additionally noted that Britain (because it had endorsed “Zionist aspirations” through the promulgation of the Balfour Declaration) bore a special responsibility for this inexcusable state of affairs, this curious conclave of counsellors and the like then resolved “to challenge, as effectively as possible, official rationalisations for lending such protection to the project of creating an exclusive Jewish state in Palestine.”

Apparently a number of ways were discussed in which this objective might be realised, including: (a) publicising the work of Palestinian mental-health services; (b) “maximising opportunities for direct communication between Palestinian and UK mental health workers”; (c) seeking from relevant “professional bodies” a response to the Palestinian call for support for the boycott campaign against Israel; and (d) exploring ways in which these bodies might be encouraged “to consider more closely our responsibilities, to review our existing engagement with Israel/Palestine.”

When I had finished reading this report I found myself thoroughly alarmed on several grounds. The first was that a group of professionals could have lent themselves to such a palpably (and perversely) prejudiced project. The report contained not so much as one word in reference to, for example, the psychological well-being of Jewish inhabitants of Israel, subject to the daily threat of bombardment from Palestinian Gaza and of random shootings and knifings from Palestinians on the West Bank. The mental health of the Jewish inhabitants of Sderot seems to have been ignored.

I contacted the newly-launched Network and was surprised to receive a response from someone whose name rang a bell. His name is Martin Kemp. Almost exactly five years ago the JC ran a story concerning an article that a Martin Kemp and fellow psychotherapist Eliana Pinto had written for Therapy Today (the journal of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy), in which they had compared Israel’s actions in Gaza to Germany under the Nazis.

My sense of alarm only deepened when I recognised these authors – Pinto and Kemp – as two of the signatories of an email circulated to Network members after the April 2 launch, in which notice is given of a “planning meeting,” to be held on May 3. The email mentions a number of initiatives mooted to take the project forward, including the suggestion “that we offer to review books for mainstream publications.”

I am a member of several learned societies and professional bodies, and I would be unalterably hostile to any attempt by anyone to prostitute any of these bodies for partisan ends. In the case of the UK-Palestine Mental Health Network that is exactly what we are confronted with: a grubby little pressure group that plans to infiltrate professional bodies and publications in the pursuit of its own anti-Zionist agenda.

Now that I have raised this matter, I expect the professional bodies concerned to be alert to what is going on, and to act appropriately. I also expect all members of the Network to make the fact of this membership known to their patients. I for one would not trust my mental health to any Network adherent.

Last updated: 7:45am, April 25 2014