March 11, 2019
Dear IARPP 2019 Tel Aviv Conference Participant:
We are reaching out to you to share information regarding the conference to be held in Tel Aviv–information which may not have been made available to you hitherto.
The location of this conference has provoked controversy since 2017, when the IARPP Board of Directors first decided to hold it in Israel. Protest arose in response to the longstanding human rights violations committed by Israel, but intensified by the fact that many professional colleagues cannot attend the conference due to Israeli policy—colleagues in Gaza, colleagues in other parts of Palestine or many places in the Middle East, and indeed many IARPP members whose ideas Israel simply does not like.
Opposition to the IARPP conference was formally raised by the 20,000 members of the Palestinian Union of Social Workers and Psychologists (PUSWP) in a powerful formal statement.
International support for the PUSWP position is overwhelming: For example, a petition asking for reconsideration of the choice of Israel for the IARPP conference has gathered over 1,400 signatures from mental health workers and professionals globally. But once discussion of the protest entered the IARPP membership chat room, the organization shut down all mention of it after 24 hours.
Meanwhile, as the protest expanded, there were numerous other initiatives by professionals supporting the call for reconsideration of the choice of Israel for this conference and the related “Don’t Go” campaign. Among these supporters are the People’s Health Movement, the French organization Groupe de Prefiguration de 2018, the Psychotherapy and Counseling Union of the UK, Jewish Voice for Peace, BDS, and many notable individual supporters such as human rights advocates Ruchama Marton MD and Judith Butler PhD. There was a scholarly panel in New York at the time of the IARPP 2018 conference which invited dialogue with the IARPP membership regarding Palestine, “Voices on Palestine“; the IARPP leadership falsely alarmed the hotel management that dangerous disruption was imminent to such a degree that the United States Homeland Security forces were stationed at the door.
The IARPP leadership has consistently attempted to silence opposition to the Tel Aviv conference–although many IARPP members have withdrawn from IARPP or withdrawn their participation from the 2018 and the 2019 conferences in protest—all the while pretending that IARPP welcomes dialogue with Palestinian colleagues through the exploitation of a tiny number of token participants.
We urge each of you therefore to consider whether you can trust an IARPP leadership that tries to keep its membership in the dark about these meaningful events. We would further urge each of you to consider the realities in Palestine as a major threat to public well-being: recent cuts in funding to hospitals in Jerusalem and to UNRWA programs, as well as attacks on healthcare providers in Gaza, provide reason enough to justify serious scrutiny of Israeli policy as a danger to our collective health. We do not object to IARPP’s support of any political policies of its choosing—this is of course its right. We have argued throughout however that such support must be transparent to open debate by the IARPP membership. No such debate within IARPP has yet been permitted. In this context of hypocrisy and secrecy, your withdrawal from the Tel Aviv conference may be the only way to cast your vote.
The Steering Committee, USA-P MHN
The Steering Group, UK-P MHN