Social Work in the Occupied Territory of Palestine

Last night at the Alternative Information Cafe (, Ferdoos Alissa, a Professor of Social Work at Bethlehem University, presented the current situation of Social Work and Psychiatric Therapy in Gaza and the West Bank.

Just as some quick stats regarding the first intifada (1987-1993):

  • 130,472 injuries to Palestinians
  • 1,282 deaths (~30% under age 18)
  • ~57,000 Palestinians arrested, and often subjected to physical and psychological torture
  • 2,532 lost their homes

Professor Alissa spoke of the constant internal conflict of those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: the struggle to remember or forget.  The scenes and experiences witnessed were so horrifying, and the memories of the experiences can be debilitating to everyday life, so, on one hand, it is advantageous to forget.  But on the other hand, there is pride and honor, as well as some relief, taken from remembering the experiences.  There is pride in having served on behalf of the Palestinian people, and the memory is a constant reminder of the on-going struggle for freedom – the struggle to build a new life.  So to forget would be to ignore not only individual sadness, but collective oppression as well.

Professor Alissa also spoke about trans-generational trauma – how the parents of today have internalized the suffering of their parents since 1948, when they were forced from their land by Israel.  And how trans-generational and other forms of indirect trauma (not due to personal experience, but passed between individuals) often can be much more debilitating to a family than individual trauma.

Finally, Professor Alissa spoke of cycles of aggression, and how more people turn to drugs or violence today as a means of coping and finding control in their lives.  There are higher rates of domestic abuse, drug abuse, and gang violence today because of the violence and trauma that people have experienced over the past 25 years.

For me, I found this talk fascinating because it was a completely different way of framing the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Your thoughts?


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