Israeli violence is central to Palestine’s mental health crisis

(Credit: Photography © Aiyush Pachnanda)
The answer to improving the well-being of Palestinians rests not with individualized solutions from the Global North, but with ending settler colonialism.

By Layth Hanbali | Huck Magazine | May 26, 2022

…many symptoms of mental ill-health “are a normal reaction to a pathogenic context”. Colonial violence – killing, maiming, incarcerating, and dispossessing Palestinians – is the disease.
— Dr. Samah Jabr, chair of the mental health unit at the Palestinian Ministry of Health

Last May, Israel launched a 15-day assault on the Gaza Strip, killing 256 Palestinians, injuring 2,000, and bombing 232 high-rise buildings, forcing over 70,000 to flee their homes. Since then, Israeli violence against Palestinians has not relented. Continuous deterioration in infrastructure due to a blockade by Israel, in place since 2007, has rendered 97 per cent of Gaza’s water undrinkable. Palestinians in Gaza get 12 to 13 hours a day of electricity. 53 per cent of Gazans live under the poverty line. Meanwhile, Israel presses forward with plans to dispossess Palestinians of their homes and land across colonized Palestine, including in the Jordan Valley, Beita, Jerusalem, Masafer Yatta, and the Naqab. Israeli settlers in the West Bank are attacking Palestinians with increasing intensity, with the complete complicity of the Israeli state.

It is, unfortunately, not a surprise to see a raging mental health crisis among Palestinians. Many Palestinians are constantly plagued with fears of violence. Mohammed, a 23-year-old from the Gaza Strip, reports being preoccupied with thoughts about war instead of a bright future, according to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which provides a range of medical and psychological services to Palestinians. Adel, a resident of a village that has been frequently targeted by settler attacks against Palestinians, told MSF: “We live in a state of constant fear. Everyone feels stressed for himself, for his brothers, for his children and friends.”

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