Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

“Beyond the Front Lines”: The Psychology of Occupation

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

“Beyond the Front Lines”: The Psychology of Occupation

Article excerpt

“Beyond the Front Lines”: The Psychology of Occupation

French filmmaker Alexandra Dols' latest film, "Beyond the Front Lines," examines the psychological effects on Palestinians of living under Israeli military occupation for half a century. The subtitled documentary was screened Nov. 18 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC as part of the Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting's FilmFest program.

Dols had recently completed a film on the role of women in the Algerian revolution when she came upon the writings (many of which have appeared in this magazine) of Dr. Samah Jabr, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist who heads the Palestinian Ministry of Health's Mental Health Unit. Dols found Jabr's writings to be "in the tradition of Frantz Fanon," the Martinique-born psychiatrist whose groundbreaking books focused on the "politicization of psychology" in the context of colonialism.

We first see Jabr speaking to a meeting of Israeli psychologists, one of whom says she is afraid to sign the BDS pledge. Jabr matter-of-factly responds that her own threshhold of fear is higher than the Israeli's, later explaining that while she can empathize with individual Israelis she knows, she cannot empathize with the Israeli collective as a whole.

The film follows Jabr as she drives from her native Jerusalem to her office in Ramallah-where, she says, she sees Palestinians who have been diagnosed with a specific mental illness, but not the vast majority of those who experience "immense suffering and the pernicious process" of Israeli degradation. …

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