A Costly Diagnosis: The Psychological Burden of Palestine

By Seth, Divya | Harvard International Review, Winter 2011 | Go to article overview

A Costly Diagnosis: The Psychological Burden of Palestine


Seth, Divya, Harvard International Review


Land disputes can hardly be called a novelty in the region between the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers, where Israel and Palestine have both made religious and cultural claims. While the Gaza Strip and West Bank areas have long witnessed the political ramifications of arms conflict, government controls, and economic sanctions, there is another deeper, though less tangible implication of these developments: the Israeli occupation has taken a costly toll on the mental health of the Palestinian population.

Since the British Mandate over the region ended in 1948, there has been a rift over the control of the Gaza Strip and West Bank areas. After World War I, the entire area of Palestine was under British possession. Later, a steady influx of Jewish immigrants from Europe in the aftermath of the Holocaust radically transformed the demographics of this region. The change of demographics brought with it a change in the control of authority, for the establishment of Israel asserted the Israeli presence within a predominantly Arab Middle East. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has thus been a product of religious strife as well as nationalistic aggression.

Despite attempts at peace deliberations, such as the Camp David Summit in 2000 hosted by former US President Bill Clinton, there has not been much in the form of resolutions between the Palestinians, led by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and the Israeli government. Following its unilateral disengagement plan in 2005, Israeli forces pulled out of the Gaza Strip, which removed all Israeli occupants from the area. In the 2007 Battle of Gaza, the Hamas militant group ousted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to retain control of the area.

As of now, Hamas still controls the area of Gaza while the economic blockade from Israel and Egypt remains in effect. The ongoing warfare between the Hamas militant group and the Israeli army has continued to plague both Israeli and Palestinian inhabitants. In addition to the political and military effects of the occupation, there have also been significant health consequences, particularly psychological health. The occupation forces severe limits on the Palestinians, geographically as well as socially. There is a loss of any sense of achievement, since there are not many chances for growth economically and politically. Even more importantly, there is a pervading sense of homelessness, despite the fact that family homes were uprooted generations ago. This sense of homelessness also contributes to their reduced aspirations and growing depression. According to an article published in the Lancet, the trauma and pain of the displacement of Palestinians in 1948 has not left the minds of the community today, but rather remains imprinted in their "collective consciousness. …

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