On May 14, the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City asked members of the USA-Palestine Mental Health Network (“the Network”), a group that educates clinicians on the impact of Israeli human rights abuses on the mental health of Palestinians, to move a symposium on mental health issues in Palestine. The hotel cited pressure from the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (IARPP).
The symposium, Voices on Palestine, had been scheduled to take place on June 15, 2018, during the annual four-day convening of the IARPP, at a time when no other conference panels were scheduled.
According to a hotel representative, the IARPP requested that the hotel cancel the Network’s event, falsely asserting that the Network intended to disrupt the conference. The same representative told the Network that the hotel was so alarmed by the IARPP’s claims that it requested New York Police Department (NYPD) officers to be present at the symposium—as he explained—to “restore order quickly.”
After the Network explained that there would be no disruption and that the purpose of the event was to hold “reasoned scholarly discussions with colleagues who share and disagree with our perspectives,” the hotel said it would allow the symposium to proceed—as stipulated in the contract.
“We’re glad the hotel recognized it can’t discriminate against the USA-Palestine Mental Health Network at the behest of the IARPP,” said Radhika Sainath, Senior Staff Attorney with Palestine Legal, who advised the group. “Still, threats to call the NYPD on therapists working for human rights is alarming—particularly for therapists of color who shouldn’t have to risk arrest simply for attending a professional conference.”
The Network is currently lobbying for the IARPP to change the venue of its 2019 conference, which is scheduled to take place in Tel Aviv, so that Palestinian mental health professionals and clinicians who are members of human rights organizations in other countries may attend.
Israel has a history of denying entry to human rights advocates and other possible critics of its policies. It also regularly denies entry to Palestinians, including U.S. citizens of Palestinian origin.