תום סאס: טירופי הושיע אותי, הטירוף והנישואים של ווירג'יניה וולף, פרק ראשון מספר בשלבי תרגום  |  


iris yaar edelbaum's blog
human rights violations - the case of Israeli psychiatry

I am going to skip the introdcutory notes - the great expectations, plans,obligations, of "first post in a new blog". Looking back on other blogs I started, the opening statement tends to become a source of embarassment with time
A note on myself, is due, and some history of my connections to this NGO and to human rights in psychiatry
Formerly a lawyer, with 20 years experience in the 'trenches' of Isaeli law, legal activism, academia and media. Milestones in my former career - internship and practice at "Amnon Zichroni Law Offices", the outstanding Israeli law firm, and a hotbed for many legal and media celebs. The highest profile case, during my internship has been the "Vanunu affair" and many precedent setting cases in criminal and constitutional law. Later, a fellow at the New israel Fund Civil Liberties program, specializing in the rights of Bedouin and Arab minorities in Israel. My brief stardom at the New israel fund has ended in bitter disputes
Another highlight, 5 years academic career at the hebrew University law faculty, as "head of student clinic", where I developed my interest and expertise in mental  health/human rights, namely the abuse of human rights in psychiatry, but also trauma and law, gender and psychiatry and more. This budding career came to an abrupt and early end at 2000
In the last decade I blogged, wrote, was mainly became annoyed by the the Israeli political and legal "discourse", away from "the action". I raised my son, lived in North America (where I worked for Protection and Advocacy, a disability law group), and lived in the sticks, up in a rural area in the Galilee
I have known IAAPA since my Student clinic time, through fruitful cooperation on many important public struggles.  I was also kindly invited as expert witness to the Russell tribunal in 2001, but could not make it for personal reasons. Otherwise, a straight single mother, striving to maintain sanity in a crazy corner of the world
Questions, queries and compliments can be emails to me at irisirit@bezeqint.net


Psychiatry and gender

One of the recent "juicy" affairs, unfolding in the media (and the blogs) in Israel has been the Yitzhak Laor sexual harassment allegaions. To brief the non Israelis, here's the gist of it. Laor is a poet, writer, playwriter, editor and publisher, journalist and peace activist who has become a bit of a "guru" within the small and troubled "radical-liberal"*(left) community of intellectuals in Israel. Laor began his career as a playwriter and peace activist during the early to mid 70's, and gained national exposure when his play "Ephraim goes to the army" (my translation) was censored for disseminating unconventional ideas about the occupation and so forth. Laor filed a high court petition with the help and representation of Amnon Zichroni's law office who won the petition on the grounds of "freedom of speech"
Laor since published numerous novels and poems, and recently held several positions, as pubsliher and editor of Mitaam (a radical literary journal), a senior columnist in Haaretz Daily Newspaper, an academic lecturer, and an acclaimed poet. Anyone who ever met him in person, could have easily witnessed his unusual speech, very direct, abusive, loud, and chauvinistic. His manners became a constant subject of backstage talk, and a source of agony to the more sensitive souls among us, especially women
Recently, and the secret of timing remains a mystery, an artist, published a post in a radical-left blog (Haokets), where she testifies to being raped and harassed by a "known luminary of the radical left intellectual scene" 20 years ago, and how this old affair scarred her for life. It was quite clear that she referred to Laor, but she failed to identify her assailant, and focused on the more general problem of "conspiracy of slience" within the liberal community, regarding sexual offenses and gender discrimination. Indeed, anyone who ever stepped into the "activist community" in Israel was soon surprised to find out that blatant and violent chauvinism is one of its trademarks. Sexual exploitation, harassment, rape, discrimination and humiliation are a common group practice within those ultra progressive circles, and standing out among the global kin groups, the Israeli one appears as a garrison, mirroring the militaristic AND fundamentalist (religious) atmosphere of the region. Even the Gay activist groups display an "Anti women" attitude, unlike similar groups in the western world, who usually stand united with women's causes, against male hegemony
The post mentioned here opened a can of worms within "the community", adding fuel to an already volatile situation (Haaretz being attacked for theBlau-Kam espionage affair), NGO's being charge with treason following the Goldstone report) and so forth
The most recent development was a delayed and detailed response by the "accused" Yitzhak Laor, published last week on some 5 double spread pages in Ha-ir (the supplement of Haaretz in Tel Aviv), where he launches an attack on the complainant and her "feminist friends", starting an all out war between the factions in the left, now divided over the "Laor affair". Basically, Laor offers a comprehensive psychological-clinical analysis of the complainant-victim, drawing a portrait of the "typical distraught" Israeli female, the victim of societal institutional abuse, numerous assaults, who chooses to reclaim her agency through a random, or arbitrary, choice of ONE male-oppresor, (in this case, himself), taking revenge and at the same time being manipulated, used and revictimized by the "israeli feminist instituion" which he describes as a group of "aunts" who replace eros with rightousness. He also implicitly undermines the psychiatric capacity of the victim-complainant

The manipulation of mental health discourse

 The field of mental health has been a battle field in the gender wars since the early days of modern psychology. |The gay community first had to battle the DSM to extricate itself from the category of "mentally ill deviants". The feminist cause fought its way through the DSM, first with the "battered wife" syndrom and the annihilation of the "masochist wife" category, later with the introduction of sexual trauma, the battles over repressed memory and limitation statutes, the battle over "mind control"  and recognition of DID and dissociation within laws of evidence and so forth. The mental health professionals willingly stepped in, playing the double edge sword, and increasing their power, playing both sides in the war of ideas. The more people resorted to psychological explanations of human behavior, either as victims or as oppressors, the more power was given to the medicalization of human behavior. One result of this situation has been the actual deferal of legal discretion (hence ethical and moral judgements) to mental health professionals and professional jive. Looking at the Laor case, we are left with a bizarre professional conflict between psychologists, and I suppose the one with more money and PR shall win
And so, in a case of a rude intellectual guru, who - in civilized society would not be elevated to such level of authority - becomes a subject of clinical analysis and in turn he himslef provides a clinical assessment of his critics, both parties using in fact the same "diagnosis" for each other, paranoia, sexual deviance, obssession, PTSD, and what not. A visitor from Mars would certainly get lost and happily conclude that both parties are equally derranged, which i assume will satisfy the spectators from the right to center wings. And indeed, the collective guilt of the liberal community (in tolerating and celebrating the foul mouth of its luminary) eventually led to an excessive response lacking proper planning and discretion
Similar manipulations of clinical discourse was subject of a small political upheaval last week, when the court adopted the Distrcit Psychiatrists opinion that Jack Teitle (AKA the JEwish terrorist) is incapable of standing trial for the murder of several Palestinians and some Jewish victims of terrorist acts. One of Israel's Arab MKs notes, rightsly, that Jewish terrorists are always "crazy lone actors", while Arab terrorists are always "fanatic fundamentalists"

No conclusions

I have no conclusions from the Laor affair so far, this is an interim observation of an unfolding story, that extracts some interesting expressions from interesting and smart people. We can defenitely ask whether its hightime for some backlash in the matter of the "clinicalization" of the law and the public discourse. The common view that the caring profesions, by their name and orientations, are more compassionate and balanced from jurists or law enforcers, needs to be re-evaluated. Firstly, the recent discoveries on major abuses within the mental health community in the USA (the collaboration in the GUANTANAMO war crimes) indicate that any power leads to corruption, including powers of psychologists who vow to "help". Secondly, ethics and moral judgements should be made by those whose job is to do just that, namely, the legal system, through the democratic processes, and not by an assumed position of "scientific" or medical deduction. Mental health professionals can definitely assist the legal system in its fact finding processes, but cannot replace the legal proceedings or the terminology. The danger to human rights now is not so much from direct and raw violations by government but by a concealing "discourse", some of it, originating in psychiatry and psychology. Thus, social and political battles cannot be won by clinical arguments alone


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