Samah Jabr

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Samah Jabr
BornAugust 8, 1976
Occupation(s)Psychiatrist, psychotherapist and writer

Samah Jabr (Arabic: سماح جبر, born 8 August 1976) is a Palestinian Jerusalemite psychiatrist, psychotherapist and writer. Since 2016, she has been Chair of the Mental Health Unit at the Palestinian Ministry of Health, and has written columns about the psychological consequences of the Israeli occupation in Palestine since the 2000s. Inspired by anticolonial psychiatrist Frantz Fanon, her areas of interest include mental health, colonialism and universal human rights.


Samah Jabr was born to a Jerusalemite family on August 8, 1976.[1] She graduated from Al-Quds University (Jerusalem) in 2001, a member of the first cohort of the Faculty of Medicine.[2] She gained advanced training in psychiatry in France and the United Kingdom, as well as in clinical research in the United States.[2] She specialized in psychotherapy and was trained at the Israel Psychoanalytic Institute of Jerusalem. Jabr is one of 22 psychiatrists practicing in the West Bank,[3] and among the first Palestinian women in this profession.[2]


Jabr serves as Palestine Medical Director for the Palestinian Medical Education Initiative[4] (PMED), and practices as a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist in the private and public sectors. Her research is published in both Palestinian and international peer-reviewed journals. She co-wrote, with American child psychiatrist Elizabeth Berger, a study focusing on "clinical transference and countertransference across the Israeli/Palestinian divide"[5] and one on "the survival and well-being of the Palestinian people under occupation".[6]

Jabr has taught at various Palestinian universities[7] and is a supervisor at the George Washington University[8] (Washington). She is a fellow at the Centre for Science and Policy[9] (University of Cambridge). She works as a consultant and a trainer for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders (MSF).[10]

A volunteer for the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), Jabr contributes to establishing reports based on the testimonies of victims. In the documentary Beyond the Frontlines: Tales of Resistance and Resilience in Palestine (Alexandra Dols, 2017, France), she explains that the objective is to let the perpetrators know that their acts of torture are known, reported and filed, so that they may be held accountable.[11]

Jabr has been a regular guest of Palestinian radio station Nisaa FM[12] and of Panarab channel Al Araby, where she has been interviewed on topics including mental health, the rights of people with special needs, marginalization and abuse.

Jabr has published columns in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs[13] and the Middle East Monitor.[14] Her perspective is that "the Israeli occupation is not only a political issue, but indeed a mental health problem".[1]

Jabr has also been a guest of organizations supporting the Palestinian people in France, where she has been invited by local association Les amis de Jayyous,[15] as well as national Association France-Palestine Solidarité[16] (AFPS) and Union juive française pour la paix[17] (UJFP). Institutions including the School of Oriental and African Studies[18] (SOAS), the Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust[19] and the Institut de Recherche et d'Études Méditerranée Moyen-Orient[20] (iReMMO, Paris) have had her as a speaker. According to Jabr, and in accordance with Fanon's views, one of the core challenges of the Palestinian struggle for national liberation is the necessity to build "a psychological understanding and culture that can liberate the people’s minds, parallel to the liberation of the land".[21]

Selected perspectives[edit]

Suicide and sacrifice[edit]

Jabr distinguishes between the act of suicide, driven by despair, and the act of sacrifice, drawn by hope.

Suicidal actions are often egocentric because the individual’s spark of life has lost its meaning in interpersonal terms. In contrast, the self-sacrificing person–even on the pathway to death–may be full of hope, indeed perhaps too much so. The act of self-sacrifice often involves an altruistic dedication to others and an eagerness to improve their future chances. Their hope is to extinguish their own soul in the service of giving light to others and brighten the road ahead.[22]

Regarding mental health statistics for Palestine, and post-traumatic stress disorder data specifically, Jabr questions the methodology and definitions given by the World Health Organization. "It’s important to develop your own mental health standards", she says.[23]

Colonial privilege[edit]

In December 2017, Jabr called out to the International Association of Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (IARPP), requesting that they reconsider the location of their 2019 annual conference, Tel Aviv. Such an international event, she argued, "shields Israel from public exposure of its atrocities".[24] The IARPP board would not hear her arguments.

"In a narrow sense, we are not a political organisation," claims the IARPP leadership, giving them the luxury of distancing their psychological experience from the occupation while at the same time consuming the privileges of the occupation. For Palestinians, there is no such luxury; the occupation that deprives us of our loved ones, spies on our private relationships, strips our clothes from us , steals years from our lives, deprives us of our health and confronts us with continuous grief and humiliation, this is in every sense very personal and very psychological. Only those who side with the powerful are keen to ignore the dialectical relationship between the psychological and political.[25]

The IARPP position triggered a petition, initiated and circulated together with the Jewish Voice for Peace[26] (JVP). A group of Palestinian mental health clinicians with Israeli citizenship called out to the IARPP directly,[27] as well as more than 30 members of the Israeli organization Psychoactive - Mental Health Professionals for Human Rights (Hebrew: פסיכואקטיב - אנשי ונשות בריאות הנפש למען זכויות אדם).[28][29]


In November 2015, Jabr launched a call to mental health professional worldwide to side with the Palestinian people,[30] along with the UK/USA Palestine Mental Health Network. The petition is a reminder that her professional community has a mission "to promote the integrity of the individual",[31] and that "preconditions for this are social justice and the enjoyment of universal human rights".[31]

We call upon mental health professionals to engage in sociopolitical solidarity with the people of Palestine as a therapeutic position. Dedicating ourselves to this work while the occupation continues will give us the insights we will need in the future, as facilitators involved in the process of reconciliation. Laying down a foundation of involvement during a time of crisis prepares us for participating in a resolution to the crisis that will bring genuine redress, justice, and full civil rights to the people of Palestine.[32]

Awards and honors[edit]

Jabr's research in biochemistry was granted the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Award in 1998.[citation needed] In 1999, she benefited from the Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) Program at the Iowa State University, and later received a scholarship from the Dubai Harvard Foundation for Medical Research (DHFMR) in 2014.[citation needed] She is a fellow at the Centre for Science and Policy[9] (University of Cambridge).

In 2001, Jabr received the Media Monitors Network's Award for her articles on the Second Intifada, and she was elected “Personality of the Year” by the readers of French Muslim website in 2015.[33]

Portrayal in media[edit]

Jabr is portrayed in the documentary feature film Beyond the Frontlines: Tales of Resistance and Resilience in Palestine (2017), by French director Alexandra Dols. The film received the Sunbird Award for best documentary at the Palestinian festival, Days of Cinema.[3] Beyond the Frontlines introduces its audience to sumud (Arabic: صمود), a concept that is both close to and different from the one of resilience. Jabr stresses that this word has been used by Palestinians since their struggle against the British occupation. She describes resilience as "oriented towards a state of mind"[34] while sumud includes "an orientation to action"[34] as well. Sumud means "maintaining a steadfast defiance to subjugation and occupation",[34] and has a decisive collective dimension, for it also suggests "maintaining […] moral and social solidarity."[34]

The book Derrière les fronts. Chroniques d'une psychiatre psychothérapeute palestinienne sous occupation (PMN Editions and Hybrid Pulse, 2018) presents a collection of Jabr's columns translated into French. In its review, newspaper Le Monde diplomatique, stated that Jabr, "drawing on her clinical observations and nourished by Frantz Fanon, allows us to see the extent of the pathologies that affect the individual and threaten social cohesion, as a direct consequence of 'the realm of the murderously absurd' imposed but the occupying power".[35]

Jabr appears in two other feature films. In Afterward (2018), Jerusalem-born and New York-based psychoanalyst Ofra Bloch confronts her own feelings about, and the tensions between, the genocide of European Jews and the expulsion of Palestinians from their land in 1948, known as the Nakba.[citation needed] In Fanon, hier, aujourd'hui[36] (2018), French-Algerian director Hassane Mezine explores the life and legacy of Frantz Fanon, by interviewing past and contemporary activists who have struggled against injustice in various countries around the world.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b JABR, Samah (2017). "Samah Jabr: A Palestinian struggle against oppression". Al Jazeera.
  2. ^ a b c "Samah Jabr, Head of Mental Health Unit, Palestinian Ministry of Health, Palestine". Challenge to Change: Be the Change.
  3. ^ a b ALFARRA, Jehan (December 17, 2017). "Samah Jabr on being one of only 22 psychiatrists in the West Bank". Middle East Monitor.
  4. ^ "Our Team: Samah Jabr MD, Palestine medical director". Palestinian Medical Education Initiative.
  5. ^ JABR, Samah; BERGER, Elizabeth (April 2016). "An occupied state of mind: Clinical transference and countertransference across the Israeli/Palestinian divide". Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society. 21 (1): 21–40. doi:10.1057/pcs.2015.46. ISSN 1088-0763. S2CID 143373164.
  6. ^ JABR, Samah; BERGER, Elizabeth (2016), "The Survival and Well-Being of the Palestinian People Under Occupation", The State of Social Progress of Islamic Societies, Springer International Publishing, pp. 529–543, doi:10.1007/978-3-319-24774-8_24, ISBN 9783319247724
  7. ^ "الدكتورة سماح جبر تتحدث خلال اليوم العالمي للصحة النفسية الذي تم عقده في الحرم القديم". An-Najah National University. April 1, 2018.
  8. ^ "Faculty Directory, Samah Jabr". George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
  9. ^ a b "Dr Samah Jabr, Head of Mental Health at Ministry of Health, Palestinian National Authority". Centre for Science and Policy.
  10. ^ "Samah Jabr, Head of Mental Health Unit, Palestinian Ministry of Health, Palestine". Bulbula: Changing Conversations.
  11. ^ Beyond the Frontlines: Tales of Resistance and Resilience in Palestine, Alexandra Dols, 2017, Hybrid Pulse, 113 minutes.
  12. ^ "د. سماح جبر الطبيبة والمعالجة النفسية ورئيسة قسم الصحة النفسية في مديرية صحة رام الله". Nisaa FM. December 1, 2013.
  13. ^ "Samah Jabr articles". Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
  14. ^ "Items by Dr Samah Jabr". Middle East Monitor. 2014-11-27.
  15. ^ CREMILLIEUX, Ophélie (September 23, 2014). "Psychiatre palestinienne résidant à Jérusalem, Samah Jabr animera, ce soir, une conférence-débat". La Montagne (in French).
  16. ^ "Rencontre avec Samah Jabr". Association France-Palestine Solidarité (in French). March 10, 2015.
  17. ^ "L'UJFP à l'Université d'Été Solidaire et Rebelle des mouvements sociaux et citoyens". Union juive française pour la paix (in French). July 3, 2018.
  18. ^ "Palestine: The Invisible Damage of Life under Occupation". School of Oriental and African Studies.
  19. ^ "The Survival and Well-Being of the Palestinian People" (PDF). Council for Psychoanalysis and Jungian Analysis.
  20. ^ "La Palestine vue par une psy". Institut de Recherche et d'Études Méditerranée Moyen-Orient (in French). 19 June 2018.
  21. ^ VERBEEK, Annelies (May 31, 2018). "Trauma, resistance and liberation in Palestine". Palestine Monitor.
  22. ^ JABR, Samah (May 15, 2018). "Our history haunts our future". Middle East Monitor.
  23. ^ GOLDHILL, Olivia (January 13, 2019). "Palestine's head of mental health services says PTSD is a western concept". Quartz.
  24. ^ JABR, Samah; BERGER, Elizabeth; FADIL, Rebecca; SCHMIDT, Christine (December 28, 2017). "Doctors Urge Mental Health Group Not to Meet in Israel". Palestine Chronicle.
  25. ^ JABR, Samah (March 8, 2018). "A monologue with the 'Other': the inauthenticity of discourse under occupation". Middle East Monitor.
  26. ^ "Over 1000 signatures protest mental health group's decision to meet in Israel". Jewish Voice for Peace. February 12, 2018.
  27. ^ "Palestinian Mental Health Workers Statement regarding IARPP Conference June 2019". UK-Palestine Mental Health Network. February 13, 2018.
  28. ^ "Statement by Israeli Mental Health Professionals". UK-Palestine Mental Health Network. February 26, 2018.
  29. ^ ROTHCHILD, Alice (March 12, 2018). "Pressure mounts over psychoanalysts' 2019 conference, slated for Tel Aviv". Mondoweiss.
  30. ^ JABR, Samah (November 29, 2018). "Professional Solidarity with Palestine: A Mental Health Imperative". Middle East Monitor.
  31. ^ a b "Mental Health Workers' Pledge for Palestine". UK-Palestine Mental Health Network. 2016-06-04.
  32. ^ JABR, Samah; BERGER, Elizabeth (November 12, 2015). "The Thinking Behind the Mental Health Workers' Pledge". UK-Palestine Mental Health Network.
  33. ^ "La psychiatre palestinienne, Samah Jabr, élue Personnalité de l'année 2015". Oumma (in French). January 25, 2016.
  34. ^ a b c d JABR, Samah (July 20, 2015). "Palestinian sumoud". Middle East Monitor.
  35. ^ PIRONET, Olivier (October 2018). "Derrière les fronts. Chroniques d'une psychiatre psychothérapeute palestinienne sous occupation, Samah Jabr". Le Monde diplomatique (in French). p. 24.
  36. ^ ANDALOUSI, Marwan (October 10, 2018). "Dans l'incandescence des luttes, Fanon brûlant d'actualité". As-Safir Al-Arabi (in French).

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