IDF disinvited from mental health conference

March 14, 2024
Protest for Palestine in Gadigal/Sydney, March 10. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

The Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association (ANZMHA) rescinded an invitation to an Israeli social worker and member of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to address its Frontline Mental Health Conference after a public campaign, including by Families for Palestine.

Moshe Farchi is a serving Lieutenant Colonel.

Participants and Palestinian advocacy groups petitioned ANZMHA to withdraw Farchi’s invitation to present. He was told by conference organisers that, while his expenses would be covered, his session was cancelled due to perceived threats to safety of conference attendees.

A member of the Australia Palestine Mental Health Network (APMHN), who wants to remain anonymous said: “Besides the immorality of hosting a member of a genocide military force, it would be deeply intolerable for any Palestinian subjected to the intergenerational trauma inflicted by the state of Israel to be lectured about trauma by someone complicit in the current attempted genocide.”

Farchi also heads the social work department at Tel-Hai Academic College in Israel. While in Australia he spoke at several events presented by the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA).

Jeremy Leibler, ZFA president, accused campaigners of antisemitism. “The intimidation tactics that led to the cancellation were bred in antisemitism. Those behind this move object to the existence of the world’s only Jewish state.”

Robert Gregory, the Australian Jewish Association CEO, also said in a media release that the barring was “reminiscent of Nazi boycotts of Jewish academics”.

APMHN spokesperson said “the conflation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism is a … way for Zionists to smear anyone speaking out against Israel’s brutality and occupation of Gaza.

“This is evident in the huge outpouring of support and advocacy for a free Palestine has been headed by many Jewish voices that are anti-Zionist.

“This has nothing to do with anti-Semitism ... Moshe is an active member of the IDF, which is conducting the most depraved military campaign, causing what veteran aid workers have called the worst crisis they have ever worked in.

“We welcome the decision of the conference organisers to withdraw the speaker invitation.

“We consider this a small win for a Free Palestine and a move of solidarity for Palestinians and pro-Palestinians alike.”

They said the pressure they were able to exert “through public awareness and organising a petition sends a strong message to mental health institutions that we will not tolerate silence or careless actions that affirm Israeli propaganda and brutality” in one of the darkest times in human history.

They also said that while most world leaders support Israel’s genocide, the vast majority of the world supports Palestine.

“This action is a clear message — Zionist artists, academics and professionals from any expertise are not welcome anywhere in the world.”

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