To members of the Scientific Progamme Committee of the Group Analytic Society (GAS)

In response to John Schlapobersky’s recent email (of 22 July, 2010)
confirming the plenary speaker arrangements for the forthcoming Group
Analysis Symposium (August 2011), I totally disagree with his claims
that there has been a full discussion of this issue. To say that the
decision on plenary speakers has been arrived at after open democratic
discussion is a travesty. It is blatantly untrue. By my reckoning,
over half the membership of the committee (i.e. 10 out of 19 people)
have not expressed their views since this issue was aired on 17th
July. John’s description of the “thinking that’s gone into a resolved
position” in fact imposes a resolution that has closed down discussion.

In relation to those responses that were made, I should clarify that I
did not suggest a “pairing” of Israeli and Palestinian speakers, as
this would: (1) individualise the political question; (2) could set up
an invidious adversarial situation, and moreover (3) imply that it is
possible to take a “balanced” position on a political context that is
characterised by a manifestly unequal balance of forces. (One has only
to consider that during Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2008, 14 Israelis
and 1400 Palestinians were killed.) However this discussion has now
been closed, as has the possibility of considering inviting a
Palestinian keynote speaker.

This is not about an individual’s qualities or faults. Robi Friedman
may be very prestigious and a nice guy. This is about institutions and
GAS’ institutional endorsement of the Israeli state. As Group
Analysts, we have a more complex understanding of the intermeshment of
“individuals” and the socio-political conditions from which they
speak. The Group Analytic Society has made a disastrous decision in
confirming an invitation to Robi Friedman as plenary speaker for the
2011 Group Analysis Symposium. We should have thought through and
then, in my opinion, decided to ally ourselves with the Palestinian
people, with their demand for boycott, divestment and sanctions
against the Israeli state.

At this crucial moment, when there are widespread calls for the
isolation of and pressure on the Israeli state, including explicit
support for this from Israeli activists who themselves call for a
boycott on institutions implicated in the Israeli military apparatus,
the inclusion of a speaker who is currently on the Faculty of the
University of Haifa, and who is advertised (in the proposed publicity
for the Symposium) as formerly of the Haifa Technion (that is, with
affiliations to two Israeli institutions known to actively support the
occupation), sends the wrong message to those actively seeking a just
and peaceful resolution to the conflict.

I am sorry to say that in upholding this decision the Committee will
have either deliberately or by default colluded with the Israeli
state. I will not. I resign from the Scientific Programme Committee.


Erica Burman
Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies
Manchester Metropolitan University
Hathersage Road
Manchester M13 0JA

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