The Practice supervision project
I haven’t commented for some time about the project because of complex issues about the outcome from the work which social workers and their managers have now completed with me about Practice supervision. What my initial meetings with managers and social work staff in Hebron and Bethlehem showed was that they wanted a single supervision model across Palestine which reflected practice pressures here. In order to know what current supervision and practice were like I observed 5 individual, 2 group supervision and 1 women’s group session. With individual supervision I saw managers providing emotional support, case management and agreed case plans with social workers. Group supervision allowed social work staff and managers to discuss organisational issues in a frank and constructive manner. The women’s group used an active social worker approach to raise issues and involved members in supporting a woman who brought a pressing issue to the meeting.
From the high quality supervision and social work observed I proceeded to consider what model would suit the staff with whom I was working. I’d brought a book about staff supervision with me and summarised relevant sections and had a Local Authority Supervision Protocol to provide individual and group supervision models, with practice guidance on supervision agreements and recording decisions which have been translated into Arabic. I’ve met with the Palestinian Counselling Centre (PCC) to discuss their Diploma based supervision training and considered how the work I was doing would fit into the current system. What I realised was that the supervisors I was working with had been managing staff for extended periods and supervised experienced social workers. Because of their experience a Diploma based qualification isn’t needed in my view I’ve come up with a practice based Certificate qualification which I’ve tested successfully through role play.
I’ve met with Bethlehem University Social Studies Department who wish to develop a Certificate in supervision with me which the Bethlehem group who’ve worked with me support. I hope to obtain similar agreement with the Hebron group when I meet them later this week. I’m meeting with the PCC Supervision project leader before I leave to discuss how the Certificate will fit into their training. The Bethlehem group have agreed to pilot individual and group supervision over the next 6 months which I hope will also be agreed by the Hebron group. I’ll provide long distance support for this period and to return here in September to develop the Certificate training.
This system has only evolved in the last few days, I feel relieved, like having ‘snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat!’ For any Palestine-UK Social Work Network UK based social workers there are many opportunities to work in Palestine, for example to build social work capacity in the State sector and in Nation building.
Final thoughts on Palestine
There are periods in Palestine when I’ve felt less motivated to write, reasons included when I was struggling with the work here, and feeling low, lonely and isolated or frightened of the consequences of what I’ve written. Sometimes I find the pain of being in Palestine overwhelming because there doesn’t seem a way forward for either side. In crossing physical, family, religious and emotional boundaries here I’ve found that divisions between Palestinians and Israeli’s are so deep that the assumption from both sides is ‘you’re either for or against us’ makes it very hard to consider all arguments. As this is my last post from Palestine and Israel what I want to try is to draw out what I can about the experience.
Recently one of my best friends Frances responded to my posts by writing ‘ I wanted to say rather belatedly how very interesting I found your spelling out of the links between Hitler’s Germany, Apartheid South Africa and current day Israel/Palestine. It’s because you embody all three of these in one person that you are so very much the right person to be on this trip, and writing about it.’ My experience here has felt like being in mixer and shook about, changing in the process. At the start of my stay I was cautious in disclosing my background, however I’m now at a stage where I think that being clear about these aspects are important because they’re so strongly linked to my experience of being in Palestine and Israel then linking them with my personal history.
I’ve been reminded of Eva Hoffman’s book called ‘Lost in Translation,’ in which she writes about trauma transferring itself without words from refugee parents to their children. When I think of common experience here I realise that the primary link between Israeli’s and Palestinians is the refugee experience, trauma and how they’ve dealt with it. What a Palestinian I work with told me is that people and communities which have experienced trauma can shift from victims to oppressors. I think Israelis have used their victim experience to prevent the holocaust experience repeating itself which has trapped them in victimhood. This led to the defensive approach Israel has used since its establishment which has created regular conflict. The separation wall has protected Israeli’s against direct attack from the West bank, however it’s caused hatred which is a barrier to resolution of differences with Palestinians. The response to Palestinian protests against occupation has only reduced but not eliminated it. The separation between Israelis and Palestinians has reduced the opportunities for Pro-Palestinian Israeli activists and Palestinian to work together for peace.
Palestinians I’ve worked with in Bethlehem are strongly opposed to the occupation and constant settlement expansion on the West bank. What makes their response to Israeli policies different is that the protests can be justified which puts them in a position of ‘occupying the moral high ground,’ which was a primary aim of Israel when it became a State. Weakness today will become strength tomorrow. In contrast to Israelis they’ve progressed from trauma through the refugee experience and occupation to being survivors. The extra capacity they’ve developed through this position gives them the confidence that they are creating a Civic society which is establishing itself in towns like Bethlehem is preparation for Statehood.
When I was last in Israel I visited the Ben-Gurion House in Tel Aviv with family. I’ve read the guide to the house which includes extracts from his sayings which include, “The fate of Israel depends on two factors, her strength and her rectitude”, “The attachment of the state of Israel to the jewish people is not one of necessity and benefit, but one of mission and fate”. “The state of Israel will not be tried by its riches, army or techniques, but by its moral image and human values”, “Should I be asked to sum up jewish history in a few words, I would say it in three words-quality versus quantity”, “The supreme aim of the state of Israel is the redemption of the jewish people, the ingathering of exiles”, “For centuries the jewish people asked in prayer: Will there be a state for the people?” No one ever imagined the terrifying question: Will there be a people for the state when it comes into being? “
As I was copying the quotations I was trying to imagine what he meant when he wrote them and what he’d think about Israel today. What strikes me from what David Ben-Gurion wrote is the absence of any reference to the communities who’d been present in Palestine before the arrival of jewish zionist settlers in the late 19th and 20th centuries. I think what he hadn’t considered was how occupation would corrupt his view about the meaning of Israel’s Statehood. This is because Israel’s army and the State became involved in occupation, extending their roles beyond defending the country’s borders by supporting zionist expansion.
I watched Benjamin Netanyahu on TV earlier this week, saying he was willing on behalf of Israel to make an agreement for peace with Palestine. He described the current peace talks taking place at a significant time and as a last chance for a settlement. This echoes what John Kerry, Barack Obama and Tzipi Livni, the Israeli lead negotiator have said which has placed pressure on him. My most recent post has commented on the Palestinian position, all parties are now clear what they’re willing to agree, what John Kerry will have to do is decide whether there is sufficient agreement between the parties for a framework agreement. I’m not going to repeat what I wrote last week, however for me if there is to be agreement it needs to be sustainable in the long term and based on a just peace. Last but not least Israelis and Palestinians have a tradition of open and considered debate which can play an important part in considering peace options once they are known, rather than letting extremists set the agenda. The consequences of no agreement will be, more rockets from Gaza and the risk of a 3rd Intifada is frightening.
I’ve recently read an article about the percentage of adult Palestinian men detained by the Israeli’s, unemployment and mental health issues in Palestine. Please email me if you want a copy.