by Fakhry Davids
Our colleague Adib Jarrar, a clinical psychologist, organisational consultant and activist based in Ramallah, Palestine, passed away on Sunday 2nd July 2017, four days after undergoing open heart surgery for a condition that had left him increasingly debilitated and frail. Today, Friday 7th July, he was buried in Acca (Acre), the city of his birth, and home to his mother and extended family. He was 60 years old.
Adib was a member of the staff group that worked on the two Cyprus conferences that began to address the Palestinian-Israeli relationship. His contribution was integral to the first of these. By then we in PCCA had learnt that it is not possible for a staff group to facilitate work of this sort without grappling in a deep and far-reaching way with issues and emotions, related to the conference theme, that are stirred up within themselves and played out between them as colleagues. This involves commitment, courage and emotional integrity and, as the sole Arab/Palestinian staff member in the first of these conferences, a heavy responsibility rested on Adib’s shoulders. An astute and experienced Group Relations consultant, he brought in his first-hand knowledge of the Palestinian experience – of living under occupation, in exile, or as second-class citizens in Israel. He was passionate in his commitment to the Palestinian cause and unwavering in exploring whether the most difficult aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship could be studied and addressed using the Group Relations methodology. His courage in raising challenging, difficult and uncomfortable issues was plain for all to see. Raising difficult issues, however, is never easy and there were times when Adib’s sense of urgency about the Palestinian situation led to his contributions being experienced as abrasive and unprocessed. He was aware of this and drew on his natural courteousness and charm when powerful emotions threatened to get out of hand.
Adib’s commitment to Palestine was deep. He had settled in Paris but, when we got to know him, had a second home in East Jerusalem. In recent years he moved to Ramallah to relocate himself more fully at the heart of Palestinian life and, to some extent, beyond the reach of Israeli officialdom. He continued to travel to Paris occasionally for work commitments. He was a strong advocate of the BDS (Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions) campaign, seeing it as the only realistic, non-violent way of countering the intransigence of Israeli authorities in their dealings with matters Palestinian. For him, this included an awareness of the dangers of “normalisation” – Palestinians’ increasing unease that ordinary contact with Israelis might, inadvertently, serve to legitimise their continuing oppression at the hands of the Israeli state. He saw the latter as part of an on-going Nakbah that Palestinians had no choice but to resist. However, he continued to believe that the boycott should not preclude attempts to face up to and address the most difficult issues between Palestinians and Israelis in a direct and honest way. Thus, he remained involved with PCCA. He arrived to take up his position on the staff at the second Palestinian conference with a chest infection that he hoped medication would clear. Though ailing, he participated in the emotionally demanding staff work of the pre-conference, but as the conference itself got under way his condition deteriorated and he was hospitalised, where he remained until after the end of the conference. Adib believed that powerful anti-Palestinian hostility was unconsciously mobilised, and enacted, in this conference, and that this contributed to the deterioration in his condition. He saw the irony in that it was this hospitalisation that first brought his underlying cardiac condition to light.
When we first met Adib would dress entirely in black. This, he explained, was not a fashion choice; rather, he was in mourning following the death to cancer of his sister, Lamis – a respected Group Relations consultant in her own right. In his first PCCA conference, Adib rediscovered some his joie de vivre when he partied late into the night with members, including many of the younger Palestinians. The following morning he took mischievous delight in teasing his fellow staff members for their inability to let their hair down and dance. He was in his element when able to work with the Palestinians in that conference in their mother tongue. Perhaps in this way he felt that he was bringing to life a piece of work that Lamis herself might have relished had her life not been so cruelly curtailed.
For the past two years or so Adib has been part of a working group exploring whether and, if so, how PCCA’s work with Palestinians might be taken forward. During this time his health gradually deteriorated and his increasing debility became more apparent. Sometimes he could not summon up the energy for a Skype meeting, at other times sleep would overtake him and he would miss a meeting altogether. It gradually became clear that he had no option but to travel to Paris for the radical surgery that was his only hope. Well aware of the risks involved in the “open, too open, heart surgery”, he faced this with characteristic courage and determination. In his last email to us he wrote, “I pray to Allah to accompany me through this path with daily exams at hospital, with little energy. Still I’m determined to get over it, with a stronger and healthier heart, since my mission on this planet is not over yet and there is much needed for me to do in Palestine and the world for a better life and learning for all”.
Whilst in Paris for treatment Adib learned of the death in Amman of his much-loved maternal uncle, Ghazi al-Saa’di, “a great freedom fighter, a well known Palestinian journalist, [and] writer on [the] Palestinian-Israeli conflict”. It pained him that, on account of his medical condition, he could not attend the funeral and thus had to endure his grief alone, away from his loved ones. Today, it is we who mourn the loss of a fighter for freedom who carried within him the scars of Palestinian dispossession and oppression, and who believed that by confronting this injustice honestly and with integrity it is possible to create a world in which human rights, understanding and respect for human dignity can prevail.
We have lost an intelligent, passionate and courageous friend and colleague. May he finally rest in peace. Adib was unique and he is quite simply irreplaceable. Yet, we who mourn him owe it to his memory to try to take forward what he referred to as his incomplete mission. May we find the strength and courage to do so.
Partners in Confronting Collective Atrocities (PCCA)
Friday 7th July 2017.