Joseph Rosen

Please Don’t Get Mad at Me                                                                                                         Video                                                                                                                                                       2011

Artist Statement

Hello. Would you like to come check out this project I’ve been working on? It’s about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is a difficult thing to talk about, because no matter what you say, someone gets mad. Really mad. The emotions and accusations can fly so fast and furious that I am a little scared to speak honestly.

These days, privileged people and liberals don’t think they have enemies. But they actually do. Who makes your shoes? How much do they get paid? Where do your old laptops and cell phones become toxic waste? And who used to live on the ground we’re now standing on? There are battle lines. We just don’t see them.

I grew up mostly as a white liberal privileged kid, but with a certain difference: I had enemies. I never played Cowboys and Indians; in my backyard, it was always me versus Hitler, that bastard. Sometimes I shot him, sometimes I died trying to penetrate his infamous bunker, but it was always me and him. Until my bar mitzvah: when my Hebrew teacher gave me George Jonas’ Vengeance—the book Spielberg based Munich on. All of a sudden I had a new battle before me: the Palestinians were just one more crazed and bloodthirsty people—in a long, long historical line-up—who wanted to exterminate us Jews. They were insane animals, frothing at the mouth: terrorists. They were The Enemy.

Years later, after actually meeting some real life Palestinians, I started to see that things were a little more complicated. I saw their side of the argument, and started wondering about my own perspective on things. I read, I watched lots of documentaries. Slowly, I went around to ‘the other side’: I started to see how an oppressed and desperate people might resort to suicide bombing. (Kind of like me in Hitler’s bunker.) Not that I think suicide bombing is the best idea, or that it’s working that well, but I could sort of understand it.

What? How did I get here? Am I crazy? Am I the infamous ‘self-hating Jew’?

This whole process got me wondering: how do people change their political positions… about things that really affect them? It’s difficult when you have stakes, investments, identifications.

So who do you identify with in this conflict? Why? Are you a neutral observer, or a part of this map? What are your battle lines? Do you have an enemy?

The challenge is to move from our own deeply ingrained ideologies—the stories that structure our very identities—to seeing other possibilities. How do we find other worlds?  How do we hear something from the other side: The Enemy’s side?
Come let me know what you think. And please don’t get mad at me.


Joseph Rosen is a postdoctoral fellow in Montreal at Concordia University’s Department of History & Centre for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence. Rosen’s work investigates the cultural production and deployment of collective memory in relation to contemporary sites of suffering and oppression. His dissertation, Beyond Memory: From Historical Violence to Political Alterity in Contemporary Space, developed an ethical theory of working-through traumatic cultural memory and addressed mobilizations of Holocaust memory in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ongoing research investigates the relation between cultural memory, identity and resistance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and develops curatorial strategies for creating public dialogues about the relations between historical trauma and present injustice.