Art Manifestation ‘On Friendship/(Collateral Damage) III – The Third GaLUT: Baghdad, Jerusalem, Amsterdam’ ~ The Guest Becomes Host

Joseph Sassoon Semah shares his lost rich Jewish Babylonian cultural heritage through art, performances and debates. He asks the public to review their own art, culture, traditions and identity.
The manifestation takes place mainly in 36 different public locations in Amsterdam, from September 7th – January 19th 2020.

Stichting Metropool Internationale Kunstprojecten
Curator: Linda Bouws.

On Friendship/(Collateral Damage) III – The Third GaLUT: Baghdad, Jerusalem, Amsterdam is an aesthetic and poetic research into the cities Baghdad, Jerusalem and Amsterdam, which has been conceived by artist Joseph Sassoon Semah and curated by Linda Bouws (Metropool International Art Projects). All these cities are said to have been tolerant at some time in their history, but how does that relate to ‘otherness’ and what does it mean today? The project focuses on two lines of thought. The first is what Semah called ‘The Third GaLUT’, the third Exile, a metaphor for disconnectedness.
The second is ‘The Guest’, he who is allowed to live and work in a foreign context tests his surroundings the very moment he articulates his particular position in exile without any reservations.
The Guest becomes Host. By this process Semah investigates one of the greatest achievements of human civilisation: hospitality. Joseph Sassoon Semah translates his cultural and visual heritage and its subtext into contemporary art. While doing so he reassesses and redefines lost heritages.
The project will translate the cultural heritage of Baghdad, Jerusalem, and Amsterdam, with the help of the different ‘Guests’, into a meaningful experience for a broad audience.

In On Friendship/(Collateral Damage) III – The Third GaLUT: Baghdad, Jerusalem, Amsterdam, Joseph Sassoon Semah shares his lost rich Jewish Babylonian cultural heritage and asks the public to review their own art, culture, traditions and identity. This will take place mainly in 36 public locations
in Amsterdam.

There will be new pieces of art, performances, debates, lectures, round-table discussions, video-interviews, a publication in English, articles on diverse platforms, a research – and a video-report.

Simultaneously in Amsterdam, Baghdad and Jerusalem a small house will be built: MaKOM in MaKOM. The project will translate the cultural heritage of Baghdad, Jerusalem and Amsterdam, with the help of different ‘Guests’, into a meaningful experience for a broad audience.

Artist Joseph Sassoon Semah
Artist Joseph Sassoon Semah was born in Baghdad (Iraq, 1948), as one of the last of a Babylonian Jewish family lineage, the grandson of Chief Rabbi Hacham Sassoon Kadoori (1885-1971). Kadoori was the head of the Babylonian Jewish community and preached of peace between Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Baghdad once was one of the most diverse an tolerant cities in the world. The Babylonian Jews in Iraq were one of the oldest and historically seen, the most important Jewish community. The Talmud Bavli was compiled in Babylon and during the British mandate in the 1920s, the well-educated Jews played an important role in public life. But from 1948, the year of independence for Israel, life for Jews in Iraq becomes extremely difficult.

Between 1950-1952, 120.000 – 130.000 Iraqi Jews were transported to Israel. The displaced Baghdadi Jews were forced to leave behind their culture and possessions in Iraq. Semah, together with his parents was displaced to the State of Israel in 1950. His grandfather Hacham Sassoon Kadoori refused to leave Iraq and stayed in Bagdhad until his death. His experiences in the Six Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973) resulted in Joseph Sassoon Semah deciding to leave Israel: in this context he calls this a self-imposed exile.
As a Babylonian Jew who emigrated to the West (Amsterdam), he is part of GaLUT (Exile), an endless cycle of diaspora and return. You long for your country of birth and search for a way to relate to your cultural heritage and traditions. Heritage reminds us of our history.

On Friendship/(Collateral Damage) III – The Third GaLUT: Baghdad, Jerusalem, Amsterdam 
For this project Joseph Sassoon Semah designs a new series of drawings and scale-sized architectural models of houses, cultural institutions, synagogues and Jewish burial places in Baghdad from before 1948, that refer to their rich history.
At all 36 locations there will be an architectural art-model on show for at least a month, and activities will be organised with the partners.

On Friendship/(Collateral Damage) III – The Third GaLUT: Baghdad, Jerusalem, Amsterdam was realised in part with the support of AFK, BPD Cultuurfonds, Lumen Travo Gallery, Mondriaan Fonds and Redstone Natuursteen & Projecten.

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On Friendship/(Collateral Damage) III – The Third GaLUT: Baghdad, Jerusalem, Amsterdam will take place in 36 places:

1. Location: Lumen Travo Gallery, Lijnbaansgracht 314, Amsterdam
Date: 7 September – 12 October 2019
Exhibition, performance and meetings, opening 7 September, 17.00 hrs.
On Saturday 7 September at 5 pm: opening of On Friendship / (Collateral Damage) III – The Third GaLUT: Baghdad, Jerusalem, Amsterdam.
Performance: Joseph Sassoon Semah, Baruch Abraham, Peter Baren, Zuhal Gezik, Jom Semah.
Exhibition: drawings from the new series ‘Between Graveyard and Museum's sphere’, paintings, sculptures and a model cast in bronze of the Meir Tweig Synagogue of Hacham (Chief Rabbi) Sassoon Kadoori, who was also president of the Babylonian community in Iraq.
He lived from 1885-1971. Artist Joseph Sassoon Semah is his grandson. The model, key work of the project, will later be exhibited at other locations.
Lumen Travo Gallery, the gallery of Joseph Sassoon Semah, is the home of the entire event.
A space is also available as an information and research place and ad hoc lectures and meetings are organized for a small audience.

2. Location: Advocatenkantoor Bynkershoek, Herengracht 310, Amsterdam
Date: 9 September – 6 October 2019
Art and private meeting 24 September, 18.00 hrs.

3. Location: Goethe-Institut Amsterdam, Herengracht 470, Amsterdam
Date: 12 September – 12 October 2019
Lecture & Performance, 12 September, 20.00 hrs.

Lecture: dr. Yael Almog, Goethe Universität Frankfurt
The lecture will engage with the presentation of the East in the works of the great German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe particularly in his major work on Eastern aesthetics, the West-Östlicher Divan. In his Divan, Goethe portrays the possibility of cultural exchange through art between the East and the West. What was the meaning of this vision in Goethe’s time? How can we understand the West-östlicher Divan in light of contemporary polemics on migrants and refugees? The Israeli migration to Western Europe will be taken as a unique case study with which to examine the contemporary validity of Goethe’s vision.

Joseph Sassoon Semah, Baruch Abraham, Levent Aslan and Zuhal Gezik – Aslan Muziekschool with 6 students, Dali Heymann, Uzi Heymann, Atousa Bandeh, Peter Baren, Mikko Fritze, Jom Semah, Yvonne Strang and Els Wijnen.

Read more

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Defining Islamophobia And Its Socio-Political Applications In The Light Of The Charlie Hebdo Attacks In Paris

Ills.: UK Human Rights Blog

This study concentrates on the definition of Islamophobia based on an etymological overview of the term and application of it in political discourse in Europe, following the 2015 Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in Paris (encompassing the attacks on the magazine’s office, Jewish supermarket and police officers). Firstly, emphasizing the influential Runnymede Report on Islamophobia (1997), an extensive research on the application and definition of the term are presented. Secondly, a political discourse analyses (PDA) method is applied to official responses to the Charlie Hebdo attacks by leading politicians from twelve European countries. Results of this analytical framework are discussed in light of contemporary definitions of Islamophobia with particular attention given to the definition by Runnymede Trust. The study culminates with an elaborated discussion and presumptive solutions to the growing ambiguity and dispute concerning the phenomenon of Islamophobia and its definition.

Key words: Islamophobia, Runnymede Report, Charlie Hebdo attacks, European Union, populism

Historical perspective
The phenomenon of Islamophobia, considered as fear, dislike or prejudice against Islam and its followers, is arguably as long as Islam itself. In the contemporary world, a pivotal moment in the study of Islamophobia as a phenomenon and its definition was the publication of a report titled: Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All (Runnymede Trust, 1997, hereafter: The RT Report) by the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia, established by the Runnymede Trust. In a pioneering study the independent race, ethnic and religious equality think-tank attempted at the identification of causes and reasons for the phenomenon of Islamophobia as well as defining it. According to the Runnymede Trust, Islamophobia is: ‘… a shorthand way of referring to dread or hatred of Islam – and, therefore to fear or dislike of all or most Muslims’ (The RT Report, 1). And further: ‘the term Islamophobia refers to unfounded hostility towards Islam. It refers also to the practical consequences of such hostility in unfair discrimination against Muslim individuals and communities, and to the exclusion of Muslims from mainstream political and social affairs (ibid.; 4).’ The report reached much further than a mere identification of the terminology and consequently the definition along with its characteristics (outlined below) remain the most quoted and influential study on Islamophobia as a phenomenon and from an etymological perspective. In an attempt at breaking down the causes and reasons for the ‘hatred’, ‘hostility’ and ‘discrimination’ towards Islam the authors made an essential distinction between ‘legitimate criticism’ and ‘unfounded prejudice and hostility’ towards Muslims (The RT Report; 4). Consequently, the commission proposed closed and open views towards Islam and its believers, illustrating two essentialised approaches a non-Muslim can have towards the Islamic religion and its worshippers. ‘Phobic dread of Islam is the recurring characteristic of closed views. [While] legitimate disagreement and criticism, as also appreciation and respect, are aspects of open views’ (The RT Report; 4). Identification of the two contrastive views was based on acknowledging eight main features of each of them. The eight features of the closed/open views were recognized as: monolithic/diverse; separate/interacting; inferior/different; enemy/partner; manipulative/sincere; criticism of West rejected/considered; discrimination defended/criticized; Islamophobia seen as natural/problematic (The RT Report, p. 5). Read more

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Solutions For An Unfair World ~ Contents & Introduction: Consternation

1. The world in which we live is too complex
2. We have to bring trade under democratic control
3. Curb globalisation: a dialogue between the veritable left and the simplifying right
4. Peace in our time?
5. A president with messy moral standards

Bitter tears, bon courage
About the author & Acknowledgement & Literature


After November 8, 2016, I have occasionally thought that the governments of civilised nations should recall their ambassadors from the United States, for consultation as it is called; I’d rather say for consideration. Thus far that recall did of course not happen, but consideration is more than ever necessary. After one year it is abundantly clear that Donald Trump’s government has not left relations within the us and the rest of the world untouched.

Obviously, us citizens must set their own course, but as residents of all corners of the world we have to consider what this Trump is doing. Let me mention in this essay a few points that we have to think about. What can we still expect, what have we already seen, how did that affect us, and how can we respond appropriately?

A warning is called for, and it comes from Luigi Zingales – as his name suggests an Italian, who is a professor in the United States. Make the comparison with Berlusconi, he suggests, and deduce lessons from that. ‘Mr. Berlusconi was able to govern Italy for as long as he did mostly thanks to the incompetence of his opposition. It was so rabidly obsessed with his personality that any substantive political debate disappeared; it focused only on personal attacks, the effect of which was to increase Mr. Berlusconi’s popularity.’ (New York Times, 22.11.16)

The purpose of this essay is not to fall into that trap. The election of Trump forces us, more than anything else, to consider some fundamental issues. At the same time we should not be afraid to formulate ambitious solutions. It is still possible to build a civilised, human, just and ecologically sustainable world. We need radical proposals for that, which I would like to present here in five – in principle separately readable – chapters. Read more

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Migration And Its Discontents: Israelis In Berlin And Homeland Politics

Yael Almog Ills.: Joseph Sassoon Semah

Recent history has established Germany’s reputation as a new immigration country, facilitated by its economic boom and a relatively accommodating migration policy. An attractive destination for newcomers, Germany has surpassed many lands such as England and Canada which have long been recognized as immigration countries. Berlin in particular has drawn diverse populations of immigrants, including a considerable number of authors and artists whose works negotiate this relocation to the city. The gap between Germany’s notorious historical reputation for being hostile toward minority groups—embodied in the memories of World War II—and its attractiveness for expatriates has grown increasingly wider.

It is under these conditions that the growing community of Israelis living in Berlin has drawn attention from the German, Israeli, and global media. Israeli media and the publicist polemic have been preoccupied in recent years with the role of Israel’s living costs as a motivation for migration to Europe. In recent years, public protests in Israel have opted to shift public discussion away from its longtime focus on state security and onto the country’s increasingly high cost of living: Daily life necessities have “surpassed” the outside threat of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli violence. In Israel, the perception of Germany as an attractive destination for emigrants elicits protests against the so-called opportunism of Israeli emigrants accused of “forgetting” the crimes committed by Germany during the Holocaust in favor of the satisfaction of mundane needs.[1] Former Israeli Minister of Finance, Yair Lapid, for example, has condemned the diffidence of Israelis who leave Israel because life is “easier in Berlin.”[2] According to Lapid, relocating in Berlin, the city which embodies historic insecurity for Jews, exemplifies the renouncement of national solidarity for the sake of economic comfort.

Berlin is characterized, often dismissively, as a “bubble” by Germans and foreigners alike—a desirable location for individuals belonging to minority groups or adhering to subaltern politics. My contention is that this cultural and imaginary construct functions as a microcosm allowing for the transmission of political identities to a new, foreign realm.
By examining recent literary representations which describe Berlin as a place of residence for Israelis, this essay argues that the description of Israeli migrants “escaping” their home country misses a crucial point: During their time in Berlin, Israelis do not simply abandon, but rather relocate Israeli politics to a new setting. This displacement dispels seminal expectations of Jewish diasporic life in Germany—both the Zionist discourse on European Jewish diaspora and Germany’s hegemonic memory culture. For one, the identification of the Israeli newcomers as “oriental” is at odds with an Israeli narrative of European Jews
returning to the continent after the trauma of the Holocaust. In the following readings of contemporary literary texts, I trace how sociopolitical conflicts salient to contemporary Israeli society—in particular, tensions between ethnic groups of Jewish Israelis—are negotiated through the act of travelling to Berlin or residing in the city. I follow how these conflicts are reformulated in a vocabulary pertaining to German memory culture and to German-Jewish encounters. Read more

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Being Human: Relationships And You ~ A Social Psychological Analysis – Preface & Contents

This book represents a new look at social psychology and relationships for the discerning reader and university student. The title of the book argues forcefully that the very nature of being human is defined by our relationships with others, our lovers, family, and our functional or dysfunctional interactions.

Written in easy to follow logical progression the volume covers all major topical areas of social psychology, with results of empirical research of the most recent years included. A common project between American and European social psychologists the book seeks to build a bridge between research findings in both regions of the world. In doing so the interpretations of the research takes a critical stand toward dysfunction in modern societies, and in particular the consequences of endless war and repression.

Including topics as varied as an overview of the theoretical domains of social psychology and recent research on morality, justice and the law, the book promises a stimulating introduction to contemporary views of what it means to be human.
A major emphasis of the book is the effect of culture in all major topical areas of social psychology including conceptions of the self, attraction, relationships and love, social cognition, attitude formation and behavior, influences of group membership, social influence, persuasion, hostile images, aggression and altruism, and moral behavior.

Table of contents

1. The Theoretical Domain and Methods of Social Psychology
2. Cultural and Social Dimensions of the Self
3. Attraction and Relationships: The Journey from Initial Attachments to Romantic Love
4. Social Cognition: How We Think about the Social World
5. Attitude Formation and Behavior
6. The Influences of Group Membership
7. Processes of Social Influence: Conformity, Compliance and Obedience
8. Persuasion
9. Hostile Inter-group Behavior: Prejudice, Stereotypes, and Discrimination
10. Aggression: The Common Thread of Humanity
11. Altruism and Prosocial Behavior
12. Morality: Competition, Justice and Cooperation

ISBN 978 90 5170 994 0 – NUR 770 – Rozenberg Publishers – 2008

“Therefore this reading has a rare and valuable feature, that of making a link between American and European social psychology: “Being human: Relationships and you” is an excellent example of how the two lines of thought are actually articulated…it is clearly written, using a professional yet assessable language and therefore easy to read by even the non-specialist public…always pointing to the fact that social psychology is not “just a science” but it deals with issues that constitute the substance of our existence as humans”.

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Mati Shemoelof ~ …reisst die Mauern ein zwischen ‘uns’ und ‘ihnen’

Ills. Joseph Sassoon Semah

Onlangs verscheen van dichter, auteur, uitgever, en bekende stem in de Arabisch-joodse Mizrahi-Beweging Mati Shemoelof …reisst die Mauern ein zwischen ‘uns’ und ‘ihnen’. Tekst en gedichten wisselen elkaar af.

Het heeft Mati Shemolof enige tijd gekost om te begrijpen dat de geschiedenis van zijn familie uit de geschiedenisboeken is verwijderd en in de Israëlische samenleving is gemarginaliseerd. Je komt in een soort van diaspora terecht als je van Arabische afkomst bent, terwijl Israël een thuis zou moeten zijn voor joden die naar een joodse staat emigreerden, aldus Shemoelof. Hij nam in 2007 dan ook het initiatief om Echoing Identies: Young Mizrahi Anthology uit te geven met teksten van de derde generatie Mizrachi. Door al zijn ervaringen is Mati Shemoelof zich bewust geworden van de diaspora van anderen, of het nu Syriërs zijn in Berlijn, Afghanen, Libiërs of Oost-Europeanen; maar vooral de diaspora van de Palestijnen uit de periode 1948 en 1967 raakt hem.

Shemoelof’s Perzische grootvader werd in het begin van de 20e eeuw gedwongen uit Mashhad (Iran) naar Haifa te emigreren, dat toen nog bij Palestina hoorde. Haifa van voor 1948 was een moderne stad, waar verschillende culturen vreedzaam naast elkaar leefden, waar zijn opa goed zaken kon doen en vrij was. Maar deze Palestijnse geschiedenis van Haifa is niet meer bekend.

De geschiedenis van zijn moeder is kenmerkend voor een familie van Mizrachim, voor joden met een Arabische cultuur en taal. Ze waren goed geïntegreerd in Irak en over het algemeen seculier. Zij werden echter in 1951 gedwongen van Bagdad naar Israël te emigreren, net als zo’n 120.000 andere Iraakse-joodse burgers, met achterlating van al hun bezit. Dat was onderdeel van de deal tussen Irak en Israël: de zionistische beweging kreeg arbeidskrachten en Irak bezit. Maar eerder had al de Farhud in Irak plaatsgevonden: op 1 en 2 juni 1941 vond een Pogrom plaats tegen joden in Bagdad, waarbij tussen de 150 en 200 doden vielen en van velen hun bezit werd afgenomen.

Nu zijn in Israël muren rondom Palestijnen, maar ook om de Arabische joden is een muur geplaatst. En toch zijn vele Mizrachi, die in armoede leven, niet solidair met de Palestijnen.
Om je te verhouden tot al die muren in Israël, in – en extern, is moeilijk en maakte Mati Shemoelof tot activist van de Mizrachi-Beweging, die strijdt voor sociale rechtvaardigheid en erkenning van identiteit. De Mizrachi-Beweging onderzoekt met name de verwantschap tussen hun identiteit en die van de Palestijnen en de Arabische wereld. Read more

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