Albert Russo
"Art is but a moment of happiness, it is like a lightning of bliss cleaving the never-ending horrors of our world."

Let there be peace for goodness sake

Letter to a friend, after the Paris January 2015 massacres

I shall start with an African anecdote, for as you know, I was born and raised in Central Africa and also haved lived in the southern part of that continent, which is very close to my heart.

I thought this article ‘Tu seras Juif, mon fils’, which is the story of a Congolese Christian who, with the blessings of his family, has converted to Judaism, might interest you, knowing that there are about 170,000 Ethiopian Jews living in Israel, as well as tens of thousands of African-Americans who claim they belong to one of the lost Hebrew tribes (also considered as Israeli citizens).  Of course, there are racists everywhere, even in Israel, where some Ashkenazi (of East European origin) look down on Sephardim (southern Europeans, or Jews, formerly living in North Africa and in the Arab Middle East), and the same goes for African and other Jews.  But in the whole, it is a much more open country than most – and here I refer to our so-called developed Western societies.  I am witness to this, since I’ve been at least a dozen times to Israel and to Palestine (the West Bank – my last visit there was in Novembre 2011).

Next June B and I will spend 3 weeks in Israel and we shall attend, among two other congresses, a world LGBT interracial and interreligious conference.  Tel Aviv, is by far the most gay-friendly city in the world, more so than New York City, San Francisco, Paris or London, since there are no specific gay districts there, gays and transgender individuals (men, women or vice-versa) are everywhere, they hold hands and even kiss openly in broad daylight, and that is considered ‘normal’, except, of course, by that small margin of Jewish fanatics (some of whom don’t even recognize the State of Israel, since they are still waiting for the Messiah) – who mumble their inanities, since the Tel Aviv population would send them reeling on the pavement, if they dared voice their homophobia too loudly.

Israel, an apartheid country?  Let me laugh, and that is being repeated in Western universities, including in North America, and even in South Africa, during that infamous Durban gathering a few years ago (where of course, the Muslim countries were in majority).  Either they don’t know what real apartheid means (in the case of those South Africans who equated Zionism with racism, especially the small Muslim minority, they know everything about apartheid, but nothing about Israel, or else they wouldn’t express such inanities) – I do, since I’ve lived in South Africa and one of my novels was banned there – or they are just blatantly antisemitic.

Who are those so-called professors in the West who teach that kind of nonsense?  And what’s all this about BDS – boycotting Israeli goods?  If they want to do that, they will have to stop using cell phones, computers, drop-by-drop water irrigation, desalination factories, social network apps, etc. – since the heart of these products are either Israeli-made or conceived by Israeli scientists -, dozens of high-tech Israeli inventions applied the world over, as well as a myriad generic medicines (Teva which is an Israeli firm and the largest pharmaceutical producer in the world, benefits millions of poor patients in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America and elsewhere).

Palestine: Yes they should definitely – the earlier the better – get their country all right, but why did they refuse it when the UN offered it to them in 1947, and hoping to throw the Jews, most of whom were skin and bones, returning from concentration camps, to the sea, aided as they were by 5 much better armed Arab countries?

And yes, the Netanyahu regime should stop building Jewish settlements in the West Bank.  What are you aiming at by acting like this, Netanyahu, adding provocation to provocation?  You’re supposed to be an intelligent man. I believe that both Israel and Palestine deserve much better leaders, like Mandela or Gandhi, not like you or Mahmud Abbas who consorts with Hamas, which is a terrorist organization and which he, Abbas, abhors. Just to spite Israel?  Arab solidarity is wonderful: Shia and Sunni hate each other’s guts, cut each other’s throats, bomb each other’s mosques, but they are all united in the hatred of Israel … and of us, the Infidels of the world.

Refugees: yes let‘s talk about them.  How did the oil-rich Arabs, who urged the ‘Palestinians‘ (that term didn’t exist in 1947) to flee their territory, treat them?  And how do they still treat them today, kicking them out of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the Emirates, or keeping them in slavish conditions in the Lebanese, Syrian and Iraki camps, massacring thousands of them during that infamous Black September in Jordan?  Yes, where is that Arab solidarity?  Does Israel have to pay for all the cruelty inflicted upon them by their Arab ‘brethern’?  And why at the UN, where there are about 55 Muslim countries, doesn’t the Secretary Generalman, don’t be so scared to tell the truth, lest I consider you a weakling and a terrible hypocritnever ever mention the million Jewish refugees – yes one million, that is correct, who lived in the Arab lands, in Iran and, generally, in what was then called Mesopotamia – many of these having resided there for over 3000 years, long, long before Islam was imposed as the ‘master’ religion in that area.  These Jews who worked there, and raised their families, owned a flat or a shop, had to leave their ancestral homes with only their clothes on, and maybe some family jewels.

This all started with Nasser, the Egyptian raïs who expelled them, along with thousands of foreigners, making Egypt, which was so colorful, so cosmopolitan, the poorer for it, and I don’t just mean economically, but more importantly, culturally and humanely.  
The same now applies to the Christians of the Middle East, not to mention the 10 million-odd Copts (Christians too) who are the original people of Egypt – and who now live, afraid of having their churches burnt down by Islamic fanatics.  The same too goes for the millions of Berbers who live in the Maghreb countries and who are considered second class citizens, when they were there long before the Arab invasion, and who had to convert to Islam by force, or else …

God won’t bless Great Britain (the former mandatory power in Palestine) for having sent back to Europe entire boatloads with sick and starving Jews, (does that god really exist?) nor will he forgive Roosevelt and the other allies who knew what was happening in these concentration camps and refused to admit it publicly, closing their borders to these ‘Jesus killers’, – who ever complains about the ancient Romans who invented crucifixion? – when America was and always is a land of immigrants, safe for the Africans who were forced onto its shores, and used as slaves, at least those who survived the journeys, journeys not even fit for domestic animals.

But lo and behold, those little Jews won that first war of Independence in 1948.  Yet, many Arabs and backward regimes like Iran, still wish nowadays to eliminate them.  Why, after the Israeli army had demolished all the ‘illegal’ Jewish hamlets, brutalizing people of their own religion, in Gaza, did the Hamas, instead of offering peace to their citizens, keep sending bombs to southern Israel for 15 years?   They went on with this policy, launching their Iranian-made rockets from schools, mosques, private apartments and even from UN centers (yes, there are some accomplices among those UN workers).  Then Israel defended itself (like any ‘normal’ country would), and they are treated in the Western media – not to mention the Arab press where journalists aren’t allowed to criticise their countries but where they can publicize such books as Mein Kampf or the infamous Protocols which is a total fraud, the original being a French book directed to French politicians, not to the Jews, but which a Russian antisemite rewrote completely) as the killers of children.  Just listen to that arrogant Erdogan, the leader of present day Turkey, an inveterate antisemite, who is imposing his Islamic thinking to his people, a people with a fabulously rich culture, and who still refuses to recognize the Armenian genocide, treating, what’s more, the millions of Turkish Kurds as enemies, oh pleeez.  How can one deal with such people?

Poor Muslims around the world, they are being slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands by those barbaric Islamists, the very same Islamists of Gaza who want to erase the land of the Jews from the map – a tiny strip smaller than Maryland or Belgium – , helped as they are by Iran, which, as everyone knows is such a fantastic democracy, flogging women, emprisoning and torturing journalists and gays – didn’t the former ratty president tell a Columbia University assembly that there were no gays in his country, that homosexuality was a Western disease?
Well, well well, I’ve been to Morocco, to Tunisia and to Turkey many times – these are really very beautiful countries, with so much history and extraordinary Islamic art, with such succulent food too, and where I was welcomed in the most friendly manner -, I can assure you though that there are more homosexuals there in percentage than in the West – and these countries have a very long tradition in buggering – , only they are not allowed to come out, for fear of being tortured, emprisoned, or worse.

The enlightened Muslims – and I know a few of them: writers, artists, historians, essayists, Imams, like the one in Dreux, or just plain good folk I meet here every day – don’t dare voice their opinions and when they do, they get death threats, some even need bodyguards, like Salman Rushdie years ago.  I’ve heard Algerian and Tunisian women authors at several writers’ conferences here in France claim that the Koran is their fiercest enemy.  I am an agnostic, so I can’t prove that, still, I own about 15 Bibles in five languages and of all denominations, including the Hebrew Torah, which gave the Western world the very first set of moral laws (I refer to the Ten Commandments, knowing full well that homosexuals and other so-called ‘deviants’ were doomed to hell), and also a copy of the Koran in English, as well as a biography of Prophet Muhammad, written by a Pakistani scholar.

One thing I can’t repeat enough is that my Congolese, Rwandan and Burundian brothers and sisters (who are mainly Animistic-Christians) have always, in their great majority, been pro-Jewish and pro-Israel.  They will never forget (or forgive – reread that passage in my own novel MIXED BLOOD, based on facts) that at the end of the 19th century the Arabs enslaved, tortured and killed them by the millions (and still do, now, by the thousands, in West Africa; see Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Sudan, etc).

By the way, the honest and efficient governor of Katanga nowadays is of mixed blood – the son of a Black Congolese mother and an Italian Jewish father -, and under his administration, Katanga’s main city, Lubumbashi (formerly Elisabethville), is much cleaner and better organized than the capital, Kinshasa.  I get regular reports from my friends there.  You may also not be aware of this detail, of which I am very proud: the young students of Lubumbashi University are studying my ‘African Quatuor’, as well as my anti-apartheid novel, in Literature and … in History classes.

Did you know that in ‘quaint’ Zanzibar (part of Tanzania) 4 million Black slaves were chained (hailing mainly from Congo and East Africa) and sent to Arabia in dhows under the most inhumane conditions – at least those who were not tortured, raped or killed.

So, let American, European and African historians do their job properly and write new scholarly books, not based on ideology, politics or demagoguery;  they should stop lying by omission (specially on the Old Continent, because they do not want to ‘offend’ the 50 million Muslim voters) and only mention the atrocious European slavery – no excuse whatsover for that horror.  I have a few excellent studies on slavery worldwide, anyone who is curious or intelligent enough can learn all the facts.  I invite you, dear A, to read such books, there is one in particular, in French, that won a History prize a few years ago and it is a blockbuster (in size, and what’s more, it is incredibly well documented); its title is Traites négrières  by Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau, and among so many others,  Le génocide voilé, by Tidiane N’Diaye.

Thank goodness, Jews and Israel are more and more appreciated by many peoples around the world, in America, in India (mainly by Hindus, and Christians), in China, in all the other nations of Asia where Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Zoroastrians, etc., live, but also by my dear friends from Christian-Animistic Africa.

Yes, there are also some wonderful Muslims who are good to Jews, and God / god (again, does he really exist?) bless them.  Take the case of that Malian hero who saved several shoppers in the cold room of that Parisian kosher supermarket, while Coubaly was gunning down people in the front store for the sole reason that they were Jewish.

You sometimes blame me for being too general, but sometimes, dear A, one has to be specific, and the Italian saying Tutto mondo è paese, which means ‘People are the same all over’, is simply untrue.  Compare Saudi Arabia, ally of the West (???), to the US and the UE, even with all the latter’s defects and misgivings.  Same people, same mores, same civilisation??????  Come on.  There are constructive civilisations (with warts and all, and let it be known that I do hate ultra-capitalism, but this is another story) and destructive ones.  There are civilisations that believe in Life’s worth, and those that sacralize death.

A, I have a few good friends on all the five continents, but you are one of my closest and dearest, and at times I have to open up to you, like in this instance, after the terrible massacres perpetrated here in Paris by the most ignominious and racist criminals of this century.  Since then, I can only sleep a few hours at night, no, not at night, after 8 am only.

PS: I urge you to read or reread that small (by its size) book, entitled ADDRESS UNKNOW, which Kressmann Taylor wrote in 1938.  It shows you how two lifelong friends, one, an American Jew, and the other, a German Christian, became enemies, the latter espousing the horrendous Nazi ideology.  This can be compared to some cases of Jewish and Muslim friends in this century, specially after the birth of Israel.

To round off this piece, I would like to raise two other problems, even though I have already mentioned them in earlier essays, but since some people seem to have a very short memory, I deem it necessary to repeat them.

Apartheid demonstrations against Israel: What country in the world welcomes the wounded and critically ill people from enemy countries which promise to erase it from the map of the earth (Syria, Gaza and other Arab nations) into its hospitals?  Like those of Naharia, Ashkelon – which is regularly hit by Hamas rockets launched from Gaza – , as well as in Israel‘s major hospitals?  These sick and seriously wounded people, adults and children alike, are treated gratis (exactly, they don’t pay a cent, since most of them cross the borders, from the north, from the south and from the east, where Israelis are on a constant alert of getting bombed out, with just their clothes on and their  terrible wounds).  Not only do they get free medical treatment, but they are kept in the same rooms and the same  ambulatories as any  other Israeli patient – so much said for apartheid.  And do you know that the sister of the Hamas leader who wants to eliminate the country of Israel and urges his henchmen to kill all the Jews of the world – this is written in the Hamas charter, black on white, reread it, for goodness sake, before you believe the ‘do-gooders‘ who call Israel an apartheid country – was also treated in an Israeli hospital.  Why would he even allow his sister to be cured in that hated country, which on the maps of Palestinian schoolbooks DOESN’T EVEN EXIST – since the map shows a Palestinian State that extends from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river and down to the Red Sea?  Unlike others who brag about their humanitarian gestures, Israel remains mum.  No propaganda, no praise requested.  Well, I blame Israel for being so ‘humble‘ about it all, inasmuch as the ‘enemies’ who are cured and return to their countries never dare say where they got well, for fear of being treated as traitors.  The same goes for the homosexuals (hated by their own families and by the Islamic authorities who would kill them) who flee Palestine and take refuge in Israel.

Arab Israelis: So, the Israelis chased all the Palestinians away in 1948?  Another blatant lie.  Some were indeed expelled, but many others were invited by the 5 belligerent Arab countries to leave the their birth place and to return after all the Jews would be thrown into the sea.  How come then that 20% of Israel’s citizens are Arabs, or about 1,7 million people?  Where did they land from, the skies?  It is true however that  many are treated as second class citizens, just as in France, the UK, the US, Germany and now even in Scandinavia, or, for that matter, in post-apartheid South Africa (ask what the millions of Zimbabwean and Congolese refugees think of the way the local population treats them – much much worse than the Israeli Arabs, there is NO comparison), yet there are also many who hold important positions in Israel’s economy, in the social services and in politics – they have their own parties at the Knesset.  When you ask the Arab Israelis whether they would prefer to emigrate to an other Arab country or to a future Palestine, the majority say a resounding NEVER. for in Israel, they are free to voice their complaints, attack their government verbally, without any fear of being sentenced to prison or to death as they are in the surrounding Arab countries.  Again, so much said for apartheid in Israel.

I have just finished reading an extraordinary epic of about 1000 pages, written by a French couple, Sonia and Alexandre Poussin, entitled AFRICA TREK (2 large volumes), in which they recount their 3-year journey, just with their clothes on and a backpack each, walking from Cape Town, at the southern tip of the Black Continent, to Tiberias, in the north of Israel.  This is not only the story of their encounters with hundreds of individuals of all religions and colors, but it is also a fantastic anthropological study of the peoples they met, of their traditional customs and of their way of life today, in the age of Internet, cell phones, tablets and computers.

The last chapter of their book deals with the land itself, its very long history, dating back thousands of years, its geography (so very small compared to all the surrounding nations, except for Lebanon and the Palestinian territories), its nature, and with the individuals they met in Israel: Jews, Arabs and people hailing from the four corners of the world.  Apart from the fact that their experience in Israel and the West Bank coincides with almost everything I wrote above, I have learned, thanks to some of their African-American hosts, the so-called Black Hebrews, that the latter started settling in Israel 40 years ago, and that they feel  more welcome and appreciated there than in their former homeland, the USA.  They benefit from a special status which allows them to be Israeli citizens, enjoying free health care and free education.  Even though they constitute a small minority, compared to the Ethiopian population, they are admired by Jews of every stripe, for their strong faith, their resilience against all odds – the (ultra) religious authorities, for which I don’t have much admiration myself, being, I repeat, an agnostic, still have to recognize them as real Jews -, as well as for their success in the fields of finance, medicine, high-tech and science, in general.  They don’t wish to go back to their birthplace in America, save maybe for a visit, for they claim that Israel is their ancestral land, and that they are much less discriminated against and happier here.

Every day comes with another horror committed by Islamic terrorists, when it isn’t in Copenhagen or in any of our five continents, the latest being the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians (the original inhabitants of Egypt: they were there centuries before the Arabs invaded their space, as were the clear-eyed Berbers in North Africa), and the thousands of other Christians and Animistic folk in Africa and in the Middle-East, who continue to be persecuted, tortured, maimed, killed, or else captured to become sexual slaves.  Even if I wrote this before, I still believe I should repeat it, for those who pretend to be deaf – A bon entendeur, salut, so say the French.

Why, but why don’t people in the West and elsewhere, in the rising democracies, demonstrate to show their solidarity and their compassion with these victims’ families, and instead flaunt their contempt for Israel, regularly, week after week, month after month?  Why?  I’ll tell you why: jealousy, ignorance and millenia of antisemitism.  Some ‘closet’Jew haters, even among the most educated people (specially in Europe, but also in the Americas – see my reference to University campuses, where you would expect more equanimity), claim that they are not racists.  I claim, on the other hand, that even if they aren’t aware of it (let’s face it, some of these ‘luminaries’ are in very bad faith and  know in their heart of hearts that they cannot and will never be able or want to accept Jews), it is written in their DNA, like some kind of undetectable disease – of course, you can differ on this, for I am no scientist, nor do I have any medical qualification to prove it.

Let me remind you though that Jews are usually a very hard-working lot, that they excel in science, in medicine and in high-tech, and that, furthermore, they have the largest number of Nobel Prizes of any ethnic group, that thanks to their contribution in all these areas, the world is better off, but it is not politically correct to admit such a fact.  This being said, there are also some Jewish crooks, liars and extremists, as in any other society.  “Nobody’s perfect”, as an actor said at the very end of the delectable and hilarious film Some like it hot, featuring Marylin Monroe, who in real life was terribly vulnerable and unhappy.

By the way, I read the other day that 700 British intellectuals, writers, artists and performers want to boycott Israel, among them a few  Jews.  Please read above what I think of BDS and decide for yourself.

Ah, a last remark I hear from ‘closet’ antisemites – you know the ones who have Jewish friends but are always prompt to point out the latter’s ‘bad’ sides: «Some of your own Israeli journalists call Israel an apartheid country.»  Yes, indeed, you hear that too.  I, for one think these journalists talk bunk, but like Voltaire, and this is true in Israel, I say:

«I don’t agree with you one bit, but you have all the right in the world to voice your opinion

About the Author
Albert Russo who has published worldwide over 85 books of poetry, fiction and essays (35) and photography (50), in both English and French, his two mother tongues, and sometimes in Italian, (Italian being his 'paternal' tongue) - he also speaks Spanish and German and still has notions of Swahili -, is the recipient of many awards,such as The New York Poetry Forum and Amelia (CA) Awards, The American Society of Writers Fiction Award, The British Diversity Short Story Award, The AZsacra International Poetry Award (Taj Mahal Review - US$ 500), the Books & Authors Award, several Writer’s Digest poetry and fiction Awards (winner and finalist), aquillrelle Awards, the Prix Colette and the Prix de la Liberté, among others. His work has been translated into about 15 languages in 25 countries, on the five continents. He has co-published Gaytude with Adam Donaldson Powell, which won Best Gay Book in the USA. Albert Russo’s major books are the AFRICAN QUATUOR (AQ), his memoir CALL ME CHAMELEON (CMC), his humorous ZAPINETTE Series (Zapy), GOSH ZAPINETTE, the first ever series of global Jewish humor, his books of stories and of poetry encompassing 40 years of writing, entitled: THE CROWDED WORLD OF SOLITUDE, vol. 1 -CWS1 (the stories and essays) and THE CROWDED WORLD OF SOLITUDE, vol. 2 (the poems) CWS2 + the two big books dedicated to his beloved mother Sarah Russo (SR) + about 50 books of photos. His definitive biography penned by the Norwegian African-American writer, poet and artist Adam Donaldson Powell, UNDER THE SHIRTTAILS OF ALBERT RUSSO was released by l’Aleph (November 2017), Wisehouse Publishing. A humanist with roots in Central, Southern Africa, and the Mediterranean, he has been acclaimed by James Baldwin, Edmund White, Martin Tucker, Douglas Parmee of Oxford University, Joseph Kessel, Pierre Emmanuel, both of the Académie Française, among many other literary authorities, as well as by his African peers, Chinua Achebe among them. Albert Russo was also a member of the 1996 jury for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature which often leads to the Nobel Prize of Literature. Latest Prize: Best 2013 Unicef Short Story award in defense of childhood worldwide, for Revenge by proxy / Vengeance par procuration.  His 50-odd books of photography have garnered awards in the USA, UK, Russia, France, etc. Some of his work has been exhibited in the Louvre Museum, at the Espace Pierre Cardin, both in Paris, in Times Square, New York, at the Museum of Photography in Lausanne, Switzerland, in Art Berlin, in Tokyo, in Moscow, etc. The former Mayor of the Big Apple, Mr Bloomberg, has lauded his two photo books on Paris and New York. Some of his novels and memoirs have also been filmed in English, with videos 90 and 100 minutes long. Latest award: I have just received the following award. "Dear Albert, It is with great pleasure to announce that you have been selected as a Book Excellence Award Finalist for the following book: 'GOSH ZAPINETTE! the first ever series of global humor’ (770 pages). There were hundreds of entries from around the world and 'GOSH ZAPINETTE! the first ever series of global humor' was selected for its high-quality writing, design and market appeal. Congratulations. The Book Excellence Award Committee.” The Book Excellence Awards Advantage. More than just an awards competition, the Book Excellence Awards provides authors and publishers with extended support and resources on topics such as publishing, marketing, writing, publicity and social media. The Book Excellence Awards is a smart investment on your publishing journey and the results and benefits will last a lifetime! Literary website: - "Art is but a moment of happiness, it is like a lightning of bliss cleaving the never-ending horrors of our world." Albert Russo “Inspiration is like delicious food that your taste buds remember, or a perfume you have long forgotten and whose whiff suddenly brushes your nostrils again, giving you pangs of nostalgia.” Albert Russo
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