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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco

I found Sacco's other work Palestine to be much more revealing, balanced and just better

I was thrilled to find Joe Sacco had written another graphic novel because I found Sacco's work Palestine: The Special Edition to be a revealing and balanced work that took me into one of those places that everyone has heard of but really knows nothing about.

Footnotes in Gaza focuses on a "footnote" in the 1956 Suez War in which Israel, England and France attacked Egypt and Gaza was overwhelmed by the Israeli Defense Forces. There were two civilian massacres of a combined total of 300-400 males of military age, mostly Palestinian, but there may have been a few Egyptian soldiers in civilian clothes in the mix as well.

Sacco's artwork remains stark and powerful and unique. No one portrays emotions such as anguish and fear as well as well as Sacco.

This work is rambling, nearly 100 more pages than the book "Palestine." It includes dozens of direct quotes, which are laudable, but often repetitious.

A self portrait of Joe Sacco
Sacco has thoroughly researched this topic. He endured life-threatening situations, annoying waits and the trials and tribulations of everyday life in the Gaza strip as he conducted dozens, if not hundreds, of first person interviews with eyewitnesses to the atrocities as well as to their aftermaths. I do not doubt his methods or the veracity of his reporting.

But, I do doubt the balanced nature of this work. "Footnotes" is almost entirely focused on a pro-Palestinian view of the current events (Infitada II) and of the 1956 War. Well, to be fair there are 4 text appendices at the end and one contains an eight page interview with IDF spokespeople about why Palestinian homes are destroyed in Gaza. Surely eight pages balances 389 pages?

I think it would have been better to have included perspectives from all sides - not just the Palestinians but also the Egyptians and the IDF soldiers. I suppose their points of view will just remain "footnotes."

As an interesting aside, during the time I was reading this book I was also listening to the audiobook version P.J. O'Rourke's Peace Kills: America's Fun New Imperialism, a book that includes a section that is as entirely biased to the Israeli side as this one is to the Palestinian. Experiencing them at the same time made for an interesting dichotomy, to say the least, and made them flaws of both much more pronounced.

I rate this book 3 stars out of 5.

This graphic novel can be found on Amazon.com here: Footnotes in Gaza: A Graphic Novel 

Reviewed on October 23, 2009.

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