Rarely -- so very rarely -- do you read something that changes your perspective on the world. While I've been a long term supporter of the Palestinian cause these past 40+ years , what Joe Sacco does in Footnotes on Gaza is confront me with the brutal front line reality -- rather than serve up what so often can be an abstraction or simply 'another news item'.
You want to understand Gaza? You want to fathom why Zionism is a racist doctrine and why Israel is a colonial settler state? Then start here with Joe Sacco's Footnotes on Gaza.
Buried deep in the archives is one bloody incident, in 1956, that left 111 Palestinians dead, shot by Israeli soldiers. Seemingly a footnote to a long history of killing, that day in Rafah—cold-blooded massacre or dreadful mistake—reveals the competing truths that have come to define an intractable war. In a quest to get to the heart of what happened, Joe Sacco immerses himself in daily life of Rafah and the neighboring town of Khan Younis, uncovering Gaza past and present. Spanning fifty years, moving fluidly between one war and the next, alive with the voices of fugitives and schoolchildren, widows and sheikhs,
The Palestinians have no other choice but to resist by any means necessary. You want to challenge that? Then go read Sacco.
The world over what happens in Palestine follows the same game plan that all colonial settler states have used to displace and destroy indigenous populations.
The word 'genocide' is a relevant usage. So too is 'state terrorism' against a whole population....
While Sacco's focus is to investigate and record the details of a massacre -- the graphic storyline keeps shifting between the now of 2003 -- and the then, almost 50 years previously. So the tangible reality of Gaza -- of how a disenfranchised and brutalized population is terrorized and cooped up is explored in almost 400 pages of superb line drawings.
In this concentration camp -- and thats' what Gaza is -- Sacco enlists the voices of those who have been sentenced to struggle day in day out, over years and decades because they have committed the insufferable crime of being Palestinian -- born on land the thieves want (and have already taken).
Footnotes on Gaza is indeed just a footnote to all that. Just another dirty incident in a long war.
But here, the intimacy of the record is almost unbearably poignant.
There are few voices of protest that can match the articulation rendered here in ink. For a 'comic' this is another level all together. I think it serves the story telling better than straight journalism because it is so dense and the episodes so rewarding...and so human.
The voices rule the story. All the so many of them.
You can hear the voices as though you are listening to Sacco's tape recorder -- You too are in the room, in the Gaza streets....amongst all that living pain and suffering...and the overriding imperative that these people have no other choice but to resist otherwise they loose all.
Edward Said, the renowned literary scholar and Palestinian rights spokesman, wrote in his foreword to Palestine (an earlier work by Sacco): "With the exception of one or two novelists and poets, no one has ever rendered this terrible state of affairs better than Joe Sacco."
An Interview with Joe Sacco