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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Challenging Work Full of Humanity
The genre/form known generically as "graphic novels" has exploded across the publishing industry over the last five years or so. While most of this is fiction, there is a rich vein of autobiography, and a few other experiments with history and biography. What Joe Sacco has been doing since well before this trend emerged, is graphic journalism. He is a foreign...
Published on 3 Dec 2009 by A. Ross

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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I love Sacco's works but this is just pure manipulative propaganda
I love Sacco's works but this is just pure manipulative propaganda.

Sacco himself says "I don't believe in objectivity".

Academic historian Meir Pail,dismissed Sacco's retelling of the incident and said "It's a big exaggeration, there was never a killing of such a degree. Nobody was murdered. I was there. I don't know of any...
Published 2 months ago by johnboy


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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Challenging Work Full of Humanity, 3 Dec 2009
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Footnotes in Gaza (Hardcover)
The genre/form known generically as "graphic novels" has exploded across the publishing industry over the last five years or so. While most of this is fiction, there is a rich vein of autobiography, and a few other experiments with history and biography. What Joe Sacco has been doing since well before this trend emerged, is graphic journalism. He is a foreign correspondent, albeit one who works in cartoon panels rather than the pure written or spoken word.

This latest book of his is his biggest and most ambitious. His first book, Palestine, came out around 15 years ago and was an astonishing look at the lives of Palestinian life in the occupied territories and back into the start of the first intifada, with flashbacks to 1948. He then spent some harrowing time in Bosnia in the mid-1990s, resulting in his books Safe Area Goradze and The Fixer, which are vividly raw look at the horrors of that conflict. In 2001, he returned to Gaza with fellow journalist Chris Hedges (War is a Force Than Gives Us Meaning), looking into a reported massacre from the time of the 1956 war that he had seen mentioned in another Noam Chomsky's The Fateful Triangle. A few lines in a U.N. Report from the era subsequently sparked his interest in another incident in Gaza, so he returned in 2003 to try and track down the truth of that incident and see what role, if any, it played in the collective memory of the town.

What results is a sprawling, complex, multifaceted work that demands attention and engagement from the reader. Broken up into short sections/chapters/scenes of a few pages, it tells the story of the 1956 Suez Crisis, the Khan Younis massacre and "incident" in nearby Rafah at the same time, and Sacco's own contemporary quest to trace survivors of both and record their oral histories, against a background Israeli army destruction of Palestinian houses along the border of Gaza. It's a challenging mix of his own observations, quotes from historical documents, eyewitness accounts, and more -- all of which combine into a sad story of how quickly time can erase the past.

Unfortunately, whether or not you find the book compelling probably depends on your existing views toward Palestinian-Israeli relations. Readers sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians will find in the book yet further evidence of past Israeli atrocities and contemporary Israeli brutality. Readers sympathetic to Israel will seize upon discrepancies in the memories of those recalling events 50 years past, the lack of an irrefutable paper trail, and Sacco's positioning the story from the Palestinian point-of-view, to dismiss the work as a smear job. Of course, neither reading is complete, and part of the whole point of the book is to demonstrate how time takes its toll objective truth.

Personally, I'm not sure what steps Sacco could have taken to placate those demanding the "Israeli side" of the two incidents: perhaps placed a newspaper ad saying "Were you involved in massacring Palestinians in Gaza in 1956? If so, please contact me so I can make your involvement a public part of the historical record." However, it does seem a little odd that he doesn't give the unit numbers or anything like that for the Israeli army forces involved. There are also one or two points in his recreation of the story where some officers and possibly foreigners take steps to mitigate the brutality, and I wished that more archival detective work had been done to try and track down these figures. It's not clear to me whether he tried and the IDF archives just didn't have that material, or what. However, ultimately, it seems pretty clear that some despicable actions were taken against unarmed civilians, including murder. It's telling to me that at the time, a few opposition members in the Knesset attempted to raise inquires into the incidents and were blocked.

Graphically, the book is another Sacco masterpiece -- from detailed facial portraits of those he interviewed, to several stunning two-page spreads of sweeping scope from a raised perspective. The ramshackle feel of the towns and refugee camps of the 1956 period stands in stark visual contrast to hustling, bustling, built-up modern Gaza. Sacco's hand-lettering isn't the easiest to read, and here it's chopped up into so many small boxes that it can be a bit of a chore to read. But this is a minor quibble for a book that is so amazingly immersive. I've lived throughout the Middle East and have been to the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel, and Sacco captures the urban and natural landscape wonderfully. The one disappointment is the cover, which is very bland and doesn't give much of a sense of the contents.

If you have any interest in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or the present-day situation in Gaza, I definitely recommend picking this up and challenging yourself to grapple with it. The format and discursive style offer a different lens on events and issues that will always be controversial. Even if you disagree with the approach or perspective, I think there's a lot of humanity display in the pages, and that alone is worth engaging with.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Footnotes in Gaza, 13 Oct 2010
This review is from: Footnotes in Gaza (Hardcover)
A well drawn, concise, informative and interesting book based on the author's observations and interviews with people who experienced key moments in the history of Israel/Palestine and who are still living with the consequences. A very accessible way to understand the events leading to the current situation in the holy land.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most methodical of Sacco's books, 30 July 2010
This review is from: Footnotes in Gaza (Hardcover)
From reading the first Sacco's graphic novel on I was truly astonished by how emotionally immersed in a situation one can feel just by looking at some drawings. For me Footnotes in Gaza was the hardest to read on account seeing the hardship people of Gaza have to endure in present and in the past and feeling the chills to the bone. Actually had to put the book down a few times to calm myself down. In that aspect Footnotes in Gaza is quite similar to Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995 but I got the feeling that the level of preparation was the highest for this book and that there was the least improvisation. A really fascinating and unique form of journalism.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Raising The Bar, 16 July 2010
This review is from: Footnotes in Gaza (Hardcover)
Joe Sacco's latest offering is by far his most accomplished. I won't lie, I am a big fan and it would have taken a huge dip in form from his previous works for me to suggest anything other than buying it and avidly reading it from cover to cover in one go but in Footnotes, you really get the feeling that you are reading the work of an author at the very top of his game.

Sacco's illustrations have really moved on from his earlier works but what remains the same is his wonderful layering of characters, lives and stories. Where he really raises the bar is his movement between the past and the present, side by side, from one frame to another. Sacco's illustrations and storyboarding have become so good, that its the pages where there is little or no proes (check out the final 3 pages of the book) where the storytelling reaches its absolute most vivid best.

If Maus has its Pulitzer, you get the feeling that on this form, Joe Sacco has one coming!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A DIFFERENT VIEW, 27 Dec 2009
By 
Mr. N. WEBLEY (WALES UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Footnotes in Gaza (Hardcover)
Joe Sacco gives stark images in black & white for his comic book story telling of the experiences of Palestinians in Gaza.Joe gathers his story by visiting Gaza to hear the stories first hand of what happened to them since the start of the Israeli state. This compares with many news stories filed from Tel Aviv using state information, with notable exceptions (Amira Hass of Haaretz & Alan Johnston of the BBC)
Joe captures the hidden story of the impact of conflict upon ordinary people and not the strategic narrative that serves state interests. This approach uncovers the injustice of the dominant narratives of democratic state versus terrorists.
The core of this book is the story of events in 1956 in Gaza. This story is no longer fresh in the memory of the people Joe meets, however it is to his credit that he manages to record those experiences left out of the official historical record. In his images you can sense the fear and powerlessness of those people facing the strength of the Israeli soldiers in scenes reminiscent of World War Two pogroms against Jews before the Holocaust.
This picture book format provides strong images and a robust narrative that for me helps to explain the rationale for behaviours in Gaza.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Joe Sacco's Masterpiece, 20 Mar 2010
By 
J A C Corbett (Blackheath, London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Footnotes in Gaza (Hardcover)
Having read all of Joe Sacco's books, I can conclude - unequivocally - that `Footnotes in Gaza' is his best.

Centred around Sacco's quest to uncover the truth around Israel's massacre of 111 civilians in the town of Rafah in 1956 (a `footnote' in his early book, `Palestine'), Sacco expertly flits between his odyssey while detailing the current, miserable fate of those living in the Gaza Strip.

In a work that details horrific inhumanity, Sacco - conversely - brings great humanity to the vilified Gazans. The book is full of dark humour and personal insights, but nor is the author one to shirk from criticising Palestinians, for example when they glory in the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq.

The artwork is stunning in its detail. My favourite set-pieces are when Sacco zooms out of a scene, as if in a film, and reveals the full devastation of Gaza in minute detail.

Overall, as a reader, one is left bristling with anger at the injustices of Israel's horrific treatment of Palestinians, but Sacco retains an even tone throughout. Indeed the most obvious comparison one can draw with contemporary Gaza is that of the Warsaw Ghetto. Sacco stops short of making that comparison himself, but anyone studied in history will surely do so.

Recalling the Holocaust nevertheless reveals the one weakness in this work. Sacco is largely unsuccessful (although how far he tried, he never tells us) in getting the Israeli perspective on the massacre. What turned the victims of one historical injustice into the perpetrators of another in barely a decade? This is the most intriguing question of Israel's abuse of Palestinians, but one he never addresses.

This, nevertheless, is an important book and deserves its place among the literary canon on Palestine. It's cartoon-journalism may be mocked in some quarters, but that is nonsense and an injustice to a style that is as memorable as even the greatest writer could conjure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing, 22 Sep 2011
This review is from: Footnotes in Gaza (Hardcover)
The historical context of the situation in Gaza seems like an unlikely source of inspiration for a piece of graphic literature, but there have been several excellent books on the subject. Joe Sacco's Palestine provided an interesting (if a trifle one sided) look at life in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, presenting the daily struggles, humiliations and frustrations of the Palestinians living in the occupied territories. He returns to familiar ground with Footnotes in Gaza, a look at the small town of Rafah on the southern tip of the Gaza Strip. In 1956 a single bloody incident saw one hundred and eleven Palestinian refugees shot dead by Israeli soldiers. Sacco sets out to examine the conflicting truths surrounding this incident by immersing himself in daily life in Rafah, and trying to clear some fairly murky waters: was it a coldblooded massacre or was it a dreadful mistake?
As someone who is fairly naive to the political and historical situation in Gaza this book was a real eye opener. To present over 50 years worth of conflict, misery, and oppression in such a way could be off putting. However Sacco has a real gift through his artwork for humanising people who have committed some grisly act either in the name of their beliefs, or through following orders. Footnotes in Gaza provides a poignant snapshot of ordinary people trapped in desperate circumstances
The events depicted in Footnotes in Gaza should resonate strongly with the people of Northern Ireland, and the aftermath of that fateful day in 1957 clearly still affects the everyday life of the people of Rafah in a way that the residents of Claudy, the Bogside or the Shankill Road may sadly find all too familiar. Sacco is open and honest about not only the information he uncovers but the sources of this information, and his methodology. He presents his findings in an unbiased fashion and is typically able to avoid editorialising.
If nothing else Sacco has proven that the comic book can have a wealth of value above and beyond being an entertainment for children or idiots. This is less a graphic novel than one of the finest pieces of historical reportage I have ever had the pleasure to read. Absolutely astonishing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not just Palestine part 2, 28 Aug 2014
By 
Neal (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Footnotes in Gaza (Hardcover)
This book is headlined as the follow-up to Joe Sacco's 1996 book, Palestine, it is and it isnt. The writing and illustration style is obviously the same, the subject is the same but much more up to date (2011).
However, he has really learnt his craft since the first book. The structure of the whole book is much better, the thinking of the presentation of the story is on another level but most of all, the illustrations are of highest quality! It makes me fall in love again with the whole concept of graphic novels when the pictures join seamlessly with the words and themes, a cross between books and movies. And maybe, we are all catching up with the authors interest in this still unfolding story, thanks Joe!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Joe Sacco on past events on the Gaza Strip, 7 Jan 2010
By 
Arthur Copus (LOndon UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Footnotes in Gaza (Hardcover)
At first buying this book you think its going to be an account of recent events ,but its more than that .It deals with events in the 1950's when the israeli Defence Force commited what can best be descibed as an atrocity visited on the inhabitants of the Gaza strip. As always a warts an all account of the situation and the near history of the place .A deseved five stars !
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5.0 out of 5 stars Footnotes in Gaza, 21 Oct 2013
This review is from: Footnotes in Gaza (Hardcover)
In the spring of 2001 war-reportage comics pioneer Joe Sacco was in the Gaza Strip with journalist Chris Hedges working on an assignment for Harper's magazine. The pair were working on chronicling how the Palestinians in the town of Khan Younis were coping during the early months of the Second Intifada against the Israeli occupation when Sacco happened to remember a reference that he had read many years earlier in Noam Chomsky's book The Fateful Triangle. The passage in question was a short quote from a United Nations report concerning a large-scale killing of civilians that had occurred in Khan Younis in 1956; Sacco and Hedges agreed that this sparsely reported incident should be included in their article if research proved it to have some validity and current resonance. They then spent a day in Khan Younis "gathering eyewitness testimony to what happened in the town in November 1956 during the Suez Canal Crisis, when Israeli forces briefly occupied the Egyptian-ruled Gaza Strip." The stark stories told to Sacco and Hedges by old men and women about their fathers and husbands being killed in their homes or lined up in the streets and shot were clearly a tragic yet vital element of the history of Khan Younis and so the events of 1956 were worked into their Harper's article.

Unfortunately, as Sacco notes in his introduction to Footnotes in Gaza, "for whatever reason, that section was cut by the magazine's editors." For Sacco such an omission, one that effectively threw the greatest ever massacre of Palestinians on Palestinian soil back into obscurity, was extremely galling. Believing that far too many historical tragedies throughout the ages have barely been awarded footnote status in the broad sweep of history - even where they contain "the seeds of grief and anger that shape present-day events" - Sacco decided that the story of Khan Younis needed to be told and so Footnotes in Gaza was born.

While in Gaza doing further research into the events in Khan Younis, Sacco learned of a similar incident which occurred at the same time, on November 12, in the neighbouring town of Rafah, where another massacre of Palestinian men and youths had taken place. Although neither massacre attracted much international comment as the Suez Crisis moved on apace, the reality of what happened in Khan Younis was at least fairly accurately recorded, whereas the events in Rafah were far less straightforward. It is for this reason that Sacco decided to divide the narrative of Footnotes in Gaza into two major, if uneven, parts, one about Khan Younis and the other, considerably longer, about Rafah.

The research that Sacco has put into Footnotes in Gaza and the determination with which he tracked down obscure documentation and initially uncooperative witnesses is hugely impressive. Sacco has succeeded not only in bringing to life two eras of the Gaza Strip but also in highlighting the lack of change as time progresses so that Gaza today is just as volatile, inhospitable and packed with refugees and the displaced as it was fifty years ago.

The stark black and white pages of Footnotes in Gaza, pages filled with face after face locked in the agony of remembrance, reflects with unflinching accuracy the atmosphere of hatred that gripped the Gaza Strip in 1956. The Israeli commanders were loath to recognise the plight of the Palestinian refugees, although in early 1956 the Israeli Chief-of-Staff Moshe Dayan did acknowledge the Palestinian's "terrible hated of us" and urged the Israelis to be "ready and armed, tough and harsh." The preparations urged by Dayan were put into practice six months later when Israeli troops took control of Gaza. There is a general consensus of opinion about what then happened in Khan Younis. The men of the town were lined up in the streets and shot, those who tried to hide in their homes were also killed, until over the course of one day 275 were killed. Although the incident in Rafah also took place during over one day, it was far more complicated as all citizens were ordered to report to the local school so that the Israeli forces could identify any militants present in town. At the end of the day, there were approximately 100 bodies littering the schoolyard. While the Israeli government insisted that all killings took place while their army was still encountering armed opposition, the only official UN document concerning the massacre suggests that Israeli soldiers may have panicked and opened fire on an unarmed crowd. There were more survivors in Rafah than in Khan Younis and so Sacco was able to track down witnesses who claim they were shot at as they approached the school and that others were beaten to death with batons as they entered the schoolyard.

Although Joe Sacco's earlier book, Palestine, was very much a portrait capturing events of its time, Footnotes in Gaza is a far more expansive work. Sacco digs deep to explore in detail both of the massacres of 1956 as well as their wider context and the ramifications of the two incidents which are still being felt in Gaza today. Due to the lack of documentation concerning Khan Younis and Rafah, Sacco relies heavily on powerful witness testimony although he acknowledges the difficulties of dealing with memories that are bound to be rehashed and hardened over time. Sacco is also plagued with the problem of just how important memories of these terrible events and recognition of them is for the Palestinian people. In the Gaza Strip "events are continuous. Palestinians never seem to have the luxury of digesting one tragedy before the next one is upon them." Sacco therefore seeks to strike a balance with Footnotes in Gaza between history and forgetting, between the power of knowing and the futility of the past.

Footnotes in Gaza is a fascinating first-hand history of a particularly complex area and conflict that seeks not to provide solutions to the troubles but simply to inform and to ensure that the victims of Khan Younis and Rafah are not forgotten and consigned to the footnotes of history.
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Footnotes in Gaza
Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco (Hardcover - 3 Dec 2009)
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