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4.7 out of 5 stars
Footnotes in Gaza
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on 8 July 2016
This is a big book. A hugely important book. If you're at all interested in the the British occupation, manipulation of the middle East, their continuing support of the Israeli occupation, and the ensuing execrable injustices being perpetrated to this day in Gaza, please read this book. It deserves to be read. It's time to act on these atrocities. And it's certainly time to end the Israeli subjugation of the Palestinian people. Thank you once again, Joe Sacco.
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on 19 July 2013
When I first saw the book, I was surprised I hadn't realized it was a "comic book." Don't be fooled, it is some serious research and journalism. I am working on a PhD thesis on Israeli retaliatory policies, and this book will be an invaluable contribution to the views of "the other side." A must-read for anyone looking to understand the conflict better. Amazing.
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on 7 April 2017
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on 24 March 2016
All perfect
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on 12 September 2014
Excellent book. Elegant edition. A good and informative reading to have one more perspective on the Middle East conflict
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on 16 June 2015
Helps you to understand the history of the Palestine - Israeli conflict and gives you inside in the current situation in Gaza.
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on 11 March 2013
Its a good book, but expect it to challenge you. Its not particularly easy reading. There is a certain amount of empathy required but that also makes your heart go out to the people depicted
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VINE VOICEon 20 March 2010
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.
6 people found this helpful
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on 12 January 2010
Although I'm not normally a buyer of illustrated books. I read a Times review of the book, and as I had an Amazon voucher for my birthday, decided to give it a try. Pleased with the book, have not worked my way fully through it yet. I have found it slower to read than just text as you have to take in the illustrations as well as the text and then assimulate them as a whole. Different but enjoyable.
4 people found this helpful
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on 21 October 2013
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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