Footnotes in Gaza

Maltese-born US journalist Joe Sacco is a graphic novelist we’ve covered in the past.  He covers real world issues in graphic novel form, a new form of gonzo-journalism.

Sacco depicted his travels and encounters with Palestinians and several Israelis in Gaza and the West Bank during the mid-1990s in his appropriately named PalestineFootnotes from GazaThe graphic novel won numerous awards.  Sacco has also won international critical acclaim with his Safe Area Goražde, a similarly pictorial account his experiences in the troubled Balkans during the Bosnian conflict.  That also won awards.

The artist’s latest book, Footnotes in Gaza, chronicles two episodes in 1956 in which a U.N. report filed Dec. 15, 1956 says a total of 386 civilians were shot dead by Israeli soldiers.  Sacco said the events have been “virtually airbrushed from history because they have been ignored by the mainstream media.”

Israeli historians dispute the events claiming the totals are exaggerations.  Meir Pail, a leading Israeli military historian and leftist politician has 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 massacre.

Sacco’s has been accused of a bias for the Palestinian cause.  Jose Alaniz, from the University of Washington’s Department of Comparative Literature says Sacco uses techniques to manipulate the readers such as angling Israeli soldiers in certain ways in the artwork.

Sacco at least admits he takes sides:

I don’t believe in objectivity as it’s practiced in American journalism. I’m not anti-Israeli … It’s just I very much believe in getting across the Palestinian point of view.

Sacco has his admirers too.  Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman, who directed the 2008 Golden Globe winning cartoon ocumentary Waltz for Bashir.

Whenever I’m asked about animation that influences me, I would say it’s more graphic novels. A tremendous influence on me has been Sacco’s ‘Palestine,’ his work on Bosnia and then Art peigelman’s ‘Maus,'” he said in a telephone interview.

His work quite simply reflects reality.

We’ll have a review of numerous works by Sacco in the upcoming weeks.