Palestine by Joe Sacco is an intimate, raw and passionate look at the ‘original’ Middle-East conflict. This graphic novel presents Joe Sacco’s (non-fictional) interviews with Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and occupied East Jerusalem.
Collected over two month between 1991 and 1992, Palestine makes the history and suffering of the Palestinian people real. Emphasize on people… both as a group and individually.
Be warned! This isn’t infotainment or ‘fake news’ fluff. Sacco writes a deeply personal account of one of the world’s longest running conflicts.
While the interviews are illustrated graphically, they are a work of first-hand journalism.
Why should you care?
Simple. In Palestine by Joe Sacco, Palestinians aren’t the terrorists or victims that the mainstream Western media always portrays them as. They’re just people. Real people with jobs, families and pain.
Lots and lots of pain. The kind of pain that nobody living in the West would accept.
The kind of pain that makes any settlement and peace impossible.
Why because this isn’t about land, borders or who gets what. This is about anger! This is about continuous daily humiliation, deprivation and degradation!!
Strong words… Isn’t that one sided? Shouldn’t Joe have spent time in Israel to get the ‘other side’ of the story?
Like Joe tells a pair of well meaning (and beautiful) young Israeli women.
We’ve all heard Israels side of the story.
In fact we’ve had it shoved down our throats all our lives! No if, no but, no ‘other side’ for Palestinians.
Does this piss you off? Does it make you mad? Does the very concept of this graphic novel offend you?
Good… then read on and get the ‘other side’ that the main-stream media (and Western politics) doesn’t want you to hear! You might hate it… you might love it… but it will make you think!!
Travel to [INSERT YOUR BIAS] and Find Exactly What You’re Looking For
Palestine by Joe Sacco is a work of political journalism. Joe doesn’t hide that! He gets down and dirty with the daily life of Palestinians. Be it in crowded taxis, in shabby living rooms drinking super sweet tea or at roadblocks under the nervous eyes of Israeli soldiers.
He walks through the streets of Nabulus, dodging gangs of teenage Israeli settler’s touting automatic weapons.
He joins Israeli ‘Peace Now’ activists as they march through Jerusalem demanding an end to illegal settlements!
He wades through muddy water and filth in refugee camps to track down the stories of people who have been wounded, imprisoned or lost loved ones.
How can Palestine be objective? By not trying to be objective!
Towards the end of his journey into a modern ‘Heart of Darkness’, Joe meets a lovely lady from the USA. A lady who could be his next door neighbor back home.
The kindly old lady from back when you were a kid. Who smiles when she sees you, gives you candy on Halloween and doesn’t shout when your football ends up on her lawn.
She’s also a Holocaust survivor and great admirer of Israel. She tells Joe that it’s a shame that these nice young people have to carry weapons wherever they go. But they are under threat and constant danger after all.
When Joe tries to tell her that there is another side to the story, she shut him down. She says all she wants is peace… because peace is the answer.
And that’s why I am not trying to convince you to read this amazing graphic novel…
Why? Because you will believe what you want to believe about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The kindly old lady and Holocaust survivor travelled to Israel and found what she was looking for. Joe travelled to the same place and found something completely different.
A Smorgasbord of Anger, Pain and Poverty
Joe Sacco breaks Palestine down into individual stories that each contain pieces of history, people and conflict.
There is the tough young woman degraded, tortured and threatened with rape by the Shin Bet (Israel’s notorious internal security services). Her crime? Publishing nationalist pamphlets calling for an independent Palestinian state.
We see how a young professional and father undergoes similar treatment under ‘administrative detention’. His crime, calling relatives abroad. The Punishment? A broken door late at night and traumatized kids and being exposed to torture by a broken legal system.
Or how about the kids that get sent to open-air prison camps in the desert? For what? Throwing stone at Israelis.
There are so many stories. So much pain and suffering. And endless material for the hate that keeps fueling this conflict.
Are Israelis inhuman monsters that delight in the suffering and degradation of others?
As one Israeli volunteer for the peace movement says. Screw everything else. This is about whether both people can live side by side as equals.
And here’s where I realized the most horrible aspect of the occupation.
It isn’t about the suffering, terror or death that Israelis and Palestinians go through. It isn’t about who hate who more. It isn’t about who was here first.
It’s simply all about those who think they have all the power and those who think they have none…
The Art and Writing of Palestine by Joe Sacco
This is a raw and emotional book. Because it’s true.
Joe Sacco isn’t a creative writer. He’s a somewhat calloused but good hearted journalists trying to understand a story that everybody takes for granted.
Like Maus, Joe Stacco doesn’t pull any punches about the naked humanity of the Palestinian story.
Unlike Maus, Palestine doesn’t make the unbearable bearable through fictionalized art.
I’m not going to draw any comparisons between the contents of Maus and Palestine. Like I said earlier, you will believe what you want to believe. And that’s ok.
What is not ok is how we have all grown tired of this story.
What is not oaky is how we have allowed this conflict to continue.
What is not okay is how jaded we have become to the images and stories of pain, poverty and death.
And most important of all Joe Sacco’s Palestine doesn’t deny the Palestinians their humanity!
Are they a perfect and innocent people no? Have the contributed to keeping this cycle of hate going, yes? Are all and any means acceptable in fighting off foreign occupation, you be the judge of that.
All I know is that if strangers can randomly come into my town, hospital or home to shoot me, destroy my property or have me arrested with no evidence… I don’t know what I’d do!
Especially if those same strangers controlled how and if I can work, where I can go and do to me (and my loved ones) whatever they please.
Joe Sacco pulls the chair out from under us. Palestine might be from the early 90s but its accusing verdict still rings true today!
The art isn’t for everyone.
I liked it though. It has a simplicity that reminds me of MAD Magazine and Art Spiegelman’s Maus. It’s bold, gritty and real. There are no beautiful people here, just people.
Like everybody else in the world I’ve tried to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it’s a horribly one-sided story in the Western media.
I couldn’t care less about the politics of the whole situation. I do care about people.
And that is what Palestine by Joe Stacco is. A snapshot of the history and pain of the Palestinian people at a point in time. In an era of ‘fake news’, one-sided reporting and news as infotainment –Palestine is an honest and raw peak into a never ending conflict.
The discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ceased being about facts many years ago. It’s taken on a religious fervor of intolerance and bias.
Heck, like I keep saying believe whatever you want to believe.
But maybe, just maybe… it’s time to get the other side of the story? The side you won’t find in the New York Post, Fox News or Hollywood?
Palestine is a serious piece of journalism packed in a graphic novel format.
Enjoy your reading it!
PS: This graphic novel has won so many awards it ridiculous. Diversify your reading and dig into it, you won’t be disappointed.