Sacco, Joe. Palestine 7th printing, 2005. Fantagraphics Books, Seattle, WA. USA.

This is another one of these rare formats; a political comic book and like “Addicted to War” it is comic only in form. It is a serious, original, accessible rendering of the complexity of the reality that is Palestine. Introduced by the late Edward Said in a thoughtful and laudatory statement, Sacco’s collection of graphic style memoirs and personal stories makes the Palestinian people human, personal and understandable. Said considered the content important, of course, but he praised the form and expression of the story of Palestine by this young visiting journalist. Sacco is honest, but sensitive to his hosts, all the time questioning himself and his distracted outsider reactions and priorities. But he makes Palestinians into real people as few reporters bother to even try.

Palestine by Joe Sacco: A book review by Theresa WolfwoodI liked the woman who is tired of being interviewed about her son killed by Israelis; she turns the table on the hapless journalist, Joe himself. She wants to know how being interviewed is going to help her or Palestine.

And when was the last time you thought of Palestinians being flooded out of their homes by torrents of rain and backed-up sewage in some of the most densely populated communities in the world?

A boy at the end is kept standing in the rain by questioning soldiers – his sense of powerless is overwhelming and I am left wondering: how long can a people tolerate utter humiliation and domination? Somehow seeing it in comic strip form made it very understandable to me.

Palestine is a reprinted version of Sacco’s first comic work. He has produced comic versions of his stories of the former Yugoslavia as well. His books have won awards in the USA, rare for cartoon format books; he is Maltese and lives in the USA, working successfully as a cartoonist and writer.

The book continues to be popular and timely. In fact it has rare acclaim. My check of search engines revealed a diatribe attacking him that describes his work “as dangerous and insidious as the Nazi cartoons, Der Sturmer. If this man and his writings can’t be stopped, they must be fought against” and he is accused of, “misusing the media to further the Palestinian–Arab terrorists’ movements. Sacco is a person who refuses to acknowledge that he is supporting terrorists by stubbornly refusing to look at reality.” In fact this Israeli government support website accused Sacco of being a “current threat to truth” that must be fought against and it urges, “Don’t let the terrorists win.” To me this is an excellent recommendation for Sacco!

Since Sacco stories are available in many versions from other visitors, workers and writers who have got to know Palestinian people in their own homes and communities, I gather his successful format – popular with young people, particularly, as well as teachers and activists – is a real threat to the global media machine that harasses anyone who tries to speak out for a just cause and an oppressed people – in Palestine. Sacco himself says that the occupation of Palestine is an issue of international law and basic human rights. So the virulent criticism by supporters of the occupation is a good indicator of a successful work of journalism – a rarity in today’s corporate media.

Filed under Book Reviews, Joe Sacco