on May 19, 2002
Joe Sacco's "Palestine" addresses, in my opinion, one of the most important issues within the conflict with Israel.
Palestinian terrorists are brutal, inhumane and ineffective. But, and this is a MAJOR but, what do you do about the plight of the Palestinian people? How can you defend what they experience day in and day out? Joe Sacco's drawings and writing offer us a glimpse of what these people have had to put up with.
I do have one major issue with this book.
Joe Sacco lets Palestinian/Muslim sexism off the hook. Yes, he tries to address the issue, but never seems to nail any central issue. In one series of panels he challenges a man about the veiling of women and how men should alter their behavior instead of the women. There's no response from the man he speaks to and Sacco drops the issue almost entirely. He does have several pages illustrating his discussions with women, but again, he throws softball questions and remarks.
There are a lot of books on the Middle East in print right now. Joe Sacco's book is, however, a rarity. I strongly recommend it simply because it's so unusual. Plus, it shows, in human terms, why there's so much rage on the Palestinian side.
For those who might be interested in this theme, I also strongly recommend "My Enemy, My Self" by Yoram Binur, a book written by an Israeli who goes undercover disguised as a Palestinian to see first hand what they experience.
on January 11, 2002
I am not nearly knowledgeable enough to judge Sacco's grasp of the overall political situation in the Middle East; however, PALESTINE is not a book about overall situations. It's a series of vignettes and snapshots of individual lives in the occupied territories, and Sacco tells those stories very well. He is clearly sympathetic to the Palestinians, but even though he portrays them as victims, he also depicts their anger, their violence, their conflicts with each other . . . all the things that make them real people, and all the things that, frankly, can lead one into despair over the prospects for anything but war and conflict in the region for a long time to come.
Sacco is a skilled journalist, getting his interview subjects to talk about their lives and experiences in detail. As a comic artist, he brings those stories to life. His people often seem to have larger-than-life, exaggerated features -- all the better to convey emotion -- while he draws the world they live in in great detail. The contrast of the combination works very well.
Throughout the story, Sacco provides a running narration of his own thoughts as he moves from place to place chasing the story, while also filling in historical details where he feels it necessary. The narration gives an added dimension to the book, since it also becomes a story of Sacco's adjustments to conditions in the territories and his own mixed feelings about his ability to do anything about them -- feelings that readers will likely share when they finish reading this book.
on May 16, 2004
If you want to find out where US troops got their gruesome torture methods for Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, it's all in Sacco's book, published in 2002 and based on a trip he took to Gaza and the West Bank in the early 1990s.
It's all there: the arrest and lengthy detainment of innocent people for 'intelligence gathering', putting detainees in hoods for days and weeks at a time, using isolation and terror, threatening death, tying prison in painful positions for days, beatings, humiliation.
Sacco's book documents it all - and it was first worked out
by Israelis for use against Palestians.
The US news media knows this, but they're silent. Why?
Get Sacco's book and educate yourself about what's really going on in the Middle East.
on March 13, 2002
What makes this work valuable is the focus on the views of the Palestinian without even attempting to explain the history and events that lead to their plight. Sacco just suspends the why's.
What we see is a dark, depressed and oppressed people who unfortunately harbour a growing hatred and resentment towards the Israelis. It does not leave you hopeful for a peaceful solution anytime soon.
It is biased, but does not pretend to be anything else. It is also enlightening. The comic style makes it an easy way to get a picture of the Palestinian Viewpoint; it turns a narrative into a picture.
For those of us in the west looking for another viewpoint it is worthwhile.
on June 28, 2002
If it were possible to give a book 10 stars, then this book would get them from me, I was awed by it. I've not read a graphic book since Maus, and would not have picked this up if a dozen friends hadn't recommended it to me. Joe Sacco's Palestine (and his later book on Bosnia called Safe Area Gorazde), is a miracle of observation, compassion and humanity. It does what most books, most newspapers fail to do, illustrate the plight of Palestinian people, show us why they are angry, and why some are driven to terrifying acts of suicide. It should be read in schools.
on July 4, 2002
One of the most captivating books I have recently read. I feel bad that I only discovered it by chance. I wonder if the book was ever advertized appropriately. What a loss! This is a gem of a book and I am buying 5 copies to give away.
Don't let the comic style of the book or the design of its cover desuade you from buying it. It is a very serious book. I was shocked by the facts as shown. One can read volumes in the eyes of the people as sketched, particularly those of the elderly. One sees despair, indignation, genuinity and all the while the generosity of those who have so little to spare. The author is very adapt at showing the inhumane conditions in the Palestinian camps he visited, sentiments that are echoed by other authors who visited the camps, though not as eloquently (Kate Halsell "Journey to Jerusalem" and Wendy Orange "Coming Home to Jerusalem"). No doubt about it, the book is very timely and a good source for readers who know little about the plight of the Palestinians, and a good reference for those who feel they know it all.
on June 21, 2002
I do not have much to contribute that has not already been stated by other customer reviewers but I would like to add to the overwhelming consensus that this is an excellent book and, since it is done in comic book style, I would recommend it as an effective tool for adolescent readers in our high schools. Saccco's book was written before the most recent wave of Palestinian suicide bombings which has wreaked havoc both to Israel and to outside sympathy for the Palestinian cause. However, this book should give all open-minded readers insight into the despair that has led so many Palestinians to support terrorism. Sacco's disarmingly informal writing style and his powerful artwork convey both the constant systematic and randomly unsystematic injustice that Israel, its soldiers, settlers and other citizens have directed at the Palestinians. Sacco exposes the economic discrimination that gives incentives to West Bank Jewish settlers and imposes taxes and other bureacratic and physical barriers on Palestinian attempts to earn a living: Palestinian agricultural produce left on the docks to spoil before it is shipped to European customers, the denial of adequate water and permits to drill deeper wells, cutting down groves of olive trees, etc. Sacco also takes us inside hospitals where Israeli soldiers intimidate and beat patients, nurses, and doctors, disrupting surgeries, treatments, etc. Individual Palestinians recount their prison experiences: the psychological and physical torture and the inhuman living conditions, abuses of the legal system, etc. There is much more in this new edition--printed in 2001 and again in 2002--at roughly 300 pages, this is nearly double the size of an earlier edition. Everyone with an interest in the Middle East Crisis or terrorism should read this book. This book is pro-Palestinian but it is not anti-Semitic or against the existence of an Israeli state. It is also recommended by Art Spiegelman, the great cartoonist and author of the Jewish Holocaust comic classics, Maus I and II. For more great info on the plight of the Palestinians, I recommend regular reading of Tikkun, an excellent, liberal Jewish-American bi-monthly periodical.
on April 3, 2003
You have to read Palestine carefully, especially if you are either strongly sympathetic or hostile to Israel. It would be easy to see the book as condemning Israel. It is not, but since Sacco's intention was to get to know the community that we in the US don't know well, the Palestinians, the book shows mainly their experiences and interpretations of them. (It would have been a good idea to include a timeline of the historical events related to the Israel/Palestine tragedy, so that people who do not know the facts could put into perspective the versions of history that Sacco's Palestinian interviewees have.)
I emphasize that this is not the book to turn to in order to figure out whether to side with the Israelis or the Palestinians. It does not give that kind of information, and there are other books for that (Thomas Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem is a good one). For the most part there are no terrorists or major political figures interviewed and there is no survey of the historical background, the mistakes and crimes that have left both peoples in this mess. What I saw in this brilliant piece of comic journalism is an on the ground look at what is going on with people caught in the storm.
Palestine is about the human spirit, often humorous and courageous. It is also about the tragedy that is what happens when people suffer at each other's hands, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, as well as physically, and lose the ability to see the human face.
Victims turn into villains. The scenes of the settlers attacking the Arab villages at night reminded me chillingly of Kristalnacht. A 16 year old Palestinian terrorist-in-training is chilling as he describes his recruitment at 13, his loss of interest in anything but the violence, and the version of history that he believes in. Sixteen year old settlers strutting through town with their Uzis are just as chilling. You are appalled by them all, and by the societies that have turned children into murderers. And you are touched by the crowd scenes, where you see tiny figures of men and women in the background, hurrying their children away, keeping them away from the stone throwing crowds.
You see the mythologies that both sides, though mainly (because of the nature of the book) the Palestinians, have created in order to give themselves pride and explain all the pain. You see that these mythologies are not going to save anyone.
Sacco does not idolize his Palestinian subjects, though he is very sympathetic to most of them. He shows the irrational hatred, the elevation of victimhood to almost divine status, and the self-destructiveness of some of the people he interviewed. He really likes the children, especially inquisitive little girls, but he shows that there are some nasty kids too. I emphasize that he likes these people, despite their human failings. Their errors do not mean they are to be dismissed, just as their suffering does not mean that the lines on which Arab politicians have chosen to explain the situation are right. It was Sacco's irony, actually, that allowed me to trust his observations of life in an occupied region, with all that "occupied" implies.
The most troubling part to the book, therefore, was the portrayal of the Israeli soldiers. I wish that he had interviewed Israeli soldiers, since they (and settlers) are the only Israelis present in the Palestian refugee camps, and the soldiers come off looking brutal much of the time. But in looking through the book a second time, I noticed that many of the soldiers looked terrified. This terror coupled with the brutality throws another light on the tragedy afflicting both Israelis and Palestinians.
I've been left haunted by one particular image, the depressed face of his last guide, an educated, unemployed volunteer with a school for the handicapped. It is not a dramatic, self dramatizing depression. Sacco's skill is impressive here, as he shows the man's face change, subtly, according to what is going on (sad tales, checkpoints, the charming chatter of a 10 year old girl)--he has other feelings, but his hopelessness has smothered the intensity.
on September 3, 2002
In recent years, the scope of the comics medium has burst from the confines of children's and fictional genres to encompass substantive work in such realms as the graphic novel, autobiography, and biography. In his nine-part comic book Palestine, the final four issues of which are collected here, Sacco gives us the first major work of comics journalism. In 1991 he traveled to Jerusalem to observe Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. Out of that trip comes this highly ambitious and successful telling of the refugees' stories--some militant, others resigned--that include both emotional depictions of protest and torture and the quiet struggles of everyday survival. Although Sacco's sympathies, expressed through the first-person narration, are definitely with the Palestinians, the work overall is far too nuanced to be deemed propaganda. Sacco makes wildly experimental layouts coalesce into an imaginative yet solid storytelling style. Palestine shows that he is a top-rank talent who has staked out a unique place for himself in the comics field.
on June 10, 2002
I'm not quite sure where to begin with this one... Sacco's work is amazing, bordering on briliant. He exposes the harsh realities of life within the Palestinian refugee camps like nothing else I've seen. Sacco needs to be commended for his ability to catch so many different shades of Arab opinion in such a small number of pages. Sacco does not, however, make a significant attempt write about the Israeli perspective (he does devote a few pages to this). But that is not a problem. As Sacco says, he (as well as the whole world) have been receiving the Israeli perspective for over 50 years. His goal was not to give their point of view, thats been done a thousand times.
Additionally, the artwork is absolutely stunning! In the pictures alone he captures the life of a typical Palestinian Arab. The despair he paints on their face matches the horrible experience they've been through. Amazing...
Please pick this sentimental roller coaster up to supplement your historical and academic reading on the subject. You won't be dissapointed.