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Prior to Safe Area Gorazde: The War In Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995—Joe Sacco's breakthrough novel of graphic journalism—the acclaimed author was best known for Palestine, a two-volume graphic novel that won an American Book Award in 1996.

Fantagraphics Books is pleased to present the first single-volume collection of this landmark of journalism and the art form of comics.

Based on several months of research and an extended visit to the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the early 1990s (where he conducted over 100 interviews with Palestinians and Jews), Palestine was the first major comics work of political and historical nonfiction by Sacco, whose name has since become synonymous with this graphic form of New Journalism. Like Safe Area Gorazde, Palestine has been favorably compared to Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus for its ability to brilliantly navigate such socially and politically sensitive subject matter within the confines of the comic book medium.

Sacco has often been called the first comic book journalist, and he is certainly the best. This edition of Palestine also features an introduction from renowned author, critic, and historian Edward Said (Peace and Its Discontents and The Question of Palestine), one of the world's most respected authorities on the Middle Eastern conflict.

288 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1996

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About the author

Joe Sacco

47 books1,186 followers
Joe Sacco was born in Malta on October 2, 1960. At the age of one, he moved with his family to Australia, where he spent his childhood until 1972, when they moved to Los Angeles. He began his journalism career working on the Sunset High School newspaper in Beaverton, Oregon. While journalism was his primary focus, this was also the period of time in which he developed his penchant for humor and satire. He graduated from Sunset High in 1978.

Sacco earned his B.A. in journalism from the University of Oregon in 1981 in three years. He was greatly frustrated with the journalist work that he found at the time, later saying, "[I couldn't find] a job writing very hard-hitting, interesting pieces that would really make some sort of difference." After being briefly employed by the journal of the National Notary Association, a job which he found "exceedingly, exceedingly boring," and several factories, he returned to Malta, his journalist hopes forgotten. "...I sort of decided to forget it and just go the other route, which was basically take my hobby, which has been cartooning, and see if I could make a living out of that," he later told the BBC.

He began working for a local publisher writing guidebooks. Returning to his fondness for comics, he wrote a Maltese romance comic named Imħabba Vera ("True Love"), one of the first art-comics in the Maltese language. "Because Malta has no history of comics, comics weren't considered something for kids," he told Village Voice. "In one case, for example, the girl got pregnant and she went to Holland for an abortion. Malta is a Catholic country where not even divorce is allowed. It was unusual, but it's not like anyone raised a stink about it, because they had no way of judging whether this was appropriate material for comics or not."

Eventually returning to the United States, by 1985 Sacco had founded a satirical, alternative comics magazine called Portland Permanent Press in Portland, Oregon. When the magazine folded fifteen months later, he took a job at The Comics Journal as the staff news writer. This job provided the opportunity for him to create another satire: the comic Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy, a name he took from an overly-complicated children's toy in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

But Sacco was more interested in travelling. In 1988, he left the U.S. again to travel across Europe, a trip which he chronicled in his autobiographical comic Yahoo. The trip lead him towards the ongoing Gulf War (his obsession with which he talks about in Yahoo #2), and in 1991 he found himself nearby to research the work he would eventually publish as Palestine.

The Gulf War segment of Yahoo drew Sacco into a study of Middle Eastern politics, and he traveled to Israel and the Palestinian territories to research his first long work. Palestine was a collection of short and long pieces, some depicting Sacco's travels and encounters with Palestinians (and several Israelis), and some dramatizing the stories he was told. It was serialized as a comic book from 1993 to 2001 and then published in several collections, the first of which won an American Book Award in 1996.

Sacco next travelled to Sarajevo and Goražde near the end of the Bosnian War, and produced a series of reports in the same style as Palestine: the comics Safe Area Goražde, The Fixer, and the stories collected in War's End; the financing for which was aided by his winning of the Guggenheim Fellowship in April 2001. Safe Area Goražde won the Eisner Award for Best Original Graphic Novel in 2001.

He has also contributed short pieces of graphic reportage to a variety of magazines, on subjects ranging from war crimes to blues, and is a frequent illustrator of Harvey Pekar's American Splendor. Sacco currently lives in Portland.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,119 reviews
Profile Image for Jan Philipzig.
Author 1 book262 followers
April 29, 2016
Old-School Journalism

Over the past few decades, journalism has lost much of its credibility and almost all of its punch. Shallow, commercially-minded infotainment dominates, feeding us the "blue pill" (in Matrix terms) that makes us forget all those unpleasant realities out there. Why would media conglomerates fund costly in-depth research when a fluffy little human interest story not only feels better but is also much better for the bottom line? Mmmm, the blissful ignorance of media myths and illusions...

Thankfully, Joe Sacco flushes those blue pills down the toilet and takes journalism back to its roots. He goes into the field, interviews people, takes risks, writes down what he hears, draws what he sees, and ultimately delivers this illustrated journal of his observations in Palestine.

Much like Noam Chomsky, Sacco puts the spotlight on the Palestinian perspective that usually remains hidden in our commercialized media environment. Unlike Chomsky, however, he is more interested in the personal experiences of the people he interviews than in the global political context of their situation - an approach that comes with major blind spots (the crucial and highly problematic role of the U.S. in the conflict is largely ignored, for example) but nevertheless manages to add another dimension to our understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As we learn more about the harsh realities of daily life in Palestine, the "terrorist" label that various politicians and media outlets have attached to Palestinians in general feels increasingly ludicrous.

Apart from the unflinching, devastating look at life in Palestine, the portrayal of Sacco himself is another key ingredient of this book. The author does not portray himself as the selflessly heroic or brilliantly detached observer, but as someone with his own personal motivations and weaknesses, someone the reader can relate to. This honesty ensures that Palestine is not only an important and educational read, but also a lively and very engaging one. Highly recommended!
28 reviews2 followers
March 28, 2008
I had a hard time getting through this graphic novel. It was a tough read due to the subject matter. I also wasn't fond of the art on a personal level.
I did immensely appreciate Joe Sacco's motivation for writing this graphic novel. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Joe Sacco said:
"I grew up thinking of Palestinians as terrorists, and it took a lot of time, and reading the right things, to understand the power dynamic in the Middle East was not what I had thought it was... And basically, it upset me enough that I wanted to go, and, in a small way, give the Palestinians a voice - a lense through which people could see their lives.

There are two ways in which Palestinians are portrayed - as terrorist and as victim.

There may be truth in certain situations for both descriptions, but Palestinians are also people going to school, who have families, have lives, invite you into their home, and think about their food."

Living in the U.S. with its strong ties to Israel, your average person (i.e. Me) will usually just get the Israeli sympathetic viewpoint from the media. The author wanted to get the other side of the story, the side that is grossly under-represented (you might even say misrepresented) in the American media. He wanted to see and hear, first hand, the Palestinian story.

My God, what a depressing story.

What I came away with from the novel were the following memorable highlights:
1) Palestinians drink A LOT of tea.
2) If you're a young, Palestinian male then it's practically guaranteed that you've gone to jail. If you haven't, there is something wrong with you.
3) The Israeli jails are set up in such a way that its Palestinian prisoners are intentionally dehumanized. This was quite a powerful panel in the novel. A former inhabitant of one of the jails points out how the prisoners are not given proper eating utensils, bathrooms, showers or basically any other living necessity therby forcing the Palestinians to live like animals just to survive their prison term. Couple that reality with the fact that the Israeli soldiers in charge of guarding the jails (military service is compulsory in Israel)are often young impressionable kids witnessing large groups of Palestinians together for the first time and the whole prison set up takes on a very sordid and manipulative overtone of nationalist proportions.
4) There was the depressing revelation that there are Israelis who honestly believe that Palestinians "have it better under occupation" than before. *sigh* That's like believing under-paid workers in third world sweat shops are doing all right "because at least now, they have a job and are making SOME kind of money rather than none at all." (If you currently believe that bullshit, please read "No Logo" by Naomi Klein so that you get an opposing viewpoint and can subsequently make a more well-rounded and informed opinion.)
5) In another couple of powerful panels, Joe Sacco remarks to himself in wonder that he doesn't even know what it would be like to WANT to have the kind of faith that would compel young women to want to cover their heads all the time. That struck me, because, well, I don't know what that would be like either.
6) Much like the U.S. agricultural industry, it seems that the Israeli economy also relies on the availability of cheap Palestinian labor.
7) There was a poignant and possibly unintentional symbolism involved during the panel sequence in which a Palestinian patriarch describes to Joe how he was forced by the Israeli army to chop down his grove of olive trees. The trees, the patriarch said, were like "his sons". He wept as the axe bit into the flesh of the trees. In one cruel afternoon, his family's livlihood was destroyed.

Overall, I liked the novel and the author's intent. Like I said, I didn't much like the art but it was fitting to the novel's content and tone.

Profile Image for leynes.
1,065 reviews2,897 followers
October 4, 2022
Hands down one of the best comic books (and pieces of journalistic writing) that I have ever read. It's really up there with Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis and (in my humble opinion) the best and most clever comic book series out there, Gaiman's The Sandman. I hereby vow to get further into Sacco's work. He seems like an intelligent man with a great (albeit somewhat dark) type of humour, and I enjoy the political / historical focus of his work.

Palestine is essentially a travel memoir / political commentary. It focuses on Joe Sacco's time in the 90s in Palestine and Israel, the West Bank specifically. Joe Sacco set out to tell an authentic story, to show the lives of Palestinians and give them a voice. It wasn't his aim to portray Palestinians as saints who have done nothing wrong, no, he simply wanted to show them as human to a world that treats them as less than that.

"And what can I say? I say I've heard nothing but the Israeli side most of all my life, that it'd take a whole other trip to Israel, that I'd like to meet Israelis, but that wasn't why I was here...," Sacco responds to two Israeli women who accuse him of being biased and showing only one side of the story. So, he's aware of his biases but rightfully says that the Palestinian perspective is much more needed and rare, especially if you take into consideration that he wrote this comic book for an American (!) audience in the 90s.

I've never quite read a comic book like this. Joe Sacco's writing and art style is quite unique, and that in a good way. His art is kept in simple black and white colours, but the arrangement of his panels is purposely messy and in disorder. A lot happens on every single page. We are thrown into the hustle and bustle of different cities not just by the impactful drawings alone, also by the way in which they are arranged on the page. The way Sacco draws people, especially faces, is also noteworthy: regardless of race or background, he goes for overly large heads, noses, bulging eyes, huge mouths and teeth. Every feature is accentuated and exaggerated. It took me some time to get used to that but all in all I would say that his art style heightened my enjoyment and understanding of this comic, as it stresses the emotional and raw aspect of all of these people. By the means of hyperbole, he actually manages to make them seem more human.

The way he structured Palestine is fairly simple. You can even track his path through the country on a map. How he started in Cairo, then proceeded to his first real stop in the City of Nablus and his continuing journey through Ramallah, Hebron, Jerusalem, Jerichom, Bethlehem and other places on the West Bank. In each city he arrives, Joe Sacco is quick to make friends. With his fancy camera and Caucasian looks, people immediately notice him and are willing to share their stories with him. He sometimes has tour guides, sometimes people whom he considers friends, who accompany him and grant him entrance into their homes. Joe Sacco takes his time to portray these lives, all the horrible crimes and adversities these people faced in their lives.
Anyway... it's not like I'm here to mediate... and let's face it, my comics blockbuster depends on conflict; peace won't pay the rent.
And whilst his tone is definitely more on the humanistic and sarcastic end, you can tell as a reader how this is simply a means to make the comic book more appealing, and not Joe Sacco's true nature. I actually appreciated that he kept his tone light (some might even call it disrespectful in certain situations), because it showed the horribleness and morbid nature of the events. Whether he describes torture, mistreatment by the officials, the horrible conditions in prison camps like Ansar II and III, threats of rape, demolished homes ... it never gets visually too explicit to become unbearable, and I actually appreciate that.

From a political and historical standpoint, I am also happy to report that I learned so much about Palestine. I've never learned about the 1948 Arab–Israeli War or the 1967 Six-Day War, when the West Bank was occupied by Israel. Through the news and media, I also just saw and heard of glimpses of the conflict between Palestinians and Israeli settlers. So, I'm incredibly grateful that Sacco managed to make a whole world and reality come alive for me, that has been quite distant in my mind. I still wouldn't consider myself knowledgable on that subject though, since Sacco's work is the first I read about Palestine, but it was honestly a great start and solidified my opinion going into this comic. Hang in there, Palestine. Your anger is justified and your people deserve so much better.

The only criticism I have is that Sacco's comic focuses almost exclusively on the male perspective and the experience of Palestinian men. There's only one chapter dedicated to the rights of women and the Palestinian feminist movement, in which popular topics like the hijab and divorce are discussed. His focus on men is somewhat plausible, since it quickly becomes clear that those are the people he's connected to and the people who can allow him to stay in their homes and walk around with him freely. I imagine it would've been more tricky for Sacco to reach out to women and become "intimate" with them. So, I'm not mad... but I still wish he made a bit more of an effort.
Yes, yes, we all want peace, whatever that is, but peace can mean different things, too, and isn't described identically by all who wish to imagine it.
Palestine is neither a bleak nor an overly hopeful look at the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. It fits right in the middle: it's a realistic one. Sacco tells the stories of the people he met, to show their hardships and accomplishments, for an audience who thus far hasn't really cared for them. He makes us care. He forces us to take a look at this horrible situation, and (from my standpoint) it's shocking that even 30 years later, the same conflict persists, the crimes go on. We, as a people, have to do better than this.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,921 reviews290k followers
May 12, 2018
They destroyed everything. There is no sign that we ever lived there.

This was good. Interesting use of "graphic journalism". A little bit of preaching to the choir in my case as I'm already pretty sympathetic to the Palestinians and aware of the abhorrent treatment they have received in the last several decades, but a must-read for the Americans and Europeans who only get the pro-Israeli stance on the issue. For a graphic novel, it's quite word-heavy, with a lot of pages filled up with text in the margins.

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Profile Image for Oriana.
Author 2 books3,223 followers
December 17, 2013
book two for Jugs & Capes, my all-girl graphic novel book club!

Whew. This is a really, really devastating book. Part of the problem (and obviously part of the point) is that it is relentlessly awful, with story after story after story of death, destruction, skirmishes with soldiers, dead sons, dead husbands, maimed daughters, displacement, oppression, poverty, and pain.

It's so painful, horribly, that I actually started to get a little jaded; or that's not what I mean exactly, but the stories after awhile sort of lost their power to shock, to devastate. I understand this was originally published as many small issues, so perhaps if I'd read each story as a standalone, with in-between time to fully process each before moving on to the next, they would each have continued to wield as much sorrow as they were meant to. I don't know.

I feel like I should say something intelligent about the art, since this is after all a graphic novel, but I'm still finding my sea legs, as it were, on the books with pix. So here's a try: Sacco has an incredibly chaotic style, which really helped to create an immersive feeling. That said, though, there's practically just as much text as pictures, and at times I wondered why he chose to tell this story as a graphic novel, rather than just straight prose. There were plenty of illustrations that were particularly affecting, and times when the images did enhance the story it was paired with, but for the most part I think this could have been text-only without losing a whole lot.

I talked a lot about this book with my Zionist-leaning mother, and it was pretty difficult. Like so many impossibly polarizing issues, it's tough to even find the language with which to locate a middle ground.

She would say, "The Gazans have no electricity because they dig up the pipes to use as weapons against the Israelis." And I would say, "Well, according to this book, the Gazans have no electricity because the Israelis cut it off all the time, at random, just to keep them unstable."

And she would say, "Why do the Palestinians keep asking Israel to give them jobs? Why can't they just make their own industry?" And I would say, "How can they do that? Israel controls the water, the power, the supplies, the land, the permits, the transportation, and everything else. From what could they possibly make industry?"

And she would say, "Israelis are ready to discuss peace, but most Palestinians won't even acknowledge Israel's right to exist." And I would say, "This has been going on for decades. Imagine if you were a teenager in Gaza and all you had ever known was relentless humiliation, oppression, and poverty? How would you feel about your oppressors? Would you be in any hurry to negotiate anything?"

And then we would have to change the subject, because where could we go?
Profile Image for Karyl.
1,667 reviews120 followers
April 10, 2014
We in the States are always told that we have to support the Israelis. Remember what the Jews have endured with the Holocaust! Why didn't we stop Hitler (there are always those that insist we had the chance)?? We need to make it up to the Jews! They need to have their own homeland as reparation for their terrible suffering!

Yes, the Jews suffered terrible things. It was awful and horrific, and I hope with every fiber of my being that something like the Holocaust will never happen again.

But what about the Palestinians? I always wondered as a kid how the Israelis can just go into a country that already has a government and a people, and just decide that it's theirs now because God said so. What *about* the Palestinians?

Even in Israel, the reporting is very one-sided, as evidenced by Sacco's reprinting of a news article that puts the blame for a particular episode of violence square on the Palestinians. But even if it were supposedly unprovoked, how can you consider it totally unprovoked when the Palestinians are crammed into refugee camps? When their villages are razed to the ground so that nothing more exists of the homes in which they were raised? When none of their sons over the age of 16 have escaped going to prison? When they live under curfew, in homes without electricity, without plumbing, without even walls to keep out the elements? When they can be arrested, beaten, and held without even being charged with a crime?

Sacco brings all of this to life, quite vividly. And it's depressing that the Israelis and the Palestinians he interviews all seem to agree that peace is never going to come to the Holy Land, not while both Israelis and Palestinians exist.

Highly recommend this to everyone who is interested in seeing another side of the conflict in Israel, a conflict that is still going on, more than twenty years after Sacco visited the area.
Profile Image for piperitapitta.
938 reviews315 followers
July 1, 2020

È quando arrivi alle ultime pagine di questo lungo reportage di viaggio, pubblicato prima in singole tavole e poi raccolto in un unico volume, dopo il viaggio che Joe Sacco ha compiuto in Israele e nei Territori palestinesi, due mesi e mezzo fra il 1991 e il 1992, allo scopo di approfondire la questione del conflitto e, più nello specifico, la situazione nei Territori, che ti rendi conto che sono passati ventotto anni, e che è vero che il punto di vista di Sacco è parziale e la sua posizione di parte, che il suo procedere è confuso tanto è ricco di informazioni e di testimonianze, che alcune cose sono cambiate, è vero, ma che in sostanza non è cambiato niente: si parla ancora di soluzione dei due stati (ma è notizia di questi giorni che lo stato di Israele abbia in programma l’annessione dei Territori), ancora a migliaia di palestinesi non è concesso costruire la propria casa o scavare pozzi a una profondità tale da poter attingere ad acque meno salate per le loro coltivazioni, ancora i tanti lavoratori che dai territori si recano in Israele sono costretti a interminabili file ai check-point e vessazioni da parte di coloni e militari.

E qui mi fermo, e non parlo di violenze e di morti o di prigionieri (le tavole che parlano degli arresti, del carcere e dei tanti mutilati parlano da sole), perché più leggo del conflitto israelo-palestinese, e più leggo gli autori arabi e quelli israeliani, e più cerco di trovare la giusta distanza da tutto questo: quella che mi permetta di riconoscere le ragioni degli uni e quelle degli altri, i torti subiti dagli uni e quelli subiti dagli altri, le violenze a cui sono (stati) sottoposti entrambi. Quello che è certo, è che da una parte ci sono città dove è possibile vivere come persone normali, libere di andare, di lavorare, di divertirsi, mentre dall’altra c’è una gabbia a cielo aperto, dalla quale ogni giorno qualcuno può uscire per recarsi al lavoro, dove ogni giorno c’è qualcuno che apre i cancelli e dove ogni sera c’è qualcuno che li richiude. Con la connivenza, la complicità e la supina accettazione (o il totale disinteresse) di tutti. Di Tutti. Ma, come dice l’arabo con cui Sacco parla in una delle tavole più belle, o forse quella che mi ha colpita di più dedicata a Jenin, di Stati Uniti e Inghilterra un po’ di più: “Noi non abbiamo leader. I governi arabi sono come la coda di un serpente, e la testa sono l’Inghilterra o l’America. Ma la peggiore è stata l’Inghilterra.”
E io non posso che essere d’accordo con lui.

Questa è una Special Edition, arricchita da una prefazione di Edward Said (accademico statunitense di origine palestinese autore, fra gli altri, di Orientalismo) e da una lunga introduzione scritta - ventiquattro pagine fittissime di parole, ma anche di nuove immagini, schizzi e fotografie, e di spiegazioni sul perché sono state operate alcune scelte - dallo stesso Sacco, che non brilla certo per simpatia, a volte sembra anche che si diverta a mostrare la propria inadeguatezza, il proprio cinismo e i propri pregiudizi, ma che ha avuto senz’altro il merito di rivolgersi, con i suoi fumetti, a un pubblico diverso e a raccontare un’esperienza con la quale si è misurato ogni giorno con la propria paura, la propria insofferenza, il proprio stupore, le proprie emozioni.

Profile Image for Magrat Ajostiernos.
549 reviews3,754 followers
June 10, 2016
Un reportaje periodístico totalmente subjetivo, cargado de un sarcasmo brutal que llega a resultar incómodo. Sacco busca respuestas para el conflicto israelí-palestino centrándose en la tragedia de los refugiados y la penosa vida que llevan, habla de vejaciones, injusticias, tortura y muerte. Cuenta lo que vio y recoge testimonios de primera mano.
Es una novela gráfica impresionante, tan solo echo en falta el punto de vista de los israelíes.
Profile Image for Kelly Bennett.
20 reviews1 follower
June 24, 2015
Despite an interesting medium, Sacco seems very blasé white dude about all of this. He admittedly goes to Palestine seeking the most tragic, horrific stories he can find, but spends the rest of his time avoiding as much of the experience as possible, and keeping some serious 'journalistic distance'. He's egotistical, self-centered and seemingly oblivious to the situations nuances. Halfway through the book he gets tired of hearing about bullet wounds and beatings, and he seems to treat the hospitality of the people he visits like his right as the White Knight Journalist they've been waiting for.

Basically, I was waiting for the punchline when he figured out he was an entitled douche.

It never happened.
Profile Image for Paula Fialho Silva.
186 reviews98 followers
June 24, 2020
A arte é espetacular mas isso eu já sabia por já ter lido Gorazde do mesmo autor.
Fiquei a conhecer melhor os palestinianos da Cisjordânia e da Faixa de Gaza e fiquei a saber o que foi a Primeira Intifada.
A conclusão a que chego é que já se passaram 30 anos mas pouco mudou no conflito israelo-palestiniano.
Profile Image for Lauren .
1,680 reviews2,290 followers
May 15, 2020
PALESTINE by Joe Sacco, original 1993 for 9 volume set, my edition 2006 re-printing from @fantagraphics with foreword by Edward Said.

As a fan of graphic storytelling, I was a long-time coming to Joe Sacco. He is one of the most well-known names in graphic/comic journalism & war reporting with several award-winning books to his name. His most famous works are about Bosnia (Safe Area Gorazade, others) and Palestine.

This book tells of Sacco's reporting in 1991 and 1992 in Palestine. There are some large text histories throughout the book, providing a lot of context leading to the first intifada. Sacco interviews scores of people in various walks of life. He shares their stories, struggles, family situations, imprisonments, the search for work.

Graphic works - be it novels, memoirs/histories - have a unique reading style. Following panels, or large spreads, text that winds around a page, etc. Sacco utilizes all of these techniques in this book, weaving text between his drawings of crowds and pages. It makes for a page bursting with content. So much to take in... No doubt very similar to his own experience walking through the crowded Palestinian camps.

Sacco's real skill is his quick cuts at the end of an interview/issue showing juxtapositions. A damning interrogation ends and right outside, the street is bustling with laughing people. We see this in cinema, and in comics too.

The stories are heavy, many feel quite hopeless. Especially when realizing that these were from nearly 30 years ago...and not much has changed. This street journalism/oral history storytelling is always educational, even when it's uncomfortable and challenging, and sometimes - as was he case in this book a few times - harrowing. He's an imperfect narrator, but he does not hide that. He is sarcastic, satirical, deprecating. There's a charm to it in some occasions, and others feel inappropriate to the context.

Another book in this graphic journalism vein is OTHER RUSSIAS, a fantastic piece by Victoria Lomasko, translated Russian by Thomas Campbell, and a favorite of 2019.
Profile Image for Dan.
178 reviews11 followers
August 1, 2011
pretty much a masterpiece on every possible level.

first off, because sacco wisely lets the people he encounters do the talking. it's a warts-and-all first person account of people's lives in palestine, and almost all embellishments and social commentaries come from the mouths of the people he talks to, rather than from things he learned reading edward said or whatever.

at the same time, he allows his own story to weave throughout. we are privvy to his own frustrations and fascinations along the way. the account is never neutral, but he never soapboxes either.

best of all, it's FANTASTICALLY illustrated - a direct descendant of the drawings of social critique from the 30's and 40's (grosz, dix, shahn, etc.). every panel is lovingly and obsessively rendered, giving the thing a marvelous scope that involves as much looking as it does thinking. note the care with which each human expression is given, or the way he takes the time to render each and every mud track along his path. the drawing amounts to a kind of world-building, which makes the socio-political impact of the comic all the more visceral and real.
Profile Image for Musharrat Zahin.
288 reviews291 followers
May 14, 2021
While we're preparing for Eid, Israel was killing the people of Gaza. No one would ever be able to live the way people live in Gaza, Israel attacks them at every moment, which leads kids and families to abandon their homes and a lot of them die because of the without warning missile attack! Israel has begun a ground attack in Gaza. 200 rockets were fired towards innocent people in less than 10 mins. People who supposedly should be enjoying eid are being bombed during their sleep. This is not war, this is genocide. This is brutality. This is terrorism. They have been attacking the civilians non-stop the whole night. How much longer the world will remain silent to this brutality? ⁣

Israel continued to impose institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians living under its rule in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). It displaced hundreds of Palestinians in Israel and the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as a result of home demolitions and imposition of other coercive measures. Israel maintained its illegal blockade on the Gaza Strip, subjecting its residents to collective punishment and deepening the humanitarian crisis there. It also continued to restrict the freedom of movement of Palestinians in the OPT through checkpoints and roadblocks. Israeli forces continued to use excessive force during law enforcement activities in Israel and the OPT. Israeli forces killed 31 Palestinians, including nine children.⁣


9 years old Lojain when she heard the bombing she asked her mother, "Mom when we die, does it hurts?"⁣⁣
Her mom replied, "We just close our eyes and sleep."⁣

Opens your eyes to the Palestinian state. They have pleading with everyone around the Globe to share their stories! Write to them. Tell their story. Keep them in your prayers. These are all we can do now.⁣
When Journalism meets graphic novel, it became 'Palestine' by Joe Sacco.⁣

An eye-opening read about a conflict that I knew little about and a good perspective from the other side of the conflict which is rarely covered by the media.

It's a very informative book on an important issue. It provides a very real view of how the people of Palestine live.⁣

It was a bit hard to get into the scattered text and format, that's why I was struggling while reading, but it was good.⁣

This award-winning graphic novel plainly talks its way right into one of the most real stories of the 20th century that persists unresolved still into the 21st. Heart-breaking, moving, and disturbing. It's even more depressing while thinking about nothing has changed. I recommend this.
Profile Image for Huda AbuKhoti.
232 reviews158 followers
November 7, 2015
Palestine is a one of a kind graphic novel, at least to me. This is the first book I've read for Joe Sacco and I loved it!

This book takes place between 1991 and 1992 in several Palestinian cities, Cairo and Tel Aviv from the Israeli side. The main focal point of the book was showing the occupied land's people point of view of the story, because in the west this other side of the story is pretty much invisible.

The art style was really amazing, all the drawings were very supportive to the content and they were funny when they needed to be.

Obviously this book was written at a time with much better political conditions, when people could go from Gaza strip to the west bank, and there are other stuff that got really complicated after the second Intifada which happened after the book's publication.

Politically the author's opinion was absent. It pretty much conveyed other people's testimonies, whether they were Palestinian (which they were in the largest part of this book) or Israelis. Tragic stories of Palestinians.. Some lost their kids, some brothers, some their legs and others their eye. Most of them been to prison and they were tortured for crimes they didn't commit. Kids forced to lose their innocence. Although they are stories I'm used to listen to as a Palestinian... they still had a huge impact on me.

For the religion part, the author really wasn't afraid to show his point of view regarding that, e.g when writing the call of prayer for Muslims he wrote "الله أكبر" as "الله مو أكبر" so he changed the meaning from "Allah is the greatest" to "Allah isn't the greatest". He also pointed out how he had problems with religions in the book.
Profile Image for Roberto.
627 reviews1 follower
August 25, 2017

Una polveriera

Siamo abbastanza abituati ad associare la questione palestinese all'immagine di qualcuno che si fa esplodere in un autobus o in un mercato in mezzo a tranquilli e ignari israeliani.
Purtroppo le cose non sono così semplici e definite.
E' mia ignoranza oppure i media ci trasmettono una informazione parziale?

Joe Sacco cercò di approfondire la situazione andando nei territori occupati verso la fine del 1991, intervistando persone e vivendo nei campi profughi al termine della prima Intifada (la rivolta araba contro la presenza israeliana in Palestina).

Sacco descrive i Palestinesi per quello che sono, senza nascondere nulla, imperfetti (come tutti) e tendenzialmente aggressivi. Ma racconta anche le loro storie, fatte di soprusi, violenze, privazioni, torture, scontri e indicibili efferatezze compiute dagli israeliani.

Passiamo vari luoghi, da Gerusalemme a Nablus, a Hebron, Ramallah, i campi profughi di Nuseirat e Jabalia e infine Tel Aviv. Un panorama che cambia radicalmente faccia nello spazio di pochi chilometri, ma in cui regna la povertà; baracche, pozzanghere, pantano, coprifuoco, sporcizia.

La zona è certamente una polveriera ove gli arabi, ritenuti parassiti dagli occupanti, sono vessati dai soldati e dai coloni israeliani che imperversano senza che i palestinesi possano invocare alcuna giustizia, visto che la stessa è nelle mani israeliane.

Ovviamente difficile stabilire chi abbia ragione; forse la figura peggiore la fanno Stati Uniti e Gran Bretagna, che con le loro scelte sbagliate, con i loro appoggi militari e i loro soldi hanno di fatto creato e alimentato una faida che dura ormai decenni.
[Penso anche io. Possibile che non riescano a vivere in pace? Qualcuno deve alimentare l'odio]

Il risultato è una vita di guerriglia, di insicurezza, di attentati e di insoddisfazione che permane tutt'oggi.

Fin qui il contenuto. Per quanto riguarda la grafica e l'impostazione del fumetto, devo dire che i disegni sono molto vivi, molto ben fatti, le scene assolutamente realistiche e tali da farci sentire "dentro" i campi profughi, con sapori, odori e sensazioni.
Per contro, a mio parere le didascalie usano troppo testo, scritto troppo piccolo rispetto ai disegni e orientato fuori squadra, cosa che ci costringe a orientare spesso il libro per poter leggere.

Inoltre ho trovato il libro troppo prolisso. Da un fumetto mi aspetto velocità, sintesi, immagini, sensazioni, dinamismo; cose che ho trovato solo parzialmente in Palestina. Considerato il fatto che ho letto le 1500 pagine dei Miserabili in una decina di giorni, i venti giorni per leggere le 312 pagine di Palestina parlano chiaro.

Molto interessanti i contenuti quindi, poco efficace la tecnica espositiva. O sono io che inizio a gradire meno la graphic novel?

Acuto il quesito che Sacco pone alla fine del libro:

Prima di arrivare qui avevo fatto delle congetture e, una volta arrivato, avevo scoperto con stupore come può diventare chi crede di avere il potere dalla sua. Ma poi… Come diventa chi crede di non averne alcuno?
Profile Image for Veeral.
359 reviews133 followers
September 25, 2016
Joe Sacco delivers a scathing piece of comic-journalism with Palestine. The Arab side of the story is fully ignored by the Western media since, well, the beginning of the conflict.

The treatment inflicted upon the Arab refugees is horrendous, but the Western media is never going to acknowledge it. They come and kick you out of your home. There are almost no Arab youngsters above 16 years of age who have not received a jail term. The soldiers can hold you up for 6 months. Without reason. And that term could be extended again for 6 months. And again. The interrogation techniques remind you of NKVD and KGB. The uncaring attitude of the soldiers towards the dying reminds you of the SS and SD. There are dozens of stories here and all of them are without fail, heart-wrenching.

This is a very important piece of journalism which is not to be missed especially if you are a neutral like me who has no connection whatsoever with either side in the Palestine-Israel conflict.
Profile Image for Ken-ichi.
591 reviews545 followers
April 10, 2015
Joe Sacco is a comics journalist, or as he describes himself in this book, an "action cartoonist," entering areas of political turmoil to make documentary comics. Despite some occasional dips into free-wheeling personal anecdote reminiscent of Kerouac or Crumb, Sacco is predominantly a documentarian, not terribly concerned with narrative, but more focused on recounting the individual stories of the people he interviews. And there are a lot of interviews, conducted over countless cups of tea in innumerable Palestinian homes, usually with groups of people seemingly eager to recount tales about the oppression and injustice they suffer under the Israelis every day. These range from the petty (police forcing a kid to stand in the rain while they question him under the shelter of an awning), to the horrific (soldiers shooting a mother's son, then her other son, then refusing to release the bodies until the dead of night, then giving the family no more than 15 minutes to mourn over the body), to the dystopian (myriad tortures including stress postures held for days, ball point pen tubes inserted into genitalia, etc). It's rough stuff, and the very few bright spots, like a curious child asking about America or a translator's efforts to help disabled kids, just make it worse by contrast.

Sacco intentionally does not tell the story of the Israelis, because, as he says, that's the side we usually get in the West. All I really knew about the conflict when I started reading was that both sides seemed culpable, so I found this approach a little frustrating, because now, of course, I feel like the Palestinians are the most shat upon people on Earth, forced from their homeland by powerful Europeans, and living under Orwellian conditions forced upon them by powerful Israelis and their oil-hungry American financiers. Sacco introduces a few sympathetic Israelis, those who don't believe in the settlements, those who acknowledge the injustices met out to the Palestinians, but even they seem petty and ineffectual under the massive weight of Palestinian suffering. I guess I'm a little better educated about the situation after having read this, but also more depressed. This was written in the mid-90s, after all, and things don't seem much better in 2010.

Stylistically, Sacco's approach is interesting. His layouts are creative and diverse, his pacing and illustration skillful enough that I frequently found myself skipping the text and following the images. As I said, Sacco's a documentarian, and most of his illustration is realist, possibly copied and assembled from his photos. His linework is orderly but weatherbeaten, which suits the slums and war zones he visits. His humans, however are rendered with some degree of cartoonish abstraction, usually with exaggerated mouths and lips that gives them an ugly, demanding look. He's either unable or unwilling to depict young women and children with the smooth and unlined faces they usually possess. He seems to both respect his subjects and value authentic representation, so I'm tempted to chalk this up stylistic peculiarity or lack of ability rather than an intent to depict humanity as hungry, babbling, and debased.

His depiction of himself is also worth considering, both visually and personally. He draws himself with small, opaque glasses, giant lips, and a scrawny, hunched figure. Kind of a mole-carp-mantis. He frequently describes himself quailing before violence, fleeing in taxis at the first sign of conflict, and predominantly self-interested, constantly reminding himself that he's collecting stories and experience for his own comic. Judging from his photo in the back of the book, he's not nearly as ugly as his cartoon, and it's hard to believe a cartoonist would make a book like this if he didn't sympathize with the Palestinian's plight, so I don't think his own character in the book is strictly accurate. It could be that he's the kind of prat who uses excessive self-deprecation to unconsciously solicit sympathy (I am often that kind of prat, and we recognize our own; see I'm doing it now!), but he might also be deliberately creating a pitiful and ineffectual avatar for the reader to suggest how difficult (or impossible) it is for the West to help resolve or even understand Middle Eastern conflict. Or maybe he's just flawed and human like the rest of us and he was striving for realism again.

Certainly recommended reading for anyone who's never read non-fiction comics, or anyone with an interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Profile Image for Alex.
625 reviews84 followers
March 18, 2021
I'm not crazy about Sacco's drawing style but the story conveyed here is powerful, and sadly all relevant 25 years after publication.
Profile Image for Ashkin Ayub.
424 reviews181 followers
May 13, 2021
First of all, Joe Sacco is a gifted illustrator. Journalism through comics. This story takes place between 1991 and 1992 in several Palestinian cities, Cairo and Tel Aviv from the Israeli side. In this book, we saw the occupied land's people's point of view of the story, because in the west this other side of the story is pretty much invisible. Obviously, this book was written at a time with much better political conditions, when people could go from the Gaza strip to the west bank.

There are few things that I like to point out.

> Politically the author's opinion was absent. It pretty much conveyed other people's testimonies, whether they were Palestinian or Israelis. Tragic stories of Palestinians. Joe Sacco takes his time to portray these lives, all the horrible crimes and adversities these people faced in their lives, 'Anyway... it's not like I'm here to meditate... and let's face it, my comics blockbuster depends on conflict; peace won't pay the rent.'

> The art style was really amazing, all the drawings were very supportive of the content and they were funny when they needed to be. There was a time I thought some illustrations were too childish in terms of subject.

> On the contrary, I have read Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, Art Spiegelman's MAUS and I must say I loved those books and was somewhat moved by all the struggles that have been documented in those. particular book, but this book doesn't cut it for me (2016 edgy reader). (After reading it today, I would spank me 2016me. Joe Sacco takes old-school journalism back to its roots. He goes into the field, interviews people, takes risks, writes down what he hears, draws what he sees, and ultimately delivers this illustrated journal of his observations in Palestine and that's amazing.)

Story: 4/5
Art: 3.5/5
Profile Image for Abir Oueslati.
190 reviews127 followers
August 4, 2020
Quelle claque !
عمل شامل و كامل. أكثر من رائع.
بشاعة الاحتلال لكن بكوميديا سوداء مما يخفف وطء البؤس و الظلم على القارئ و يجعل كتاب جو ساكو خفيفا رغم فداحة الوضع.
Profile Image for Fran Sobrido Azpillaga.
67 reviews18 followers
October 17, 2020
Me ha parecido un cómic desgarrador. Ver cómo un conflicto iniciado con la partición de Palestina por parte de la ONU en 1947 y que ha llegado hasta nuestros días, queda plasmado de una manera tan distante me ha dejado patidifuso. Creo que la mayor enseñanza que podemos extraer del mismo es cómo se ha tendido a obviar la condición humana de las víctimas del conflicto y cómo a ojos de una parte muy importante del público, tanto líderes locales como internacionales, asisten y juegan su papel sin contar con el sufrimiento que genera una situación que se perpetúa en el tiempo.

El autor trata de dejar constancia de cómo nos encontramos ante un pueblo que ha sido abandonado a su suerte y dejado a las expensas de decisiones políticas de cada momento, con promesas y acuerdos reiteradamente incumplidos. Quizá me quedaría con la parte en que se alude a la intencionalidad con la que los actores implicados en el conflicto juegan y que no sería otra que la de dilatar la resolución del mismo hasta que Israel materialice su programa político, el de la anexión de la totalidad o gran parte del territorio palestino a Israel, con el fin de apropiarse de sus tierras, de sus recursos, de las colinas y de las fronteras.

Los únicos personajes con los que se consigue empatizar es con los palestinos. No me he sentido identificado ni con los occidentales, ni con los israelíes, que actúan con soberbia sobre los demás. Los palestinos, aquellos que sufren las consecuencias del conflicto como mínimo, no parecen más que los protagonistas de las salvajadas que hay que llevar a cabo para ejecutar lo que parece un proyecto predeterminado en la mayor parte del mismo.

Recomiendo el cómic. Creo que puede ser ilustrativo para iniciarse en lo que es uno de los dramas humanos que más se ha prolongado en el tiempo en la historia reciente.

NOTA: 9/10
Profile Image for Anne.
39 reviews
May 1, 2008
For the love of God everyone needs to read this book. Americans are so ignorant when it comes to the struggles of the Isralies and Palestinians. THis is something we need to know about and Sacco presents it in a real person to person manner that will leave shocked and horrified, as you should be. If more people read this book the world would be a better place, because people would have to stand up and fight!
Profile Image for Faidz Zainal Abidin.
236 reviews7 followers
May 22, 2021
“Yes yes, we all want peace, whatever that is, but peace can mean different things, too, and it isn’t described identically by all who wish to imagine it.”

The Palestinian and Israeli people will continue to kill each other in low-level conflict or with shattering violence – until this central fact –Israeli occupation – is addressed as an issue of international law and basic human rights.

Joe Sacco, July 2001
Profile Image for Resh (The Book Satchel).
405 reviews486 followers
May 7, 2018
- art work was not my kind of art.
- important non fiction read
- author does give his own opinions (eg: about wearing hijab) but he also mentions views of those supporting and opposing his views.
- even though this is a graphic novel (non fiction), it does not undermine the tragedies happening in Palestine. Every page is a shocking read.
Profile Image for Tim.
293 reviews287 followers
July 25, 2011
I was never much into graphic narratives or “comic books” as a kid. I’ll show my age by mentioning the ones that I DID read, so maybe its best that I hold something back. I always enjoyed “regular” books, you know, the ones with little to no pictures or illustrations. It seems that from a very young age, I put a certain stigma on the graphic narrative as being in the same category as cartoons (which I will tell you were before the days of the adult cartoons such as South Park). In other words, I didn’t take graphic narratives very seriously.

Well, years later I return to the graphic narrative and I am starting to regret the stereotypes that I’ve put on both graphic narrative readers and authors. The activist that awakened me to the power of the format is Joe Sacco, a brilliant journalist who has mastered the art of associating images in different configurations to convey tension, dialogue, intense situations and the unmistakable art of drilling an image into your memory. I’m sure that those of you who have read many more graphic narratives than I are familiar with all of this already.

The book that I read from Sacco was Palestine: The Special Edition, which included a total of nine individual narratives in one hardbound collection. If you’re a bit of a dork like me and you just like the feel of a book, then this will be aesthetically pleasing to you.

Sacco is to be commended for taking upon himself the immense task of documenting the effects of the first intifada (from 1987-1993) from on the ground. He spent time in both the West Bank and Gaza and delivered an incredibly honest and often humorous account of his culture shock and attempts to deal with the atrocities that the Palestinians face daily.

Sacco portrays himself (for better or worse) as human, and not always sure of what to say or even if he had the compassion and sacrifice within himself to help those in need. To me, this is exemplary of so many currents in the discourse surrounding the solidarity with the Palestinians. The Arab nations, the activists in the U.S. and around the world all talk good rhetoric, but are COMPLETELY unfamiliar with what happens daily to those suffering. Even worse, they don’t know how to deal with the minute by minute, hour by hour events when they arrive with the intention of contributing to the cause. Much of this is due to the idea of “benevolence”; It’s due to the underlying feeling of superiority that the more enlightened are helping the have-nots.

There was dissonance and impatience, as Sacco honestly illustrates that he was scared to death at times. He was often conflicted as to what to say to those who asked him “What difference will it make that you are here?” and “What can you do for us to get the message out to the West?” The Palestinians have been understandably cynical as to what effect dissent in respect to mainstream media will have upon the day to day conditions of their lives. Some of those exchanges became so intense that he was honest enough to state in the narrative that he just wanted to leave the conversation.

What stuck out to me from Sacco’s artistry was his masterful touch at making the images HUMAN. You can not escape that these are a suffering people and not just a conglomeration of human lives that are constantly portrayed as terrorists. They have fears, they live in poverty and misery, and they simply want to be recognized as equals.

At the end of the book, Sacco runs into two Israeli women, who he portrayed as typical Westerners, both in the United States and Israel. They had that sense of entitlement, the Zionist conviction that this land was there’s. However, Sacco also admitted that he had not allowed himself the opportunity to see the Israelis in any other light than soldiers and murderers. He did not immerse himself into dialogue with those Israelis who face their own form of dissonance as to justice when it comes to Palestine. His purpose was to document the untold stories of the Palestinians that we never hear about in the face of constant Zionist propaganda in the West. To that extent, he is brilliant in making the book feel as if you are in the middle of the action along with your friend Joe. It is a PERFECT book to introduce someone to the conflict. I can not wait to follow up this reading with Sacco’s newest book Footnotes in Gaza.
Profile Image for Shaimaa Ali.
610 reviews289 followers
March 6, 2014
Sacco is really raising the bar for any other so-called: Comics!

This is a real Master Piece!! Not an ordinary Comic that you are going to forget once you turn over its last page!
With the eyes of a foreigner, Sacco illustrated what he saw in Occupied Palestine. His illustrations spoke a thousand words besides his commentary on the plot. It was so real that I felt when I'll raise my head from the book I'll find those characters moving in front of me!
He addressed lots of issues, the occupation history, people traditions, food, refugees & their daily sufferings, peace & medical organizations trying to help in vain, charity centers, even women's hijab attracted the catchy eyes of Sacco with its religious & traditional basis.
I was even more fascinated by his sarcastic notes that came while describing very gloomy situations ..

I'm not sure, but my Arabic edition either was missing some parts in the end, or it just was ended abruptly..

In fact after reading Tim's amazing review on it, he left me speechless & I couldn't find proper words for this review :-)
Tim's review:


It's a very highly-recommended read.
Profile Image for Tosh.
Author 12 books604 followers
August 1, 2014
Superb book by Joe Sacco, regarding his journalistic cartooning and narration on the stories that are located in Palestine. It's a subject matter that I have avoided for a long time now. Due to the fact that Israel has close ties to the American culture and the feverish defense and anger towards that country. It is better to look away. Luckily, Sacco doesn't turn his head around, and here we get an interview after interview of Palatine dwellers and what it is like to live in and on an occupied land. It's not pretty. In fact, it is terrible. Curfews (between 8 PM and 4 AM), the brutality of the Isreali soldiers, the thuggish Jewish settlers, and Israel controlling the water, sewage, medicine, electricity, and so forth. It is more or less an open air prison. What makes the stories so strong is not only the tales of the Palestinians, but Sacco's skills as a journalist. He reports without anger or making judgements on the people he's interviewing. Including Israeli citizens. Also his skills as an illustrator are quite remarkable. I imagine that there is a lot of interest right now in this region (as of now, August 2014), and I strongly recommend "Palestine," for its scope and awareness of the darkness that is out there.
Profile Image for Skip.
3,223 reviews394 followers
September 6, 2020
In the early 1990s, Joe Sacco spent about two months visiting in Palestine. His narrative and images are eye-opening, brutal, and depressing -- all in one. Life has been hell for these people: they have been uprooted from their ancestral homes, jammed into occupied areas or refugee camps, and subjected to harsh rule, including persecution and torture, by the Israeli Defense Forces. Unfortunately, this graphic novel fails to tell a compelling story. It is too reportorial, with story after story, of young men being jailed, beaten, shot and women being treated as second class citizens. Several reviewers have described Sacco an a documentarian. I concur. His attempt to distance himself detracts from the power of the narrative I believe he is trying to promote. Glad to have read it, as this perspective is too infrequently provided in the West.
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