Palestine By Joe Sacco; A Book Review

Powerful Essays
Joe Sacco’s graphic novel, Palestine, deals with the repercussions of the first intifada in Israel/Palestine/the Holy Land. The story follows the author through the many refugee camps and towns around Palestine as he tries to gather information, stories, and pictures to construct his graphic novel. While the book is enjoyable at a face level, there are many underlying themes conveyed throughout its illustrated pages and written text.
The most obvious of the themes is that of violence, brutality, and torture. Tied into this also is the idea of injustice. Many of these themes are intertwined. Constantly the reader is berated with violent images, or descriptions of violence. These must be on nearly every second page of the novel. A good example of all these themes together is in the section called “Moderate Pressure: Part Two” This deals with a story of a man called Ghassan who was accused of an affiliation with an illegal group that could not be proven. Ghassan was forced to stand or sit in certain positions for hours on end, he was beaten, deprived of sleep, and restricted from medical attention that he needed. Continually he went to court, and the case was adjourned to later dates to try to confiscate some kind of evidence against him. There was no justice for Ghassan until after several days (approximately 14); he was released for lack of evidence. Ghassan suffers from violence (which is unjust), from brutality (one of the inspectors trying to induce a heart attack), and torture. Ghassan’s ordeal is illustrated in both written and pictorial form. Likewise to this, there are many other pictorial examples and textual examples from front to back of violence, brutality, injustice, and torture .
There is also the theme of hypocrisy littered throughout the pages of Joe Sacco’s novel. This idea of hypocrisy is mainly centred on what the Israelis do to the Palestinians. In images the hypocrisy is apparent. Often there are pictures of the Palestinians on the same page, or on the second page but aligned with the Israelis. Often the Israeli side is shown as more optimistic, brighter, or livelier than those portraying the Palestinians. An excellent example of this is on page 260, where both Tel Aviv and Nablus are portrayed. In Tel Aviv, Sacco is reclined on a chair, with two attractive women, and it appears to be a sunny warm day, in Nablus, Sacco is with a crowd of...

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...seem unnecessary and oppressive, but to certain Palestinians it is a matter of religious faith. Another example that shows this is when Sacco is in a car with Khaled . Kahled asks Sacco about things in the West that strike him as ‘bad’, but are quite normal to people from the West (i.e. Sex). These characteristics of evil also impact on an individual’s personal opinion of what is evil. In Palestine, the reader is exposed to various characters’ personal opinion of what evil or good is. An example of this is the figure of Suddam Hussein, to many people (Westerners, Israelis); Hussein is a very ‘evil’ figure. However, to some of the Palestinians represented, Hussein was a force of good, of liberation, the ‘final hope’. Evil in the novel is portrayed to the reader in many contexts that our society and cultural norms and values can understand. Brutal violence, deprivation, apartheid, and torture are all symbols of what we would see as evil. The book portrays the evil as seen by the Palestinians, many of these characteristics matching our own societal ideas of evil, so that the reader can comprehend.

Sacco, Joe. Palestine. Fantagraphics Books, Seattle: 2001.
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