ISBN: 156097432X

Excellent contemporary graphic novel. The characters convincingly portrayed. Sacco has a journalist eye and a storyteller’s heart.

One might say his portrayal of the Palestine people’s plight and persecution is biased.


I have to admit I’m fed on a diet of seeing Israel as a victim. Yet by Sacco’s account, Israel the victor had carried out a campaign of suppression through curfews, creation of cheap labour pool by depressing the Palestine economy.

Sacco goes around interviewing Palestinians for their stories of how they have been treated. In a way, he’s digging for stories to sell.

Stories include accounts of the detention camps, of being jailed as a rite of passage of any Palestinian male. Of overly sugared tea. Of the hospitality of the middle-eastern culture.

Stories of how Israeli settlers (often migrants from Europe, who seem more prejudiced and violent than migrants from some other countries) form vigilante mobs and destroy their neighbour’s home. But what is unsaid is also the little petty retaliatory strikes by the Palestinians who throw stones. And the unfairness of other Palestinians who are persecuted simply because they are Palestinians.

Automatic hostile responses carried out by both sides, so much so that after a while, the endless cycle of tit-for-tat just made the question of who started what seemingly irrelevant.

The Israeli side of the story is presented by way of a conversation between Sacco and two Israelis, over coffee. It was a convincing to me the complexities of the issues involved. The realness of it. Hard to say who’s right and who’s wrong. Emotions are part of the responses to any discussion about the ongoing problems. Sacco uses that conversational piece to great effect, to say things without being academic. And finding there is no answer.

I’d think in another earlier era, this was how the Jews were persecuted. And perhaps in a later eon, the tables would have turned and the endless cycle of revenge continues, with power switching sides infinitely.

Sacco produced the graphic novel after spending two months with the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories in late 1991 and early 1992. Things certainly have changed since then. Or maybe not. I’m not certain.

What the graphic novel does capture, I believe, is the Palestinian situation at that time.

And what I appreciate is that the graphic novel doesn’t seek to politicise the events. The focus of all the anecdotes centres on the people. Ordinary people like you and I, who are drawn into the vicious cycle of hate, prejudice, violence, revenge and retaliation.

In an era before Twitter and the Iran elections, this graphic novel gave a glimpse of what life was like as a Palestinian living in the Occupied Territories.