By Joe Sacco
Without Sacco, I would know only scratches of Palestinian history. That is what I realise upon reading this masterpiece. It seems that every skill he has picked up during previous projects, whether it is interviewing or ascertaining reliability, has informed Footnotes in Gaza, a shocking and electrifying account of atrocities committed against Palestinians in 1956.
In this book, Sacco details first what happened in Khan Younis and then the later massacre in Rafah. His stark cartoon style is once again perfect for recalling history. It allows Sacco the freedom to add in the details which would otherwise be lost through prose. Every background has a busy street scene, every home has children’s expressions. This style is the future of history.
But above his stylistic accomplishments sits Sacco’s exquisite talent for reportage. He uncovers histories untold and facts long buried. The horrors of Gaza at the hands of mighty and unmoved oppressors are brought to the surface. Through Sacco’s eyes, they are bare and terrible. But he also admits that his approach is flawed. History is fallible, he says, as he pokes holes in the testimonies of witnesses and details conflicting accounts of what happened half a century before his work on this project began. That makes him a daring and powerful historian. In many ways his work is as important as Edward Said’s and Ghassan Kanafani’s in recounting the trials of Palestinians. Let’s hope he keeps telling these stories.