Who Was That Strange Man I Met In Gaza And Why Was He Drawing Cartoons As People Died?

It is a world that I have lost touch with, but while I was in it, however marginally, it was filled with an incredible array of intelligent, passionate, engaged and generous people. Post-war Sarajevo bought me in touch with writer Stacy Sullivan, photographer Paul Lowe, photographer and editor Leslie Fratkin and last and definitely not the least, the graphic artist Joe Sacco.

And though my first meeting with Joe Sacco was rather brief – a brush past and a ‘Hello’ at a small cafe in Sarajevo, I finally got to know him better in the Palestinian city of Rafah in Southern Gaza. I ran into him on the streets of that city back in 2003 and learned that he was there working on a new book and research project on an event, a massacre, that had taken place back in 1948 in the city of Khan Younis, a few miles from Rafah.

Over grilled chicken and endless rounds of what he liked to call ‘the official drink of Rafah’ i.e. Mirinda Orange, we talked about his work, about my project and photographic aims, about the occupation of Palestine, and about the meaning of life in a prison like Rafah. It was during that period that we both met the American peace activist Rachel Corrie, and together stood over her body at the morgue in Rafah.

Joe Sacco’s work from that period is now complete, and emerges in the form of a new book called Footnotes In Gaza and the excellent blog Mondoweiss as a preview that I encourage you to go and see – just click on the image below:

From Joe Sacco's New Book "Footnotes In Gaza" Copyright Joe Sacco

From Joe Sacco's New Book "Footnotes In Gaza" Copyright Joe Sacco

The work is an example of rigorous research and journalism. It digs deep into the history of a period that Israel’s nationalist myths have determinedly erased, but that live in the memory and souls of its victims. Patrick Cockburn reviewed the work for The New York Times calling it “…one of the few contemporary works on the Israeli-Palestinian struggle likely to outlive the era in which they were written.”

For those who speak of ‘peace’, works like this remind us that it is not merely peace we seek, but justice as well. For without justice, there can be no peace.

Joe Sacco is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of a number of graphic books including Palestine and Safe Area Goradze amongst others.

Get to know him.

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