I’ve just heard Chris Flynn’s excellent review of Footnotes in Gaza on the ABC’s Book Show of 21 April. It’s preceded by interesting discussions of European comics (‘graphic novels’) in translation and South Korean comics, in a refreshing antidote to the patronising treatment often handed out to comics in the mainstream media. Chris Flynn says in part:
Sacco tries his level best to build up an accurate picture of what might have happened. he comes at the massacres from all angles, presenting eyewitness accounts that sometimes correspond and sometimes conflict. Footnotes in Gaza is thus a fascinating document of ordinary people, but it is disappointing that it lacks an Israeli perspective on what happened. In his introduction Sacco bemoans that he was stonewalled, and the limited access that he was granted to UN and Israeli Defence Force archives, and he puts out a plea for Israeli soldiers who were present on the days in question to come forward with their versions of events.
As an eye-opening piece of war reportage, Footnotes in Gaza succeeds largely thanks to Sacco’s innovative, fresh approach in presenting a forgotten moment in history in such a modern fashion. As a narrative piece of story-telling, it contains several moments that made me put the book down and hold my head in my hands. As illustrative journalism, it has a huge emotional impact, particularly during the grand vistas of destruction and the final, silent pages that transcend words. There are no answers here, just terribly sad questions.
Did your copy have info on the Israeli perspective at the back? It was mentioned in the intro, but there was nothing there in my copy.
Yes, it does. There are 25 pages of appendices:
Appendix 1: Documents and Sources, 1956 – ‘extended cullings from some of the documents I quoted in teh book to provide more context…’
Appendix 2: The Demolition of Homes in Rafah: The Israeli View – portions of transcripts from Sacco’s interviews with IDF spokespersons
Appendix 3: The Demolition of Ashraf’s Home – excerpts from his journal entry about it and from interview with IDF Lieutenant Colonel responsible for the operation
Appendix 4: Palestinian Figures for Homes Demolished – huge disparity between UNWRA figures and those of the IDF.
All the same, your comment holds up. The Israeli perspective as gleaned from these sources is better than nothing, and sheds light on the rationale for the demolition of houses, but one is still left with a sense of deep silence from the Israelis.