A few notes on “Footnotes To Gaza”

Sometimes the books I enjoy the most are not recommended by a friend or carefully selected from my “to read” list. They are, like “Footnotes in Gaza” by Joe Sacco, random picks from a library or bookstore shelf. I was not even looking at books for myself, I was in the graphic books section searching for something that will rather entertain my oldest son, when I spotted the title that arose my interest. The author’s name seemed vaguely familiar as well. Perhaps I read it in some magazine before -I  am not sure. But the fact that he published in some of my favorites, such as Times and Harper’s , spoke well for the author and  I knew that I had to borrow “Footnotes in Gaza” . I started reading it as soon as  I got home and  I got so absorbed by its lecture that I congratulated myself for following my instincts…

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Yes history is actual, and perhaps there is no place better than Palestine and the Gaza Strip to look at as we try to understand how current events unfold from the old ones. How current conflicts are rooted in old wounds. Sacco notes in his foreword to the book the comment of an witness: « ” I still remember the wailing and tears of my father other his brother;” he said. “I couldn’t sleep for many months after that …It left a wound in my heart that can never heal. […] [T]hey planted hatred in our hearts.”» (p. ix, para. II).The witness was Abed El-Aziz El-Rantisi , a senior official of Hamas, the political wing of the Palestinian resistance movement that is often blamed (and culpable) for terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians. Terrorist attacks leading Israelis to intensify their efforts to eliminate the armed militants from Gaza Strip and destroy their connections with the outside world – the paths they use to bring in weapons and  send suicide bombers into Israel. And since rockets and bullets do not make a difference between civilians and militants – the more aggressive are the Israeli attacks,  the more likely to hurt Palestinian civilians.And given that the isolation enforced on the overpopulated Gaza Strip  leads to  less employment and trade opportunities and therefore  more poverty… With each genetation there are more victims, more wounded hearts, more hatred…

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On personal note, one question is following me since I finished reading “Footnotes to Gaza” : How comes  that so many IDF soldiers showed cruelty or at best indifference and lack of human compassion towards civilians? Yes, some where potential enemy soldiers or murderers -yet many of them were old men or boys as young as 15, they were teachers and merchants , some of them were peacemakers, and some had been  living exemplary lives.  Considering the year when the killings happen : 1956, 11 years after the end of WWII  and the average age of active soldiers in the IDF , the Israeli soldiers had to remember the years of Holocaust as something that happened in their own time. The memory of those times when they, the people of Israel, could have faced , and some of them had faced perhaps , humiliation and death. Just because everybody whith those religious beliefs, anyone who belonged to their nation was “the enemy”. No matter what they had done or how they lived as individuals. I think that memory had to be alive in their minds and hearts. And one hopes that the people who belong to a nation surviving so much harm, so much injustice are more likely to act humanly: showing mercy, compassion, acting justly and avoiding the gratuitous humiliation and violence against their prisoners. Yet, in spite of one what might hope, there is perhaps a harsher reality -most of us recall the fear instead. The thought that if they are acting too softly instead of being aggressively in offensive,  they may end up being those oppressed, those victimized… the hopeless ones.

A complete book review is available on my “artsy” blog/page : Anaïs

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