Laila El-Haddad - I recently had
the opportunity to interview cartoonist Joe Sacco about his latest work,
Footnotes in Gaza,
for Aljazeera English. The book is an
investigation into two little-known massacres in the 1956 Gaza Strip. I say
little-known because there is little record of these two tragedies outside of a
short UN document and local eyewitness testimony.
subject war near and dear to my heart, as I disclose in my first question to
him in the interview because my mother was a survivor and
witness to those events in Khanyounis (her home town). She was eleven at the
time, and I grew up with non sequitur details of what occurred that day-from
the harrowing (mass executions) to the hilarious (my mother’s jokester of a
cousin who-while awaiting imminent execution-asked his neighbor “what do you
think they’re going to do to us??” (the reply: Make us dance-what do you
think!!); My Aunt, who showed the soldiers about to execute her only son a coat
she has purchased in Tel Aviv in hopes they would spare his life (it was, but
only because a cease fire was declared)), never quite making sense of it all.
;Wasn’t 1948 was the really important date, I thought? And didn’t the Israelis
occupy Gaza in
1967, so what were they doing there in 1956? And why haven’t I read about this
forget Ahmed Bitar-the newlywed they executed just outside the shelter we were
staying in because he pleaded for mercy with his pregnant wife; or the
bodies-all those bodies soaking in their own pools of blood along the castle
wall in the town center; of my baby sister Mona, who couldn’t stop crying
because she lost her pacifier,” she kept telling me.
And so when I
came across Sacco’s book, I was thrilled-in whatever odd way one can be
thrilled when reading about massacres…to discover that someone had finally
bothered to investigate these incidents. I poured through the books pages one
after another. I even showed some to my mother-she recognized many of the faces
“This is not
something you can just forget or [say] ‘let’s move on’ [about]. It has to be acknowledged,
it has to be talked about. History has to be written not just by the victors,
but by the people being victimized” Joe said to me in the interview.
a request of me: that when the interview goes live, I re-link it here along
with testimony from my mother. Well here it is that testimony, following by an
exclusive excerpt from the book.