Palestine in Comics

Books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and modern Palestinian history abound, appearing in various languages and covering various topics, angles and perspectives. Recently, three works have appeared that have looked at Palestinian life under occupation through the visually rich and textured comics form.

Despite the label, comics (or “graphic novels” as its book-length iteration is called) offer serious and sophisticated analyses and depictions of daily life through a creative combination of black-and-white line drawings and accompanying text. Here, we’ll look at three graphic novels that are celebrated both for their incisive commentaries on politics in Palestine as well as for being brilliant comics in their own right.

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“Palestine”, by Joe Sacco 

Maltese-American reporter-cartoonist Joe Sacco spent a few months in 1991 and 1992 visiting the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. At that time, the first Intifada was still raging in Palestinian towns and refugee camps. The pages of “Palestine” follow Sacco as he makes his way through Nablus, Jerusalem, Hebron, Ramallah and Gaza during a rainy, muddy winter, drawing and writing about the people he meets and the stories he hears. Whether it’s a crowded road at a refugee camp or a family dinner with a recently released prisoner, Joe Sacco’s meticulously rendered drawings reflect his keen observer’s eye for detail and subtlety.

With Sacco, it is clear who is the oppressor and who is the oppressed; yet his grasp of the political situation in Palestine does not lead to romanticized portrayals of Palestinians under occupation. He shows the gritty side of life, the hardened edges of men and women defined by an oppressive apparatus of occupation which they fight against constantly, armed by little more than “their sheer indomitability, their unspoken will to go on, and their willingness to cling to their story, to retell it, and to resist designs to sweep them away altogether.”

Originally published as a series of nine comics beginning in 1993, “Palestine” won the American Book Award in 1996. A collected edition of the comics series was published in 2001 by Fantagraphics Books.

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“Footnotes in Gaza”, by Joe Sacco 

Another work by Joe Sacco, “Footnotes in Gaza,” was published in 2009. In this work, Sacco returns to Gaza to investigate two massacres that took place in Rafah and Khan Younis by the Israeli army during the Tripartite Aggression of 1956, which was launched by Britain, France and Israel against Egypt in response to the Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal. At that time, the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian administration.

In “Footnotes,” Sacco combines his skills as an investigative journalist of the highest caliber with his unique style of drawing and composition to create a work of visual journalism that succeeds in salvaging the tragic story of those events of 1956 from the margins of history and memory. Sacco won the Ridenhour Book Prize for “Footnotes in Gaza” in 2010.

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“Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City”, by Guy Delisle 

Canadian comics artist Guy Delisle spent a year living in East Jerusalem between 2008 and 2009, which is the subject of his 2012 book, “Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City.” Accompanying his wife, who works for Médecins sans Frontières, Delisle is the primary caretaker of his two young children. Not only is he trying to negotiate daycare and grocery shopping in Beit Hanina, he is also trying to make sense of a political situation that is at once absurd, tragicomic, and ironic. Delisle’s uncomplicated drawings and terse prose are a stark contrast to Joe Sacco’s richly detailed and researched comics, yet the simplicity of his style succeeds in making his conclusions all the more powerful and clear.

“Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City” won the Fauve d’Or at the Angouleme Comic Festival in 2012.

المتحف الفلسطيني أول مبنى أخضر في فلسطين

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عند افتتاحه في خريف عام 2014 سيكون المتحف الفلسطيني أول مبنى أخضر في فلسطين، ومن المتوقع أن يحصل على الشهادة الفضية في نظام الريادة العالمي في تصميمات الطاقة والبيئة الذي يشار إليه بـ LEED اختصاراً لـ
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. ويتولى المجلس الفلسطيني للأبنية الخضراء الإشراف على بناء المتحف والتأكد من تطبيق المقاولين للمواصفات البيئية. وفي مقابلة مقتضبة مع المهندس بدوي القواسمي، عضو مؤسس للمجلس، تحدث كيف سيكون المتحف نموذجاً يحتذى به في الاستدامة البيئية على نطاق فلسطين، قائلاً: «المتحف ريادي وسبّاق وسنستخدمه كنموذج تعليمي من خلال ورشات تدريبية، سواء على نطاق المهنيين من مهندسين ومقاولين أو على نطاق طلبة الهندسة في الجامعات الفلسطينية».

 المياه والطاقة
الحلول الخضراء في تصميم وتشييد المبنى ستخفض استهلاك المياه والطاقة بنسبة تصل إلى 23%، وبحسب القواسمي ستساهم عازلية المبنى الكبيرة وتوجيهه بما يتلاءم مع حركة الشمس بالاحتفاظ بدرجة حرارة مناسبة في الصيف وفي الشتاء. ويشير إلى أنه سيتم تجميع مياه الأمطار من أسطح المبنى في خزان مياه كبير واستخدامها في عمليات المتحف المختلفة، وستوظف الطاقة الشمسية لتسخين المياه للاستخدام الداخلي، كما ستكرر المياه العادمة وستستخدم في ري حدائق المتحف وفق نظام تدفق مياه بتحكم تلقائي. وستزرع الحدائق بنباتات من البيئة الأصلية لفلسطين، أي لن تحتاج إلى كميات كبيرة من الماء».

 بيئة صحية
ويهدف المتحف إلى خلق بيئة صحية ومثالية للزوار والموظفين، ولذلك فقد وضع مخطط لتخفيض نسب المواد المتطايرة التي تتواجد في أنواع الدهان والسجاد والباطون، والتي تتسامى في درجات حرارة معينة وتؤثر على التنفس وبالتالي على الصحة.  ويشجع المتحف الموظفين والزوار على استخدام الدراجات الهوائية للوصول إلى المتحف ويخصص مواقف خاصة لها، إضافة إلى مواقف السيارات الواسعة. ويراعي المتحف في تصميم مبناه مستخدمي الكراسي المتحركة، سواء داخل المبنى أم خارجه.

 عملية البناء
ويرى القواسمي أن هناك بعض التحديات التي تتمثل في كون المعايير البيئية المتبعة عالمياً متطلبات إضافية ومواصفات جديدة بالنسبة للمتعهدين والعمال الفلسطينيين الذين اعتادوا على البناء بطرق معينة، وأن هذه المواصفات هي، في كثير من الأحيان، غير مقنعة وغير مفهومة بالنسبة إليهم.
ومن المتطلبات التي يعمل المجلس الفلسطيني للأبنية الخضراء على إلزام المتعهدين بها «حصر الجرافات والآليات في أماكن معينة في موقع البناء، بحيث لا تتحرك في كل مساحة الموقع لتفادي أضرار بيئية قد تلحق بالأراضي المحيطة بالمبنى أثناء العمل». ويضيف القواسمي: «أما الموقع فسيتم إحاطته بسياج خاص يمنع تسرب التربة من منطقة البناء إلى خارجها، وذلك لتخفيف الأثر البيئي لعملية البناء على ما حولها، وسيتم إنشاء محطة غسيل للشاحنات في الموقع للحد من انتقال الأتربة والطين منه إلى الشوارع المحيطة».  ويذكر بأن المجلس الفلسطيني للأبنية الخضراء هو مؤسسة غير ربحية تأسست في عام 2011، بهدف التوعية وتقديم المساعدة للمؤسسات المختلفة وللقطاع العام والخاص من أجل الالتزام بمعايير المجلس العالمي للأبنية الخضراء عند البناء.

The Palestinian Museum: Palestine’s First LEED-Certified Green Building

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When the Palestinian Museum opens its doors in the fall of 2014, visitors will be able to experience Palestine’s first energy-efficient green building. Striving for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver rating, the Palestinian Museum will work with the Palestine Green Building Council to assure that it implements and adheres to green building design guidelines set by LEED.

Engineer Badawi Qawasmi, a founding member of the Council, pointed out that the Museum’s building will be a model for environmental sustainability on the Palestinian level. “We will use the Museum’s building as an educational case-study to deliver training workshops to engineers, contractors, university students and other professionals,” he said.

Water and Energy
Water and energy consumption in the building will be reduced by 23% by using green solutions in design and constructions. According to Qawasmi, the Museum building’s orientation is such that it will be able to maintain adequate and comfortable temperatures in both summer and winter months. Green solutions include collecting rainwater from the rooftop of the building in large water containers for reuse. Solar energy will be used to heat water for public use, while wastewater will be refined and reused for irrigating the gardens based on an automatically controlled water system. Moreover, the gardens of the Museum will be planted with indigenous plants, which tend not to require large amounts of water.

A Healthy Environment
According to Qawasmi, “the Museum aims to create a healthy environment that is ideal for both visitors and staff by introducing methods and procedures to reduce the rates of toxic substances that exist in various types of paint, carpets and concrete, which vaporize in certain temperatures and affect breathing and therefore health.” The Museum also encourages staff and visitors to use bicycles to get to the building. Wheelchair accessibility has been integrated into the building’s design.

Construction Process
Implementing green building design guidelines in Palestine poses certain challenges. “The global environmental standards are additional requirements for Palestinian contractors and workers who are accustomed old ways of construction and site maintenance. The new specifications, in many cases, are not convincing or incomprehensible to contractors and construction workers,” said Qawasmi. The Palestine Green Building Council obliges contractors to operate in a limited area on the construction site to avoid environmental damage that might occur to the land surrounding the building during construction. Qawasmi noted that “the site will be surrounded with a special fence that prevents the erosion of soil from the construction area, thereby mitigating the environmental impact of the construction process on the adjacent area. A washing station for trucks will be created on site to reduce the transmission of dust and mud to the surrounding streets and neighborhoods.”

The Palestine Green Building Council is a non-profit organization founded in 2011 to raise awareness and provide assistance to various institutions in the public and private sector to comply with the standards of the World Green Building Council.