In November of 1956, the Israelis stormed two Palestinian towns, Khan Younis and Rafah. In each case, men were rounded up and summarily executed, leading to 275 deaths in Khan Younis and 111 in Rafah. Fast-forward to 2001, when Joe Sacco undertakes a project to get witness accounts of exactly what happened on those fateful days and why the Israelis carried out such a brazen operation. Along the way, Joe examines life in modern-day Rafah, where the Israelis are carrying out a campaign of bulldozing the houses of suspected terrorists.
This books contains examples of:
- ArabIsraeli Conflict: The book focuses primarily on the Rafah and Khan Younis massacres of 1956, but Sacco also discusses the modern aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict, like the suicide bombings and Israel's policy of demolishing the homes of suspected terrorists.
- Deadly Euphemism: The Palestinians refer to terrorist attacks as "operations".
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: The book does not pull any punches about how much the Palestinians hate Israelis and Americans. When the War in Iraq breaks out, the Palestinians gleefully cheer the news about the early Coalition deaths.
- Gonk: Sacco portrays himself with exaggerated features, including a large nose, profound overbite, and gawky frame in order to highlight just how out of place he looks walking around Gaza.
- Potty Failure: At one point, hoping for some straightforward information about the events at Rafah and Khan Younis, Joe asks how the captured men went to the bathroom while they were in captivity. The short answer is that most of them relieved themselves in their clothing.
- Stop Being Stereotypical: In one interview, Abu Mohammed, an Arabic professor, accosts a group of hotheaded Palestinians for blaming the Israelis for everything, pointing out that India was once a colony and now it's a nuclear and economic power.
- Unreliable Expositor: One of the problems Joe frequently runs up against during his research is the fact that many of the people he's interviewing are very old and their memories aren't what they used to be. He's also wary that some of them might have an agenda.
- You Are Acredit To Your Race: In one darkly comedic moment near the beginning, a stoned Palestinian reveler assures Joe that they won't push him into the sea.