“Love, sex and the promised land” and “I will not leave”: two strong and original views on Israel and Palestine

Love, sex and the promised land, report in Israel and Palestine, Salomé Parent-Rachdi (screenplay), Deloupy (drawing). Editions Les Arènes BD, 160 pages, 24 euros (release April 4, 2024).I will not leave, my story is that of Palestine, Mohammad Sabaaneh. Editions Alifbata, 128 pages, 20 euros. (release September 8, 2023).

Lhe Israeli-Palestinian conflict has once again saturated the screens and radicalized positions for six months. In this flood of images and invectives, two recent comic strips manage to provide an original, even unprecedented, perspective that restores part of the complexity of the problem.

Correspondent in Israel and Palestine for several years, notably for Médiapart or The cross, journalist Salomé Parent-Rachdi chose a very particular angle of investigation to better understand the current situation: romantic relationships. In this comic book adaptation, she relates fourteen intimate and diverse testimonies, where war is never very far from love, nor the History of the present and the politics of religion.

Preceded by three dense pages of updates which recontextualize the project in the post-October 7, 2023 sequence, the story connects the meetings. And shows the great diversity of profiles that are too often fixed and caricatured, under house arrest.

The most striking testimony is perhaps that of a Palestinian lesbian in a relationship for four years with an Israeli army intelligence officer. – Drawing Deloupy / Ed. Les Arènes BD

Among them, a couple who hit the headlines in Israel, the one formed by the Israeli actor Tsahi Alevi and the Palestinian journalist Lucy Aharish and who recount the adventures which accompanied their relationship, then their marriage and the birth of their son “between two crops”. We also meet a young thirty-year-old Palestinian, Arab from Israel living in Tel Aviv, who has many relationships with Israelis from whom she hides her origins behind her blond hair and blue eyes. The journalist, who portrays herself in the stories, also meets a Lubavitch Jewish doctor who seeks to develop sex education for women, a young gay Gazan expatriate in Los Angeles, a couple made up of a young Muslim woman and a a Catholic in Jerusalem or a father in Gaza. The most striking testimony is perhaps that of a Palestinian lesbian in a relationship for four years with an Israeli army intelligence officer. All different and so similar in their humanity, very well rendered by the semi-realistic style of Deloupy.

Narratively, the project reaches its limits a little, with this succession of testimonies that are somewhat repetitive in form, linked by a somewhat weak and linear storyline. But this way of understanding the Israeli-Palestinian situation, begun in 2018, undoubtedly renews the vision that we can have of it. Enriching and surprising at times, it shows above all, with great humanity and delicacy, a torn population, crossed by its multiple contradictions, managing its sexual frustrations as best it can. Above all, it shows the diversity of people who are too often frozen in an opposition that is too binary and caricatured. Even if the terrorist attack of October 7 necessarily hardened positions, as the testimonies of some of the protagonists show in a short and moving epilogue.

Israeli actor Tsahi Alevi and Palestinian journalist Lucy Aharish – Drawing Deloupy / ed. Comic Arenas

Has the range of colors and profiles ofLove, sex and the promised landresponds to black and white, more radical and frontal, of I won’t leave.” If, this time, it is only the Palestinian point of view that is evoked, it is also in a composite, plural way, through a beautiful metaphorical approach.

Here, it is the man who is in the cage. Locked up, a prisoner receives a visit from a little bird which lands at the window of his cell and offers him a deal: “You provide the pencils and I provide the stories.” Every day, the bird brings back its stories, evokes its encounters, which the prisoner draws using the leaves he manages to steal from his guards. Here again, different profiles emerge.

A territory seen as a huge prison.
A territory seen as a huge prison. – drawing Mohammad Sabaaneh / Ed. Alifbata

A couple stuck at a checkpoint and whose wife will not arrive at the East Jerusalem maternity ward in time to give birth, a mother in despair after the death of her young child, killed on the way to school, the insistent noise drones flying over Gaza, the temptation and formation of a “martyr” or an imprisoned father who only knows his daughter through a photo. Stories of resistance, all dramatic but which reflect the global confinement of the Palestinians, as a very symbolic double page shows, with a territory transformed into a labyrinth striped with walls and watchtowers.

The harshness of the subject is expressed all the more in the linocut technique used for this album by the Palestinian author Mohammad Sabaaneh, with its black background from which very contrasting white lines emerge, characters cut with a billhook, rough , stylized to the extreme.

A recognized author, illustrator and cartoonist based in Jenin, in the West Bank, representative of the Middle East to the “Cartoonists Rights Network International”, Sabaaneh was himself imprisoned for a few months in 2013.

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drawing Mohammad Sabaaneh / Ed. Alifbata

It was following this incarceration that he had the idea for this book and the choice of this technique. As he says in a foreword, recalling that in prison: “I never stopped wondering how the other inmates managed to carve their names on the rough partitions. For my part, I was unable to engrave mine on the walls of my cell. This is why I am determined today to engrave their stories and make them known to the world.” He explains that he borrowed the bird in the book from a Palestinian artist from Gaza, Maisara Baroud. “The occupier may have robbed him of his freedom of movement, but he has not succeeded in killing the beauty of what he does.» Words which inevitably take on another meaning since the Israeli offensive in Gaza, but which can also be applied to the work of Mohammad Sabaaneh.

First published in English in 2020, I won’t leave owes this publication in French, at the beginning of last autumn, thanks to Alifbata editions (to whom we also owe the discovery of beautiful Zero point). Editions which will benefit from “carte blanche” during the next Amiens Comic Strip Meetings, at the beginning of next June.

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Drawing Deloupy / Ed. Les Arènes BD
Love, sex and the promised land_page 56.JPG
Drawing Deloupy / Ed. Les Arènes BD
I will not leave_page 97.JPG
Drawing Mohammad Sabaaneh / Ed. Alifbata
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Drawing Mohammad Sabaaneh / Ed. Alifbata
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