Actor Rob Delaney on Israel’s genocide in Gaza, the complicity of our governments and how political leaders ‘profane the memory’ of those who have died.

KHAN YUNIS, GAZA – OCTOBER 15: Children crying because of Israeli raids on October 15, 2023 in Khan Yunis, Gaza. Many Gazan citizens have fled to the south following warnings from the Israeli government to do so. Israel has sealed off Gaza and launched sustained retaliatory air strikes, which have killed at least 1,400 people with more than 300,000 displaced, after a large-scale attack by Hamas. On October 7, the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel from Gaza by land, sea, and air, killing over 1,300 people and wounding around 2,800. Israeli soldiers and civilians have also been taken hostage by Hamas and moved into Gaza. The attack prompted a declaration of war by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the announcement of an emergency wartime government. (Photo by Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)

Imagine being in Sderot, Israel and hearing Hamas rockets land near your home. You’re scared, you instantly take mental stock of your family members’ locations. Then you hear gunfire. Screaming. You recognise a scream. A few minutes later, you’re holding your daughter’s corpse. She’s still warm and will be for a while yet, but she is dead. A Hamas bullet severed her subclavian artery, and that was that. You pray out loud, essentially singing, to trade places with her. It doesn’t work. She is dead. You are alive. You want to die. You won’t. 

Can you kill anyone to fix this? Who? Where are they? Do you bring your other children with you to do it? Or do you get a babysitter for your other kids so you can go try and kill them? Is your babysitter alive? If you can’t kill your child’s murderer specifically, is there someone else you could kill? Would it feel good then and there, like working out or taking a shit? If so, how long would it take the feeling to dissipate? 

If someone killed my child in front of me, I suspect I’d do my best to kill them right back. I wouldn’t be in the right, but people would get it. That said, I’ve always opposed the death penalty because it makes mistakes and is racist in its implementation. In the United States, it has been demonstrated to repeatedly kill innocent people and is disproportionately used against Black people. The state should be ‘better’ at solving problems than a violently bereaved father, but in the case of the United States, it is very often not. 

The Israeli government does not differ from the US government on this point. They’re quite similar — partners even — in many of the ways they police other countries and their own citizens.

When I was nine, my kind, gregarious neighbour Barry died of leukemia. His family sat Shiva and we joined them. I have visited and treasured this memory all my life, and when my own son died of brain cancer five years ago, I let it guide me in how we handled the days following Henry’s death. Barry’s memory was indeed a spectacular blessing. 

When I was thirty, my friend Mahir’s father died, and afterwards, Mahir generously walked my wife and I step by step through the Muslim rituals of mourning and burial, how he attended and washed and shrouded his father and then personally buried him in the earth. We were rapt. When our son died, we had a beautiful template of intimacy to follow due to the love of a Muslim son for his father.

I think I am saying that Jewish and Muslim ghosts guided me better during my time of greatest pain than today’s presidents and prime ministers and newspaper owners are guiding us today. 

They profane the memory of those killed and those to be killed. 

I do not anticipate these new ghosts being kind with them.

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