Paul L. Caron

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Personal Statements On Hamas And Israel

April 15, 2024 will mark the 20-year anniversary of TaxProf Blog. In my over 50,000 posts during that time, I have tried to dispassionately share interesting and important news and information on tax and legal education (and, recently on Sundays, faith) from a variety of perspectives (with an occasional post about my family and my law schools). I have continued in that vein with my recent posts (here and here) on whether university presidents and law school deans should issue official statements on events like those on October 7.  

I am the dean of a law school with four Jewish full-time faculty and perhaps the largest cohort of Jewish students among Los Angeles area law schools. One of those professors was in Israel for the High Holidays with his family on October 7 and taught his 1L contracts class remotely from Israel on October 9 in between visits to bomb shelters. On October 11, I attended a moving and overflowing community gathering hosted by our Jewish Law Students' Association and Associate Dean for Student Life and Spiritual Development. On October 18, for the first time in our six years hosting the weekly dinner and Bible study, my wife Courtney and I spoke to the gathered students, staff, and faculty. On October 23, another of our Jewish professors will open our monthly faculty meeting in prayer.

Now, two weeks after October 7, I feel compelled to share my thoughts, not in my capacity as  dean, but as a human being and a Christian horrified by the savagery unleashed by Hamas on that day. My three dear friends on Pepperdine Caruso Law's senior leadership team also welcomed the opportunity to share their personal views as well.

Personal Statement of Paul Caron, Duane and Kelly Roberts Dean and Professor of Law:

Caron Headshot (High Res)The torture and killing of over 1,400 Israeli men, women, children, babies, and elderly (including over 30 Americans) by Hamas is genocidally evil.

I welcome the effort by Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University, to enlist presidents and chancellors of all U.S. and global colleges and universities to stand with Israel against the terrorism of Hamas. Signatories include Presidents of Baylor University, University of Notre Dame, and  the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities:

We Stand Together with Israel Against Hamas
We are horrified and sickened by the brutality and inhumanity of Hamas. Murdering innocent civilians including babies and children, raping women, and taking the elderly as hostages are not the actions of political disagreement but the actions of hate and terrorism. The basis of all universities is a pursuit of truth, and it is times like these that require moral clarity. Like the fight against ISIS, the fight against Hamas is a fight against evil. We, the presidents and chancellors of universities and colleges across the United States of America and the world, stand with Israel, with the Palestinians who suffer under Hamas’s cruel rule in Gaza, and with all people of moral conscience.

I am looking forward to hearing President Berman speak at Pepperdine University on October 26 as part of the President's Speaker Series. Rev. Johnnie Moore will moderate the discussion between President Berman and President Gash. As President of the Congress of Christian Leaders, Rev. Moore testified before the EU Parliament on October 11 and urged the EU to stand with Israel against Hamas terrorism.

Richard Haas (President Emeritus, Council on Foreign Relations) has a detailed analysis of the path forward for America in a Saturday Essay in the Wall Street Journal, The Goal for U.S. Diplomacy With Israel: First Calm, Then Peace: With Dangers Rising Across the Middle East, America Needs a Two-Phase Effort to Stabilize the Conflict in Gaza and Resolve Core Israeli-Palestinian Issues. I am looking forward to hearing Mr. Haas speak at Pepperdine University on November 7 as part of the President's Speaker Series

Here is what I said at our October 18 Bible study:

I am drawn to the Book of Job. Job was a God-fearing man who kept his faith, even after suffering tragedy after tragedy, including the death of all of his children. In Job 1:21, he said “The LORD giveth and the LORD taketh away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

How was that possible for Job? How is that possible for us? We can find solace in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In John 11:25-26, Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus had died. On his way to the tomb four days later, Jesus told Martha, Lazarus' grieving sister: "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

When they got to the tomb, Jesus saw Lazarus’s family & friends weeping. Verse 33 says “Jesus was deeply moved.” And then verse 35 has two simple words: “Jesus wept.” Even though Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus wept. Even though Jesus knew that when Lazarus later died he would be resurrected, Jesus wept.

Like Jesus, we weep for all those killed by terrorist acts and in war, in Israel, Gaza, Ukraine, and around the world. And like Jesus, we know that those who have died, who accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, will have eternal life.

I want to close with the the Prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Personal Statement of Jason Jarvis, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Assistant Professor of Law and Practice:

JarvisLike many of my friends and colleagues at Pepperdine and around the world, I was overwhelmed by the evil reflected in the terrorist attacks on the Jewish people of Israel by Hamas.  Having had time to try to make sense of and reflect, I write to share my personal views.

No mass terrorist attack has resembled those of October 7.  Even the most despotic governments in the world have not done what Hamas did that weekend–and continues to do–by specifically murdering or holding hostage women, children, and elderly.  This is an unprecedented attack and situation; the only sad predictable thing is that it happened to Israel.

The grim historical reality of the Jewish people has been one of intense persecution, for which the world bears witness and responsibility.  I am not a scholar or even a student of Middle East politics, which has a complicated history.  But the fact Israel is surrounded by countries, some of whose national and religious leaders not only refuse to accept its existence but actively campaign for its destruction and the destruction of the Jewish people, is a confounding reality.  I emphatically stand with my Jewish friends, the Jewish people, and the nation of Israel not only as a human being, but as a Christian who shares the same theological forebears and a conviction born of scripture that the Jewish people were God’s uniquely chosen people.

I love Jesus. Jesus loves peace. And God seeks “mercy not justice.” So I pray for the violence to stop.  While I strongly empathize and identify with Israel, I pray that counter-offensive or rescue operations are focused and limited in scale.  There are suffering innocent civilians on all sides.  I weep for those people and pray for their deliverance from the evil around them and that done in their name.  War is tragic.  Join me in praying it ends swiftly.

Personal Statement of Chalak Richards, Dean of Students, Belonging, and Career Development:

RichardsWhen I learned of the heinous terrorist attacks that occurred on October 7, one scripture came to mind: “Jesus wept.” John 11:35. And when asked what I thought - not as a member of the Pepperdine Caruso Law administration, but as a woman, an immigrant, a person of color, a Christian—all I wanted to reply was that Jesus wept and so do I.

We weep for our Jewish community, who are dealing with the surprise but not at all shocking attack on their community and country. Whether living in Israel or the Jewish diaspora, the4y are feeling the generational trauma that is resurfaced with the knowledge that, yet again, they cannot feel safe.

We weep for the innocent Palestinian people in Gaza, who are not at all affiliated with the terroristic attacks perpetrated by Hamas but are now bearing the horrifying consequences. The people who have also been seeking for decades to find a way to live in peace but have been thrust back into a terribly complicated conflict.

We weep for the broader global community, who are rocked through the pain of those around them and seeking good answers in a truly difficult time.

Jesus wept, before He acted. And so, I have taken time to weep, to mourn with those who mourn, to seek to be a place of care and bring the ministry of presence.

I’m now reminded, however, of the rest of the story in John 11. After Jesus wept, He took action that proved the audacious claim He’d made just a few verses prior: “I am the resurrection and the life.” He brought life in a dead place, hope in what everyone believed was a hopeless situation.

The horrific and despicable acts by Hamas have shone light on what many now believe is a hopeless situation; but I believe that we can act like Jesus and bring hope for the innocent people across both Israel and Gaza. The despair that is war can be stopped through actions consistent with the love of Jesus, actions that prioritize the lives of innocent people in the region, actions that create opportunities for all people to live in peace, safety, and true freedom. I pray that as we weep together, we will act a little more like Christ.

Personal Statement of Arnold Barba, Chief of Staff, Associate Dean of Professional Formation, and Director of the Parris Institute for Professional Excellence:

BarbaWhile Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law “is not itself the critic [of social values and practices;]” “it is the home and sponsor of critics whose voices offer important critiques germane to the pressing issues of our day, including the weightiest matters of civil unrest, atrocity, and war.

I write as one such voice.  I write not on behalf of Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, but as a husband, father, friend, lawyer, image bearer of God, and follower of Christ.

I condemn unequivocally the barbarisms that recently transpired in Israel, as informed by the biblical precepts that uphold ordered societies’ basic human rights.

I also commend unequivocally the only word of hope and life to victim and assailant alike, as revealed by the biblical truth that underlies my personal faith in Jesus Christ.

In a surprise attack on October 7, 2023, lawless men committed hundreds of coordinated, planned, and state sponsored acts of savagery against innocent life in Israel.  Ghastly reports include elderly murdered, whole families burned alive, young concert goers in the prime of life gunned down by aerial invaders, women raped, then paraded, killed or taken, children slaughtered as parents held to watch, infants beheaded, and countless other heinous acts of evil incarnate.  And the cruelty is yet to end.  Hamas terrorists abducted scores of civilians-including women and children-to serve as human shields against Israel’s reprisal.  As of this writing, Jewish captives and Palestinian civilians are still held hostage by their terrorist overlords, forced to function as fodder for their propaganda war.

As my conscience bears clear witness, the events of October 7th were heinous. These crimes against humanity are not noble acts of resistance, but an ignoble rebellion against our Creator.

With such searing loss, devastation, and damning guilt before God, where do victim and perpetrator go from here? 

I am convinced there is only one place—the precious Cross of Jesus Christ.

Before the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, sin and death reigned. Before then, history tells us that the world’s central ethos was “might makes right.”  Justified by the “virtue” of conqueror’s rights, the strong lorded power over their conquered.

But then at the appointed time, “being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us,” God became man in Jesus Christ, lived a perfectly righteous life, died a horrific, completely atoning death, rose from the dead on the third day, and ascended to His eternal reign, so that His people (all who trust in Christ), may be forgiven of their sins, redeemed, ransomed, delivered (from darkness and slavery to sin), and saved from the holy wrath of God, to enjoy eternal union with God, through faith in Christ alone. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that by grace alone, we all can be reconciled to God through repentance and faith in Christ—a most gracious gift of God.

The strongest of all, God incarnate Jesus Christ, died a monstrous, sacrificial death, so that in His humiliation, the weakest of all (repentant sinners) may be reconciled to God, enjoy eternal life and partake in the glory of God.  The Cross defeated sin and death and started to turn the world’s central virtue on its head.

Since then, the Cross has been transforming the central ethos of much of the world from man’s drive for power, to one of hope, faith and sacrificial love, inspired by a merciful and gracious God.  Human beings, whatever tribe, tongue, ethnicity, class, or creed, are increasingly recognized by the civilized world as bearing the image of God, having inherent dignity and transcendent value.

But deep darkness remains.  For nihilists like Nietzsche, the ethos of the Cross is obscene.  Will to power, not sacrificial love, should reign, said he.  For fascists like Hitler, the ethos of the gospel is repulsive.  A life surrendered to God marked by love and forgiveness perverts the strong and weakens the state, he believed.  The message of the Cross “is folly to those who are perishing.”

It is no accident that both Nietzsche and Hitler were enslaved by a deep hatred for the Jews—a spiritual darkness that long predated them.  The ancient Book of Esther tells about how God delivered the Jews from Haman, a royal counselor, and his evil scheme to exterminate them from the Persian Empire.  This same spiritual darkness—a root cause for the events of October 7th—permeates the world to this day.  Antisemitic violence and threats of violence rage in cities around the world.

My heart aches for the Jewish people, and my Jewish colleagues, students, and friends.  Those affected by the events of October 7th will never be the same.  I pray for their restoration and healing in every way, which Holy Scripture reveals to be found only by faith in God’s Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ.

And to the terrorists enslaved by spiritual darkness, I pray that God grant them repentance and faith in our only hope, Jesus Christ.  Apart from Him, like all unrepentant sinners, they stand condemned already” before a Holy God, and in judgment they “shall lie down in torment.”

I plead to all, the suffering and the assailant alike, the gospel of peace and reconciliation in Jesus Christ.  To the entire world in rising strife, I appeal to true reconciliation found only in Jesus Christ.

Strangers to Christ remain at enmity with God and with each other.  But in Christ, we can find reconciliation with God, and with each other.  By His shed blood, we are brought near to God, and to one anotherChrist is our peace with God and our peace with each other—for He unites all as one.

Through His sacrifice, Christ created in Himself “one new man”, tearing asunder the wall of hostility that divided mankind from God, and that has divided mankind itself, whether by tribe, tongue, nation, ethnicity, creed, or mere sin.

All who are in Christ have “access in one Spirit to the Father” in Heaven, making us children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ and fellow citizens and members of the household of God, moved by love for God and for one another to show each other patience and kindness, even preferring one another other over ourselves for the glory of God.

I plead and pray that all mired in, and afflicted by, the enduring conflicts in the Middle East and every other theater of the world, whether Israeli or Palestinian, Jew or Muslim, Shiite or Sunni, Persian or Arab, Russian or Ukrainian, take hold of saving faith in Jesus Christ, our only way to true and lasting peace with God and each other.

In Christ we are one:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for [we] are all one in Christ Jesus. And if [we] are Christ’s, then [we] are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

May all the spiritual offspring of Abraham, heirs according to the promise, arise from their spiritual slumber and come by faith to Christ.  And may “the peace of Christ rule in [our] hearts,” to which peace we have been called to live in unity.

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Thank you very much for these letters that target hatred, violence, and terrorism. I am also heartened by the support Israel has received from the U.S., France, Germany, and the U.K.

The rise of antisemitism around the world has been rapid and rabid. It is tremendously disheartening that the millennial hatred is entrenched and energizing in many societies and cultures. Hamas targeted ordinary Jews for rape, military grade bullets, immolation, grenades, and kidnapping, and yet protestors blame Israel for mounting a defense. There is scarcely a word in the papers on Hamas’ genocidal plans for the Jews or their demand that Palestinian civilians be human shields in accordance with fanatical religious beliefs. It’s as if much of the world were to require the Jews to vacate their land for Hamas to enter and rule it with the same brutality as ISIS. The slogan asserts, from the rivers to the sea Palestine must be free of what? Of Jews, whom Hamas would vanquish from Palestine.


Posted by: Alexander Tsesis | Oct 23, 2023 8:58:51 AM

Thank you so much.

Posted by: Abraham S Carnow | Oct 23, 2023 8:08:07 AM

Thank you for your reflections. The hatred expressed by Hamas and their attack on innocent people is horrible. This is clearly a time for universities, educators, and people of goodwill to stand up and say that such intolerance, bigotry, and brutality must be condemned. It has no place in a world that needs to learn tolerance and understanding of our common humanity.

Posted by: Bret Wells | Oct 22, 2023 6:46:45 PM

Dean Caron,

Leaders lead. Teachers teach. Your heartfelt eloquent personal reflections on the moral and ethical implications of the cascading Middle East conflict precipitated by the horrific inexcusable October 7 Hamas attack on innocent people demonstrate both leadership and lessons worth learning. Thank you for contributing to a needed conversation about the role of educators to impart universal shared values and social responsibility alongside knowledge and skills. For me, concluding your statement with the prayer of St Francis of Assisi was particularly touching, as I have long carried those words in my wallet. Also worth remembering before giving up hope about ever healing the seemingly intractable generations old Arab-Israeli conflict are words also often attributed to St Francis: “First do what is necessary. Then do what is possible. And before you know it you are doing the impossible.” .

Posted by: Nick Allard | Oct 22, 2023 5:52:32 PM

Thank you Paul for going where few deans dared to go. As someone directly affected I deeply appreciate it.

Posted by: Reuven Avi-Yonah | Oct 22, 2023 3:41:52 PM

Thank you for speaking out for the people of Israel. In these days of evil and darkness your support is bringing light. #Stand by Israel.

Posted by: Mirit Eyal-Cohen | Oct 22, 2023 3:37:32 PM

Thank you very much for your support of Israel and the Jewish community. The posts also strengthen mutual respect between Christians and Jews.

Posted by: Steven Sholk | Oct 22, 2023 2:43:09 PM

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