Statement on Israel and Hamas

David Sanford, Chairman, Sanford Heisler Sharp | October 10, 2023

Fifty years and one day since the surprise invasion of Israel by Egypt and Syria that launched the Yom Kippur War of 1973, we now give witness to a brutal terrorist attack on Israel by Hamas, the ruling party of Gaza. To date, more than 900 Israelis have been killed (including about 260 young people massacred at a music festival), over 100 have been taken hostage, and over 2500 more are injured. Women have been raped and entire families slaughtered in their homes. The vast majority of the murdered, wounded and abducted are innocent civilians and were targeted by Hamas to exact maximum terror. Hamas has realized its (short-term) goal.

Israel has declared war and begun retaliating, which has now led to over 700 Palestinian deaths and thousands more injured. Israel has cut electricity, water and food going into Gaza, and is preparing for a long battle with the stated goal of eliminating Hamas as a threat to Israel. Israel will succeed, but at great cost.

Since I was in college, I have supported a two-state solution along with full Palestinian independence and sovereignty. The Palestinian people deserve to live with dignity, freedom and safety. Instead, they live in an impoverished state with limited basic civil liberties amidst a military blockade. The current Israeli government, populated as it is with Ultranationalists and Ultraorthodox Jews, supports policies that lead to misery and despair.

But make no mistake: This is not a case of moral equivalence. Hamas’ goal is to eliminate the State of Israel and is supported by Iran, which also denies Israel’s right to exist. Hamas imposes a repressive, misogynistic and homophobic regime in Gaza; it celebrates the murder of civilians, including women and children; it thrives on hatred and violence; and it now openly threatens to kill hostages and live stream the killings as they occur, similar to the horrors we witnessed with Isis. While the Palestinian people have legitimate grievances, nothing occurring in Gaza justifies the barbarity we have witnessed the past few days.

I understand that some – or even many – of you may disagree. And that is ok. But I do think the clear distinction between good and evil manifested this week reflects a view as clear as the view shared by most after Pearl Harbor, after recognizing the existence of Nazi concentration camps, after 9/11, and shared by all of us with respect to the morally abhorrent institution of slavery. Hamas’ crimes against Israel are stark crimes against humanity. They reflect a genocidal ideology, a force designed to effectuate a pogrom against Jews–perpetrated by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, with support from Iran, Syria and segments of Lebanon.

There are surely friends and maybe even family of our attorneys and staff impacted by the events this week. We all are understandably saddened, exhausted, infuriated. In this moment, we need to reassert our morality, our humanity, and our decency. We need to reassert our commitment to stand against the evil of Hamas and of Hezbollah, the Iranian support for both, and the cruelty of those who deny Israel’s right to exist and who support mass slaughter.

This is a time to recognize with some clarity and force that Israel needs and deserves our support in her gravest time of need. The political situation, nuanced and complicated as it is, should not obscure that moral clarity. Israel has a right to defend itself and all civilized nations should recognize that right. Israel should eliminate Hamas as a threat, and thereafter begin the most difficult task of integrating Palestinians in civil society and restoring peace in the region.

Firm Statement Regarding Hate Speech

Sanford Heisler Sharp | November 20, 2023

As we announced on November 9, 2023, the firm is a signatory (among over 200 firms) to a recent letter sent to law school deans that proclaims there is “no room for antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism or any other form of violence, hatred or bigotry on your campuses, in our workplaces or our communities.”  We are confident that everyone in this firm condemns offensive, hostile, and intimidating words and actions inconsistent with an individual’s personal dignity and rights.

There is simply no room for hate speech at our firm — ever.

These are important principles – and are principles that, in our view, are in no way inconsistent with expressions of sympathy for particular groups of people or respectful disagreement or dissent concerning politics or policies.  We recognize the diversity of views within the firm about the Israel-Hamas war and the long-term state of the region. Everyone in this firm is free to engage in discourse and action on these issues without fear of retribution from anyone in this firm.

A foundational value we have as a firm is respect. Accordingly, please exercise discretion and caution if you think your expression is objectively approaching the line of hate speech. We recognize that, particularly in this context, the meaning of terms or phrases is often contested and controversial—and that adopting a contested or controversial position does not by itself transform one’s words or actions into hate speech. We trust each of you to know and recognize, in your own actions and words as well as in the actions and words of others, the line between acceptable speech and action–versus action and words that cross the line into terror, hate, belittlement, denigration, vilification, and calumny.  That knowledge and recognition of acceptable speech and action is essential to supporting the wonderfully diverse communities at our firm.

Channel the better angels of your spirit before you hit “send” and before you let posts fly.  And please be mindful that despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that we live in a world of increasing hostility, disrespect, and hate, the baseline expectations we have of you as you work within the world of our firm and as you live your life outside our firm serve as a significant moral counterpoint to the craziness all around us.

In the context of the Israel-Hamas war, it bears repeating: Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, Arab, and Muslim people all share in an equal humanity. We stand in solidarity with all voices whose words and actions promote love and justice, combat hate and injustice, and are respectful and mindful of the impact their actions and words have on others.

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