By Simon Rocker
June 22, 2009
Rabbi Manis Friedman is a veteran Lubavitch lecturer whose students at one time included Bob Dylan in Minnesota.
But now he has become the centre of controversy over remarks he made to an American Jewish magazine saying that the “only way to fight a moral war” is to “kill men, women and children”.
He was one of the rabbis invited by Moment’s Ask the rabbi column to respond to the question, “How should Jews treat their Arab neighbours?”
Here is most of his published response:
“I don’t believe in western morality, i.e. don’t kill civilians or children, don’t destroy holy sites, don’t fight during holiday seasons, don’t bomb cemeteries, don’t shoot until they shoot first because it is immoral.
“The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle).
“The first Israeli prime minister who declares that he will follow the Old Testament will finally bring peace to the Middle East. First, the Arabs will stop using children as shields. Second, they will stop taking hostages knowing that we will not be intimidated. Third, with their holy sites destroyed, they will stop believing that G-d is on their side. Result: no civilian casualties, no children in the line of fire, no false sense of righteousness, in fact, no war.”
Not surprisingly, this has generated a storm of outrage. Rabbi Friedman has subsequently apologised for any misunderstanding on the magazine's blog and he will give a longer response to the controversy in the magazine’s next edition.
The Jewish Week has more on the furore in its latest edition.
The incident is a reminder that Jewish texts contain potentially inflammatory ideas and they need to be handled with care.