Monday, June 08, 2009


A rabbi's call for genocide

Moment Magazine, which claims to be "the largest independent Jewish magazine in North America," features a forum in each issue called "Ask the rabbis" wherein a question is proposed and rabbis from the many flavors of Judaism are invited to respond. This month's question was "How Should Jews Treat Their Arab Neighbors?"

The rabbis responded within the bounds of religious sanity with the notable exception of Rabbi Manis Friedman, a member of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement within Orthodox Judaism. This was his reply—

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.

Zero tolerance for stone throwing, for rockets, for kidnapping will mean that the state has achieved sovereignty. Living by Torah values will make us a light unto the nations who suffer defeat because of a disastrous morality of human invention.

Rabbi Friedman's insight is that indiscriminate, ruthless killing of Arabs will bring peace.

Friedman's position has set off a firestorm of controversy within the American Jewish community. Nathaniel Popper, writing in the progressive Jewish newspaper The Forward, reports

Friedman’s use of phrasing that might seem more familiar coming from an Islamic extremist has generated a swift backlash. The editor of Moment, Nadine Epstein, said that since the piece was printed in the current issue they “have received many letters and e-mails in response to Rabbi Friedman’s comments — and almost none of them have been positive.”

Friedman quickly went into damage control. He released a statement to the Forward, through a Chabad spokesman, saying that his answer in Moment was “misleading” and that he does believe that “any neighbor of the Jewish people should be treated, as the Torah commands us, with respect and compassion.”

But Friedman’s words have generated a debate about whether there is a darker side to the cheery face that the Chabad-Lubavitch movement shows to the world in its friendly outreach to unaffiliated Jews. Mordecai Specktor, editor of the Jewish community newspaper in Friedman’s hometown, St. Paul. Minn., said: “The public face of Lubavitch is educational programs and promoting Yiddishkeit. But I do often hear this hard line that Friedman expresses here.

You only need to read the comments to the stories about Rabbi Friedman's "lapse" to discover that he is not the only Jew holding his opinion of what should be done to the Arabs. And it should be noted that the Chabad movement is well represented among the Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

But I don't bring up Friedman's views to excoriate either Judaism or Jews. His opinions are certainly not representative of the American Jewish community and have been widely discussed and rejected in the American Jewish press. The reason I bring it up is that his remarkable statement has not been reported in the mainstream media. The only exceptions have been three stories in the local Minnesota press (here, here and here).

Does anyone doubt that if an American Muslim had made a similar declaration toward Jews, it would instantly become national news? The silence of the American press and of cable news in this instance is stunning but unfortunately to be expected, and it speaks to the uphill battle the Obama administration faces in any attempt to bring an even-handed approach to Israel.

Related post
Subtle Menace of the Day: Barack Obama (6/02/09)


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