The Conspiracy

Chabad rabbi to Moment: “Destroy [Muslim] holy sites”

Rabbi Manis Friedman

Rabbi Manis Friedman

In the latest issue of Moment magazine (which features a cover story by New Voices contributor Jeremy Gillick), a group of American rabbis respond to the question, “How Should Jews Treat Their Arab Neighbors?” Most of the responses emphasize equality, morality, and restraint. Then a Chabad rabbi wheels out the crazy:

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). [Emphasis mine.]

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 Manis Friedman
Bais Chana Institute of Jewish Studies
St. Paul, MN

When we published Jeremy’s piece on Lubavitch rabbis on the radical fringe of the settler movement, we were accused of exaggerating their importance. We were told that they were marginal figures, outside of the influence of Lubavitch HQ in Crown Heights, and that few American Lubavitchers shared their extremism. Rabbi Friedman’s wacky-if-it-weren’t-scary comment in Moment should defuse some of that criticism. Friedman seems to be a fully integrated into the mainstream American Chabad movement. He was the Rebbe’s translator until 1990, he has almost 200 articles and videos up at, the movement’s official propaganda arm, and his Minnesota women’s yeshiva is listed in the official online directory of Chabad outposts. His website is fancy and looks well-funded.

When I come across this sort of thing, I wonder at Chabad’s popularity among secular Jewish students. These aren’t just bad politics, they’re insane politics. At what point does the Chabad rabbi tell the prospective Ba’al Teshuva that he thinks that Israel should “destroy their holy sites”? Probably not at the first Shabbat dinner, right? Maybe after two Shabbat dinners, a “lunch and learn,” and a Birthright trip through Mayanot?

For more on these subjects, check out my editorial on how Israel should treat Israeli Arabs from our February issue, and our September issue on Lubavitch.

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28 Older Responses to “Chabad rabbi to Moment: “Destroy [Muslim] holy sites””

  1. Robby Goldfarb
    May 21, 2009 at 2:06 pm #

    Rabbi Friedman makes a very valid point. Why don’t you discuss the merits or faults of his position. It seems fairly rational to me.

  2. Levi Kaplan
    May 21, 2009 at 2:34 pm #

    Rabbi Friedman speaks of destroying holy sites, yes, the ones they are using as shields, this is true as well with regard to the killing of
    men, women and children.
    Rabbi Friedman is presenting the unadultrated Torah view, which is the Torat chaim, the Torah of Life. follow My statutes and all will LIVE.
    Reading the other opinions in the Moment article, Rabbi Friedman is the only one who is clear and to the point. I recommed re-reading the article.

  3. Uncle Sy
    May 21, 2009 at 3:49 pm #

    The topic being discussed by the rabbi is how to conduct a war. Heading the article “Chabad rabbi to Moment: “Destroy [Muslim] holy sites”” is one of two things. Either a lack of understanding of the comment made by the rabbi, or an obvious attempt to radicalize the comment before the reader has even read it. He’s not advocating the wanton destruction of Muslim holy sights, as you would have the reader believe. Don’t let the sentimental value of a building get in the way of your doing your job. Jews have holy sights too. But should we ever sacrifice a life for a building? It’s got nothing to do with which religion the sight belongs to. If destroying it is part of a quick and decisive victory, than it must be destroyed.
    In a war, false morality costs lives. Yes, killing civilians is a hard thing to come to terms with, but that is why softies were forbidden by the Torah to fight in its wars. Telling the world that we will not shoot civilians places every civilian in danger. Don’t you see it happening? If you don’t see that, you don’t have what it takes to win a war. And if you don’t have what it takes, should you be running a country?

  4. Pajangah
    May 21, 2009 at 6:06 pm #

    I think the good Rabbi is peaking to the lack of clarity amongst Jewish leaders today.

    If an IDF soldier’s life will be endangered due to the fact that Arab Terrorists (can we use that term?) are shooting out of holy site–what does Jewish law dictate?

    If Arab children (weaned from birth that Jews must be killed) continue to throw rocks at Israelis, does Jewish law and ethics permit passivity and turning the other cheek?

    When the Lubavitch Rebbe would speak of the Arab conflict with Israel, he always maintained that Israel be strong and bold, accentuating that a strong strong Israel will save Jewish lives as well as Arab lives.

    I don’t think characterizing Rabbi Friedman as a reckless war-monger is fair, unless there is an underlying agenda at work.

  5. Josh Nathan-Kazis
    May 21, 2009 at 7:46 pm #

    Robby, what part of “war crime” don’t you understand?

    And Pajangah, there’s a big difference between arguing against passivity and arguing for the targeting of civilians, children, and mosques. One has a place within the doctrines that govern the contemporary approach to warfare and one does not. Frankly, one has a place within civil discourse and one does not.

  6. Joey
    May 22, 2009 at 1:23 am #

    You write in your comment “within the doctrines that govern the contemporary approach to warfare”, I think Rabbi Friedman’s point is he doesn’t believe in that, because when we see what’s going on in the Middle East this ‘contemporary approach’ is killing far more children than it’s saving.

  7. Benny
    May 22, 2009 at 2:22 am #

    Senor Josh, how blinded you are by your own liberalism. Rabbi Friedman is speaking out against the very theories and approaches to life that you so boldly proclaim.
    You say “One has a place within the doctrines that govern the contemporary approach to warfare and one does not. Frankly, one has a place within civil discourse and one does not.”
    Rabbi Friedman is condemning your core foundation to that belief. Who in the world are you (or any other ‘human’ creations) to decide what the ‘doctrines’ or ‘civil rights’ are when lives are at stake.
    The message of R’ Friedman is such a wonderful one. We have a G-d. G-d gives us his Torah. The Torah is the blueprint to the world and it is precisely G-d through his Torah which defines and dictates the way we need to respond to such anti-humane behavior.
    I find your whole rant extremely out-to-get-someone and it’s unfortunate that such a wonderful and well respected scholar has to be the victim.

  8. Kathy
    May 22, 2009 at 3:28 am #

    Josh, I don’t think he was “arguing for the targeting of civilians, children and mosques”–only Arab terrorists do that in Israel. It is clear from the end of the rabbi’s remarks, that he was speaking of NOT responding in our own defense, because we may hurt or kill others or destroy a mosque. He is against the sort of morality which says we dare not respond in kind even at the expense of endangering or losing our own life. In fact, he lays the claim that zero tolerance to this continued barrage of attacks (unlike the response up till now (“they’re only throwing stones”) is what will bring to peace and NO war.

    In the short term and the long–Jewish law, as Rabbi Friedman writes, dictates that our safety comes first.

  9. BenP
    May 24, 2009 at 2:58 am #


    It seems, from the way you wrote this post, and past (as recent as last week) articles you wrote you have a bias against Chabad. You didn’t even have the intellectual honesty to actually address what the rabbi said (he said if you kill the human shields, they lose their value to the terrorist and thus you save lives–of Palestinians).

    Some introspection wouldn’t be a bad thing.


  10. Josh Nathan-Kazis
    May 26, 2009 at 11:58 am #

    BenP, he’s not arguing that the Israelis should kill human shields, but rather that they should kill indiscriminately so that a human shield strategy wouldn’t work. And I’m the one in need of some introspection?

  11. Mendy Hecht
    May 26, 2009 at 3:55 pm #

    As a liberal Lubavitcher myself, I am horrified by the proposal to kill innocents, but if you look at it with cold, hard logic, it actually saves lives in terms of preventing any future attacks and resulting loss of innocent life on both sides. I absolutely agree that it’s revolting–but that’s the grim nature of laying down the law. As it’s said, “You gotta do what you gotta do.” It’s essentially no different then Hiroshima and Nagasaki–hit them so darn hard that they’ll never again dare lift so much as a pea, never mind a pea shooter–which ultimately, actually, saved thousands of Japanese and Americans from getting killed in a protracted war. So, Josh, I’m right there with you–but hey, war is hell, and sometimes it’s the only option.

  12. Jeremy Gillick
    May 27, 2009 at 12:51 pm #

    Mendy, what makes you a “liberal Lubavitcher?” I assumed all Lubavitchers would be horrified by the killing of innocents, especially given our historical proximity to the Holocaust. Do you agree with Rabbi Friedman that Israeli Prime Ministers should base their policies on the Old Testament?

    Also, newer research actually suggests that Japan had effectively surrendered prior to the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, making it hard to justify the half-million or so Japanese civilians who died as a result of the attacks. And by your “cold, hard logic,” why shouldn’t the Palestinians behave the same way? Don’t you think they’ll react by trying to hit Israel “so darn hard that they’ll never again dare lift so much as a pea…?”

  13. Ben
    May 29, 2009 at 10:03 am #

    Another religious fundamentalist; the only difference between him and Islamic extremists is that he’s Jewish.

  14. Sergey Kadinsky
    May 31, 2009 at 7:57 am #

    Rabbi Friedman’s statement could be referring to idolators or Amalek, at the very least, it hints to a war where we must put Jewish lives ahead of enemy lives. As you can see, he was taking a literal biblical quote. We have an Oral Law to temper the Written Law, so I strongly doubt the rabbi would literally apply his quote to modern warfare.

    As for Chabad’s claim to the West Bank and Gaza- our Patriarchs are buried there. Does that make Avraham Avinu a settler, too?

  15. G
    June 1, 2009 at 4:20 pm #

    “with their holy sites destroyed, they will stop believing that G-d is on their side.”

    That didn’t work for us. ie. The Holocaust.

    Let’s face it, all religions are corrupting. Read, “Letter to a Christian Nation.” Written by a Jew-Sam Harris

    Every intelligent man knows that god only exists in our minds, to help us sleep better at night.

  16. Shoshanna
    June 2, 2009 at 10:25 am #

    If my beloved teacher Rabbi Manis Friedman is a monster then the world needs many more monsters! This article is nothing but a propganda hateful hit piece taking his words completely out of context. Rabbi Friedman is one of the kindest, wisest, self sacrificing righteous Rabbis I have ever known and he has done more than in his life to help his fellow human beings and make this world a better place than the entire Tikun Olam/Moment Magazine crwod combined!!!
    And what gives the author of this article the right to demand that Rabbi Friedman should not be allowed to state his views? That is totally intolerant!
    You probably are too intolerant to post this comment.

  17. Broomstick
    June 2, 2009 at 12:04 pm #

    well said, Ben. Every religion has its fair share of hateful bigots and hypocrites. This coming from a liberal Muslim who’s so disgusted with right wing Muslim extremists… and now this. Ugh.

  18. Josh Nathan-Kazis
    June 2, 2009 at 1:42 pm #

    Glad to see this is generating so much conversation, on this blog and elsewhere. Shoshana, I quoted the entirety of Rabbi Friedman’s statement to Moment, as you can see if you click through. I don’t know what you could possibly mean by “taking his words out of context.”

    I’m frankly surprised at the number of comments, both here and at the JTA post that links here, that try to defend Friedman by implying that this quote is somehow invented. The people at Moment, where it appeared, are nothing if not fair, thorough journalists. If you don’t like what was said, blame the speaker, not he messenger.

  19. P Smith
    June 2, 2009 at 3:46 pm #

    There’s enough room for all, but thugs like Friedman, Netenyahu and Sharon want petty revenge, to do to the Palestinians what was done to jews for 2000 years. Hasn’t anyone ever told them two wrongs don’t make a right? Or that Friedman’s wish for genocide against the Palestinians would make jews no better the Nazis by committing the same crimes?

    If people really want peace in the middle east, do what the Palestinians have asked for and other Arab and muslim nations are willing to agree to: In return for respecting Israel’s peaceful existence, remove Israeli squatters from Palestinian land (the so-called “settlements”), and make the West Bank and Gaza into Palestine, a two-state solution, as per the 1967 borders.

    Even better, once the squatters are removed, the houses could be given to the Palestinians whose homes were destroyed by Israel as part of collective punishment against civilians (which is a war crime), against relatives of bombers who had no involvement in the crimes. That would really show a commitment to peace, in the same way many Palestinian victims of Israeli military action have denounced violence by donating their organs to jews who need transplants.

  20. Dano
    June 2, 2009 at 8:55 pm #

    The Rabbi makes a valid point. After all, this is exactly what the invaders of Israel knew… the Assyrians, Babylonians… kill ’em all. Destroy the temple. When the Romans did it last time, it made sheep of us for twenty centuries. Hitler did it, too: kill all of them, man woman, and child. Burn the shuls and desecrate their sacred objects. Show no mercy. So did Saddam Hussein, of wretched memory.

    You can call it Torah if you want, but we have clear examples of this much closer ro our times. Oh, and in the Torah, these were battles ordered by G-d. I’m sure this Lubavitscher nutjob thinks he’s in communion with the Divine, but that seems all the more reason to have him committed.

  21. Mohamed
    June 4, 2009 at 1:56 pm #

    Bunch of criminal racist bigots in this forum, I would address you by saying “shame on you”, but you have no spine to contain an once of shame.

  22. HasItBeen4YearsYet?
    June 8, 2009 at 8:21 pm #

    Mohamed June 4, 2009 at 1:56 pm is a comediam? When the fox starts pretends to teach the chickens how to be nice, you know there’s a problem.

    Even the nations fight the way Rabbi Friedman said to, though they try to forbid it to us.
    The fact that we are not fighting that way is one reason we haven’t won yet.

  23. Clotilde Santell
    December 26, 2009 at 7:01 pm #

    Hello,thanks you for this useful blogg, i really find many new things on it and i really loved the design of the blogg. I found it on bing. I also want to wish you a happy new year.

  24. Mafalda Tappan
    February 23, 2011 at 1:02 am #

    I’m not sure exactly why but this blog is loading incredibly slow for me. Is anyone else having this issue or is it a problem on my end? I’ll check back later and see if the problem still exists.

  25. Yaakov Mark
    June 5, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    Meshugana Propoganda to libel Manis Friedman in this way. Why not discuss his point instead of persuading readers to misunderstand Manis. It just goes to show you how unethical the authors are. Manis Friedman is one of the sanest and gentlest people I know and does not advocate destroying Muslim Holy sites or Killing of Non Jews. He just made a point as all. The point is when we are soft, more people die on both sides. When we show strength, almost noone has to die. Now lets have a conversation.


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