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Rabbi's comments about Arabs widely rebuked

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A St. Paul rabbi faced a flurry of criticism this week after an independent Jewish magazine quoted him as saying he advocated killing Arabs and destroying their holy sites.

Rabbi Manis Friedman, of the Bais Chana Institute of Jewish Studies in St. Paul, said "the only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle)."

His response was part of an article titled "How Should Jews Treat Their Arab Neighbors?" in Moment, a Washington D.C.-based magazine that's part of the Center for Creative Change.

Friedman issued a statement Wednesday, saying his comments, as published, were "misleading."

He said the question was responding to in the article was: "How should we act in time of war, when our neighbors attack us, using their women, children and religious holy places as shields." 

Friedman said he was trying to address some of the ethical issues related to forcing the military to withhold fire from certain people and places, "when one's own family and nation is mercilessly targeted from those very people and places!"

The article asked rabbis of different denominations the same question. 

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations(CAIR-MN) denounced Friedman's comments on Wednesday.

"This disturbing call to genocide and religious desecration must be repudiated by all Minnesotans who value peaceful coexistence and interfaith harmony," CAIR-MN Communications Director Jessica Zikri said. "Silence in the face of such extremist views will only serve to give the author a false sense of legitimacy and approval."

At least three Jewish organizations -- Jewish Voice for Peace, the national educational foundation Hamifgash, and the Jewish Communication Relations Council --- also condemned Friedman's comments.

"Far from bringing peace and security to Jews, this abhorrent disregard for the lives of non-Jews only leads to more bloodshed and war," said Cecilie Surasky, of Jewish Voice for Peace, in a statement. 

In his statement, Friedman apologized for any misunderstanding the words printed in his name may have created.