Israel Nominates Col. Eyal Karim, Who Endorsed Rape of Non-Jews to ‘Boost Troop Morale,’ for Chief Military Rabbi
The Israeli military chief of staff has nominated a colonel who once sanctioned the rape of non-Jews during wartime as a way to boost troop morale for the post of chief military rabbi.
The Times of Israel reports Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot has tapped Col Eyal Karim to head the military rabbinate. Karim, a former paratrooper commander, was asked during an interview years ago whether it is “allowed for an IDF soldier to rape girls during a fight, or is such a thing forbidden?”
Karim’s grim response:
“The wars of Israel… differ from the rest of the wars the nations wage among themselves. Since, essentially, a war is not an individual matter, but rather nations wage war as a whole, there are cases in which the personality of the individual is ‘erased’ for the benefit of the whole. And vice versa: sometimes you risk a large unit for the saving of an individual, when it is essential for purposes of morale. One of the important and critical values during war is maintaining the army’s fighting ability…
As in war the prohibition against risking your life is broken for the benefit of others, so are the prohibitions against immorality… Wine touched by gentiles, consumption of which is prohibited in peacetime, is allowed at war, to maintain the good spirit of the warriors. Consumption of prohibited foods is permitted at war (and some say, even when kosher food is available), to maintain the fitness of the warriors, even though they are prohibited during peacetime. Just so, war removes some of the prohibitions on sexual relations… and even though fraternizing with a gentile woman is a very serious matter, it was permitted during wartime (under the specific terms) out of understanding for the hardship endured by the warriors. And since the success of the whole at war is our goal, the Torah permitted the individual to satisfy the evil urge… under the conditions mentioned, for the purpose of the success of the whole.”
Halacha, or Jewish law based on the Talmud, states that when a Jewish soldier goes to war, he may claim a beautiful woman, regardless of her marital status, from among the populace of a conquered foe and may rape her after giving her 30 days to mourn. As stated in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 21:10-14):
When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God gives them into your hand and you take them captive, and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you desire to take her to be your wife, and you bring her home to your house, she shall shave her head and pare her nails. And she shall take off the clothes in which she was captured and shall remain in your house and lament her father and her mother a full month. After that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. But if you no longer delight in her, you shall let her go where she wants. But you shall not sell her for money, nor shall you treat her as a slave, since you have humiliated her.
During the inevitable firestorm of criticism that followed the publication of Karim’s quote in 2012, the rabbi backpedaled and insisted his remarks were based solely on religious theory.
“Obviously, in our times, when the world has advanced to a level of morality in which one does not marry captives, one must not perform this act, which is also entirely against the army’s values and orders,” he wrote. On Monday, the IDF issued a statement defending Karim. “Rabbi Karim never wrote, said, or even thought that an IDF soldier is permitted to sexually harm a woman during wartime,” it claimed.
Karim has also courted controversy by telling Orthodox Jews that wounded Palestinian attackers are not human beings, but rather animals deserving of summary execution. IDF soldier Elor Azaria is currently facing prosecution for allegedly executing a wounded Palestinian militant who had stabbed two IDF troops. Karim has infuriated feminists and others by declaring that women are forbidden from serving in the IDF and that LGBT people are “sick or deformed.”
This wouldn’t be the first controversial high-level appointment by Israel’s conservative, Likud-dominated government. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked made international headlines in 2014 when she posted a highly controversial unpublished article by the late Uri Elitzur, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and an early leader of the movement by Jewish settlers to colonize occupied Palestinian territories, on her Facebook page. The post asserted that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and advocated genocide against the entire nation, “including its elderly women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”
Moshe Feiglin, the deputy speaker of the Knesset (parliament) who is banned from entering Britain for “seeking to promote terrorist acts,” shocked much of the world when he called for the ethnic cleansing of Gaza during the 2014 Israeli offensive there that left more than 2,100 Palestinians, including more than 1,400 civilians, dead.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who must approve Karim’s nomination, also raised eyebrows last year when he called for the beheading of disloyal Israeli Arabs.
The military rabbinate is also no stranger to allegations that it promotes atrocities. During the 2009 Gaza offensive, it distributed a religious booklet that warned against showing mercy to the enemy. Operation Cast Lead, the IDF bombing and invasion, killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 900 civilians. Three Israelis died.
Other influential Israeli rabbis, including the late Ovadia Yosef, have promulgated Jewish supremacism and called for the annihilation of Arabs. Their proclamations sometimes have dire real-world consequences for people deemed inferior to Jews—witness the 2010 signing by dozens of chief municipal rabbis throughout Israel of a religious ruling banning Jews from renting homes to non-Jews, especially Arabs.
“When a non-Jew moves in, residents begin to worry about their children, about their daughters. Many Arab students have been known to date Jewish girls,” Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu explained at the time.
UPDATE: Haaretz reports Eisenkot is reconsidering Karim’s nomination in lieu of the rabbi’s controversial remarks about rape.