Israeli military appoints rabbi who appeared to permit rape

AP News
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Posted: Jul 12, 2016 2:57 PM

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military came under criticism Tuesday for appointing a new chief rabbi who in the past has disparaged female soldiers and once appeared to justify the rape of non-Jewish enemies.

The military said it summoned Rabbi Col. Eyal Karim over his past remarks after an outcry from lawmakers. Israel's military rabbinate provides religious services to its soldiers and makes rulings on religious issues that affect the military.

In a 2002 post on a Jewish website, Karim responded to a user asking whether, in light of certain biblical passages, Israeli soldiers were allowed to rape enemy women. Karim wrote that the Torah allowed soldiers to satisfy "evil inclinations" during wartime because fulfilling such urges could assist soldiers and thus serve the greater good. In 2012, following an uproar over the post, Karim sought to clarify his words, saying rape is prohibited in every instance.

Karim has also previously questioned women's roles in the military, including women's service.

"The moment soldiers are in uniform, the barriers fall and because the military causes great damage to the girls' modesty, the thing must be weighed heavily," he wrote in a 2002 post on the same website.

In a 2011 ruling while serving in the military's rabbinate, he wrote that it was preferable for a man to sing at military events rather than a woman, and that religious soldiers should be allowed to leave the event if a woman is singing. Some interpretations of Jewish law prohibit men from listening to women singing.

The military said in a statement that Karim "never wrote, said or even thought that an IDF soldier is authorized to sexually harm a woman during war." It said Karim supports women's service and said he believes men need not leave an event if a woman is singing.

Opposition lawmakers nevertheless called for his appointment to be rescinded.

"Even if he was dealing with a theoretical debate about rape during battle or (if he) opposes female service or song in the military, no, he cannot be the military rabbi," opposition lawmaker Tzipi Livni told Channel 2 TV.

The military gave no indication that it was reconsidering Karim's appointment.