Meretz MKs withdraw petition against IDF chief rabbi nominee
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Meretz MKs withdraw petition against IDF chief rabbi nominee

After apology from Col. Eyal Karim, left-wing lawmakers remove High Court obstacle to appointment, praise his clarified ethical message

Rabbi Eyal Karim attends a State Control committee meeting, in the Israeli parliament, on September 13, 2010. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)
Rabbi Eyal Karim attends a State Control committee meeting, in the Israeli parliament, on September 13, 2010. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)

Three Meretz MKs have withdrawn their High Court of Justice petition objecting to the appointment of the IDF’s chief chaplain nominee.

MKs Zehava Galon, Michal Rozin and Tamar Zandberg announced Sunday they were removing the legal hurdle to the appointment of Col. Eyal Karim after he issued an apology last Wednesday for remarks that were perceived as condoning the assault of non-Jewish women during wartime.

In his written statement to the court, Karim apologized last week for the statements and to those who were offended by them.

“I made a mistake when I gave a short answer to a complicated question,” he wrote. “I was wrong because sometimes I was not precise with my words and some people found them offensive. I apologize.”

The left-wing lawmakers praised Karim for “the clear words that were written and for the important ethical message for the male and female IDF soldiers.”

Leader of the left-wing Meretz party Zahava Gal-On (L) and MK Michal Rozin petition the High Court in Jerusalem to reject the appointment of Rabbi Eyal Karim as the next IDF Chief Rabbi, November 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Leader of the left-wing Meretz party Zahava Gal-On (L) and MK Michal Rozin petition the High Court in Jerusalem to reject the appointment of Rabbi Eyal Karim as the next IDF Chief Rabbi, November 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The rabbi stressed that he never expressed the opinion that the rape of non-Jewish women was permitted under Jewish law. In his view, he wrote, it is completely forbidden for a soldier to carry out such an act.

Karim clarified that this was his view when he answered the original question on an online forum over a decade ago, and this was still his opinion today.

Immediately after Karim issued his apology and clarification, Zandberg responded positively.

“Rabbi Karim presented his declaration to the High Court,” she wrote in Hebrew on Twitter on Wednesday. “It is an honest, emotional statement, admitting to his past mistakes. He completely forbids rape and respects all people and declares equality for LGBTs and others.”

The withdrawal of the High Court petition removes the obstacle standing in the way of Karim’s appointment, which was first mooted in July.

“The petitioners hope that the clear ethical statement of the Court will be heard and continue to resonate in the IDF in general and specifically in the military rabbinate,” the three Meretz MKs said in a statement. “The petition has served its purpose.”

Karim was embroiled in controversy in 2012 for his response to a question posed to him (Hebrew link) on the religious website Kipa, asking in the light of certain biblical passages if IDF soldiers, for example, were permitted to commit rape during wartime despite the general understanding that such an act is widely considered repugnant.

In his response, Karim implied that such practices, among several others that were normally prohibited — including the consumption of non-kosher food — were permitted during battle.

“Although intercourse with a female gentile is very grave, it was permitted during wartime (under the conditions it stipulated) out of consideration for the soldiers’ difficulties,” he wrote. “And since our concern is the success of the collective in the war, the Torah permitted (soldiers) to satisfy the evil urge under the conditions it stipulated for the sake of the collective’s success.”

When the quote surfaced in 2012 and caused a media firestorm, he published a clarification stating that his comments were in no way meant to be applied in the modern era, but rather pertained to a theoretical discussion of the biblical permission granted to a Jewish soldier to kidnap an enemy woman and wed her.

“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.

Karim has also written that women should not serve in the IDF, and that women should not sing at army events, and if they do, religious soldiers should be permitted to leave.

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