Meretz urges High Court to nix appointment of new IDF chief rabbi
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Meretz urges High Court to nix appointment of new IDF chief rabbi

Left-wing party launches legal challenge against nomination of Col. Eyal Karim, who apparently condoned rape in wartime

Col. Eyal Karim on April 21, 2016 (Diana Khananashvili/Defense Ministry)
Col. Eyal Karim on April 21, 2016 (Diana Khananashvili/Defense Ministry)

The left-wing Meretz party on Tuesday urged the High Court to reject the appointment of Col. Eyal Karim as the new Israel Defense Forces chief rabbi, over his comments a decade ago apparently condoning rape of non-Jewish women in wartime. He has also maintained that it is “entirely forbidden” for women to serve in the military for reasons of modesty and has opposed female singing at army events.

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 for 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.

The announcement of his nomination brought condemnation from a wide spectrum of politicians.

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