The Israeli government is facing fresh criticism Tuesday over the appointment of Rabbi Colonel Eyal Karim to the role of chief rabbi of the Israeli military despite his previous comments suggesting that Israeli soldiers could rape non-Jewish women in time of war because their “identities are erased.”
Karim’s comments were first published in 2002 on a religious website when he was asked by one of the users, “Is it allowed in our time for an IDF soldier, for example, to rape girls during a fight, or is such a thing forbidden?”
The rabbi answered by saying that during war there are “cases in which the personality of the individual is ‘erased’ for the benefit of the whole,” according to a translation from Hebrew to English by the local website +972 Magazine. He added that the Torah states that “war removes some of the prohibitions on sexual relations” and thus allows things such as raping non-Jewish women prisoners.
He continued by saying that because maintaining the army’s fighting ability was one of the most important things in time of war, “the Torah permitted the individual to satisfy the evil urge (of having sexual relations), under the conditions mentioned, for the purpose of the success of the whole.”
Karim's nomination is not surprising considering the fact that the country’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who took over the post less than two months ago, is a far-right politician who had previously called for the “beheading of disloyal” Arab citizens in Israel.
Several women groups in Israel as well as women lawmakers slammed the government for choosing Karim for the position and called for the nomination to be withdrawn.
Zahava Galon, leader of the left-wing Meretz Party, said on a Facebook post that Karim was morally unsuitable for the post of chief rabbi in a military in which thousands of women serve and called on Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to intervene in the appointment.
Karim is notorious for sexist and racist comments and such a post would mean that he would have direct influence on the Israeli military moral code. In 2012, he said that non-Jewish people should not be treated in the same way as Jews and should have less rights according to the Jewish holy book Torah.
Also in 2002, Karim wrote that women’s enlistment in the military should be forbidden, and in 2011, he objected to women singing at military events, according to The Guardian.