Israel army appoints chief rabbi accused of condoning rape by soldiers

Rabbi Colonel Eyal Karim has also argued it is "entirely forbidden" for women to serve in the military and has opposed women singing at army events

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The Independent Online

The Israeli army has appointed a new chief rabbi who once appeared to suggest it was permitted for soldiers to rape non-Jewish women during times of war in order to boost morale. 

Rabbi Colonel Eyal Karim has also argued it is "entirely forbidden" for women to serve in the military and has opposed women singing at army events.

The controversial rabbi's appointment to the highest religious role in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) has been criticised by women's groups and female politicians. 

In 2002, Rabbi Karim responded to a question on the religious forum Kipa which asked whether a Torah verse meant it was acceptable for Israeli soldiers to rape enemy women during war.

He replied that some Jewish laws could be relaxed during war time, such as allowing soldiers to eat non-kosher food to keep up their strength. 

“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," he wrote, according to a translation from the +972 blog.

However, in 2012, following outrage over the post, Rabbi Karim clarified his comments, saying rape is prohibited in every instance. 

Video appears to show knife being kicked towards Palestinian man just shot by an Israeli soldier

The rabbi's has also previously opposed women taking up combat roles in the army.

He suggested women should not be drafted into the army except when Israel faces an existential threat, adding: "But in our era we do not live with a real threat to our survival.

“And because of the liable damage to the modesty of the girl and the nation, the great rabbis and the Chief Rabbinate have ruled that the enlistment of girls to the IDF is entirely forbidden," he wrote, according to the Times of Israel.

He also wrote that women should not sing at army events, the Jerusalem Post reports, but said religious men do not need to leave the ceremony if they refrain from looking at the women performing.

Opposition lawmakers have called for his appointment to be rescinded.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. 

Zahava Galon, leader of the left-wing Meretz party, wrote a Facebook post calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene in the appointment. She described Rabbi Karim as morally unsuitable for the post of chief rabbi in a military in which thousands of women serve.

The military has given no indication it was reconsidering Rabbi Karim's appointment. 

Issuing a statement on Tuesday on his behalf, the military spokesman's office said he wanted to clarify that his writings in 2002 came in answer to a theoretical question and did not relate to "practical Jewish law".

"Rabbi Karim has never written, said or even thought that an Israeli soldier is permitted to sexually assault a woman in war, and anyone who interprets his words otherwise is completely mistaken," the statement said.

Additional reporting by agencies