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Israeli army rabbi-to-be in hot water over ‘pro-rape’ remarks

A left-wing lawmaker described Karim as morally unsuitable for the post of chief rabbi in a military in which thousands of women serve

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The Israeli military’s chief rabbi-nominate has come under fire for past remarks that seem to imply that soldiers are allowed to rape non-Jewish women in times of war.

Controversial remarks made 14 years ago by Rabbi Colonel Eyal Karim, 59, who is set to replace the Israeli Defense Forces’ outgoing main religious teacher, suggested that Israeli soldiers could “breach” standards of modesty “satisfy the evil inclination by lying with attractive Gentile women against their will, out of consideration for the difficulties faced by the soldiers and for overall success.”

The remarks, picked up by Israeli site Ynet News, were taken from online answers given by Karim on religious website Kipa in 2002.

His nomination on Monday as the military’s head rabbi by its chief of staff revived public debate over Karim.

Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s best-selling newspaper, weighed in with a front-page headline that read: “New chief military rabbi: rape is permissible in a war”.

Issuing a statement on Tuesday on Karim’s 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.

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

Karim has, according to Israeli media reports, come out in the past against combat roles for women, who like men are drafted into Israel’s military at the age of 18.

The mixing of sexes in Israel’s armed forces is a sensitive issue for Orthodox Jews. Religious men and women can request an exemption from compulsory service.

(With Reuters)