return of yossi gurvitz’s pro-rape military rabbi

Israeli rabbi who advocated rape of ‘comely gentile women’ during war becomes chief army rabbi
Jonathan Ofir, MondoWeiss, Jul 12 2016

Eyal-Karim-e1468335148716Eyal Qarim, photo by Shaul Golan

Just on my way to my flight from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, I noticed this cover headline in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper front page:

New IDF Chief Rabbi: It is permissible to rape during war. Maj-Gen Eyal Qarim has declared in the past “draft of girls is totally forbidden,” and claimed that in times of war it is permissible for soldiers to “have sex with comely gentile women against their will.”

I have followed the case of Qarim for quite a while. In fact, some three weeks ago I drafted an article covering the history of Qarim’s violent advocacy since 2003. Though at that point the story seemed not to be current, just yesterday those fears were confirmed. Qarim was promoted from head of the IDF Rabbinate to IDF Chief Rabbi. Here is my drafted article. The story of the IDF Chief Rabbi Col Eyal Qarim and his opinions about rape in times of war is one that comes up occasionally in the media, as it again has done recently for example here, and cited on other sources. Lately, a contact asked me whether I could look at the Hebrew sources and confirm that there is no mistranslation. I am familiar with this case, and not only is there no mistranslation as such, there is a continuation of the story which seems to have gained no local (Israeli) nor international scrutiny, till now, and I think it deserves it. In order to understand the seriousness of the whole story, a certain historical overview is necessary: The story has mainly come to be noticed due to Yossi Gurvitz’s article in Mar 2012 (below), where he notes an answer that Qarim, not in uniform at the point, gave to a concerned reader of a religious publication called Kipa asking about rape in times of war, opining that “prohibitions against immorality” are removed during war. Part of Qarim’s answer:

War removes some of the prohibitions on sexual relations, and even though fraternizing with a gentile woman is a very serious matter, it was permitted during wartime (under the specific terms) out of understanding for the hardship endured by the warriors. And 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.

This was noticed in the Sheldon Adelson owned NRG and on Mondoweiss, both a day after Gurvitz’s post. Gurvitz was making the point that although Qarim posted his answer in 2003, when he was out of uniform (Qarim had served as a combat soldier and commander in an elite IDF unit), he was in 2012 a commander in the military rabbinate, and considered for the post of Chief Military Rabbi. Gurvitz asked the IDF Spokesman the following questions:

  1. Is the rape of women during wartime agreeable to the IDF Ethics Code?
  2. If not, why does a prominent military rabbi promote it?
  3. If not, does the IDF intend to end the service of Col Qarim, or bring charges against him?
  4. How does the IDF Spokesman intend to deal with the anticipated damage to its image in the international arena, resulting from Col Qarim’s ruling?

There was a response, as Gurvitz notes:

Frankly, I did not expect an answer, but surprisingly enough an enraged officer from IDF Spokesman New Media Unit called me. His official response was that Qarim was not an officer in active service when he wrote that ruling, and furthermore that my question ‘disrespects the IDF, the State of Israel and the Jewish religion,’ and hence his unit will no longer answer my questions.

Apparently this exposure became a PR nuisance for the IDF, so the day after Gurvitz’s article came out, Qarim issued a “clarification” on the same religious website Kipa. It is this clarification which is so interesting in terms of currency and as an addition to the story, because here is the military rabbi in uniform, and this is how he tries to backpedal. The response article is headlined:

Rabbi Qarim clarifies: of course rape is not permitted in any situation, by halacha. Head of the Rabbinate Department answers activists from the left who have taken his words out of context. In clarification of the halachic answer that he gave on Kipa [2003], Rabbi Qarim says “of course the Torah never allowed rape of a woman.

Let us scrutinize how exactly Qarim gets out of this one:

Of course the Torah never allowed rape of a woman. The ruling of “comely woman” [Deuteronomy 21] is meant to cause a soldier to retreat from his intention to take the [female] prisoner to be his wife, through a series of acts which moderate her beauty and accentuate her personality and her sorrow. If, after the whole process he still wishes to marry her, he must do this through Hupa [religious ceremony] and blessings…. In addition, the whole essence of the ruling was to refine the situation which was prevalent in the barbaric world of wars that was existent then, where any soldier was permitted to do as he pleased with the prisoner, and the purpose of the ruling is to prevent a soldier from taking the prisoner as wife in the heat of battle. It is clear that in our days, the world has advanced to a level of morality where prisoners are not taken to be married, of course this ruling is not to be carried out as written, as it is also in total opposition to the values and orders of the army.

Now it is necessary to scrutinize the original text and what was originally asked on the first Kipa article in 2003. The inquirer asked specifically:

How is it then, that I was told to me by a rabbi, that a comely woman can be [raped], according to some of the rulings, also before the whole process described in the Torah? That is, that he surrender to his desires, and have sex with her, and only later take her to her home etc.?

Indeed, the text of the Torah is worrying in its formulation. Let us have a look at it. This is Deuteronomy 21:10-14:

When you go out to battle against your enemies, and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take them away captive, and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and have a desire for her and would take her as a wife for yourself, then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. She shall also remove the clothes of her captivity and shall remain in your house, and mourn her father and mother a full month; and after that you may go in to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. It shall be, if you are not pleased with her, then you shall let her go wherever she wishes.

Indeed, the section is somewhat confusing, because the first “take her as a wife” that appears, and even more so in Hebrew וְלָקַחְתָּ לְךָ לְאִשָּׁה, could well be translated as an act of rape, in that the literal translation can be “and you took her as your woman” in a “surrender to desires,” as the inquirer puts it. Though the acts that follow are relating to the more formal question of marriage. This is the very specific matter that the inquirer had asked about, and Qarim did not really answer it. Instead, he essentially explained how as the “success of the whole at war is our goal, the Torah permitted the individual to satisfy the evil urge.” As NRG noted, Qarim did not say “no, it is not permitted.” But when pressed to backpedal, Qarim applied a novel technique. He addresses the rape issue in the Torah very lightly, saying “Of course the Torah never allowed rape of a woman,” but then goes to address another issue, the formal issue of the marriage, as if the two were one and the same. What he then regards as the “problem” that the Torah supposedly tries to tackle, is the actual ceremonial marriage, not the rape. So Qarim is saying that the problem is taking a decision to marry a prisoner “in the heat of battle.” Thus he now tackles a whole other matter, saying:

It is clear that in our days, the world has advanced to a level of morality where prisoners are not taken to be married. Of course this ruling is not to be carried out as written, as it is also in total opposition to the values and orders of the army.

But this is a straw man. The inquirer did not ask about marriage, but about rape, and noted that some rabbinical authorities have opined that the ruling could be about what to do after the “surrender to desires”. In his 2003 answer, Qarim was focusing on the rape issue, justifying it in historical terms, and not answering the question specifically in address of our times, as was asked. Qarim provides very ambiguous answers, which in their focus may leave the reader confused. In 2003 he seemed to imply that rape is permitted for Jews in times of war (he did not make the explicit distinction between biblical times and now), and in his “clarification” he addressed marriage, not rape. This ambivalence, and straw-man-argumentation and obfuscation are very worrying. In the darkness of ambivalence, one could indeed be worried that soldiers, particularly those heeding rabbinical opinions, would be confused. And who knows what a confused soldier “in the heat of battle” could come to do with a Palestinian woman. NRG noted in its article that “it’s now clear who Erez Efrati learned from.” Erez Efrati is an IDF Officer, the bodyguard of the Chief in Staff, who was convicted of rape and who told the Supreme Court in 2011 that the reason he attacked the young woman was because “she acted as if she was a terrorist.” NRG also notes the opinion of Tzfat chief rabbi Shmuel Eliayhu, also cited from the Kipa site:

If IDF soldiers do not satisfy their evil lusts, they may lose the war, and then the enemy soldiers will rape our women. In other words, we are talking about rape as a protective measure.

Thus it seems that rape in times of war is a rather contentious issue amongst Rabbis, even IDF Rabbis. “No” doesn’t necessarily mean “no”, violent attack can be considered as “protective measure.” One wonders whether the “barbaric world of wars” that Qarim refers to is actually distant history. PS: In response to some outrage from a few politicians from the left and heads of women’s rights organizations in Israel, the IDF spox is quoted in Yediot Ahronot today stating:

Maj-Gen Qarim seeks to clarify that his words were uttered only in regards to a halachic interpretation question, but in no way as an answer to a practical question. Rabbi Qarim never wrote, said or even thought that an IDF soldier is permitted to sexually assault a woman during war. Whoever interprets his words otherwise is mistaken and deceiving. Rabbi Qarim’s moral attitude can be witnessed in his long service in the military in various command posts, in combat and as well as rabbinical functions, where he has demonstrated total loyalty to the values of the IDF and the spirit of the IDF, especially values of human dignity towards all.

But this is essentially the backpedaling that Qarim already attempted in 2012. As I have shown above, it is rather unconvincing.

Lieberman Appoints IDF Chief Rabbi Who Endorses Rape to Improve Troop Morale
Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, Jul 11 2016

yediot-screenshot-eran-krim-rape

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s new defense minister, has announced a series of military promotions. The most glaring one is the religious figure elevated to be the army’s new chief rabbi.  He is Eyal Krim. His main claim to infamy is that in a religious publication (Hebrew), he was asked if the Book of Deuteronomy permits an Israelite to rape women of an enemy tribe, how does this correspond to modern military policy. He told readers that it would be permissible for Jewish soldiers to rape attractive Arab women (Krim’s statement is translated into English here) among the enemy because it would improve military morale and redound to the greater good of the nation in pursuing its military objectives: It is permitted to break the bounds of modesty [a series of halachic injunctions governing prohibited sexual relations] and training. So it’s permissible to eat treif and to satisfy evil [sexual] urges through having sexual relations with attractive non-Jewish women against their will, out of consideration for the hardships of war and for the good of the whole [army’s objectives]. In comparing treif to rape, it seems the holy rabbi struck a nice balance between consuming treif and “consuming” women (sarcasm intended). The key to Krim’s reasoning is that most nations fight wars of choice whereas Israel’s wars are always obligatory. In other words, they are wars in which the entire life of the Jewish people is at stake (his thinking, not mine). Because the survival of the whole is paramount, then traditional religious commands concerning sexual relations may be abrogated to encourage the troops to fight their best. It goes without saying that the holy rabbi has no consideration for the woman involved as she is not Jewish and hence of no value or significance except as an object to satisfy the Jewish soldier’s “evil urge.” Krim denounced the enlistment of “girls” (his word, not mine) in the IDF and said it was “absolutely forbidden”  because the harm done to the modesty of the woman and to the nation (as a result of women fighting) is the deciding factor.

It’s worth nothing that when Yossi Gurvitz wrote the below post on the rabbi’s earlier statements and sought a response from the IDF public affairs unit, the response was that Krim made these statements when he was not in military service. Therefore they do not reflect on the army at all. Given the response below, that strategy seems to have changed. Now (see below) they simply claim he didn’t mean what he said. The official army response was that the rabbi’s statements were “taken out of context.” Krim doesn’t support the rape of women on the field of battle and affirms that the Torah does not sanction such an act. Anyone who says otherwise is mistaken. But there is the wee small problem of what he actually wrote on the printed page and what an army spokesperson now says second-hand in his name. Who’re you gonna believe? the IDF or your lyin’ eyes? The IDF’s typical posture above is simply to lie and claim against the evidence that Krim doesn’t believe what he actually said. It’s been able to get away with such cynical obtuseness for decades and seems to be prepared to continue in this fashion indefinitely. The army also notes in Krim’s favour that he’s ruled that male soldiers do not have to abandon military ceremonies at which women’s voices would be heard singing (a ruling proposed by other Orthodox rabbis), as long as the male soldiers don’t see the singers. But this distorts what he actually said: that IDF choirs performing at public ceremonies should be male and not female in order to respect the feelings of (male) Orthodox soldiers. He added that if such an arrangement was not practical, that male soldiers should be permitted to listen to a female choir. His predecessor, Rabbi Avichai Rontzki, authorized war crimes including the murder of civilians in pursuit of IDF objectives. Rontzki was Krim’s rabbinic teacher and they both attended the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva. It appears Krim is in excellent company. One of Ateret Cohanim’s goals is to restore the sacred priestly rite of animal sacrifice and rebuild the Holy Temple, a project which would require demolition of the Muslim holy sites of Haram al-Sharif. One way that the far-right Orthodox transform the army into an ideological-theocratic tool to advance their political interests is by founding military preparatory schools which feed directly into the officer corps. In this way, rabbis like Krim produce thousands of future hard-right future officers who fill the ranks and determine the future strategy and orientation of the military. So it is no accident that IDF soldiers refuse to protect Palestinian civilians from the pogroms of settlers.

As far as I’m concerned, Meir Kahane in death has succeeded far beyond his wildest dreams. The Kahanist slogan: “Kahane was right” is wrong. The new slogan should be: “Kahane won.” He commands the IDF. The State is his. His followers have triumphed and they are positioned in almost every position of power and influence. They are turning Israel into a monstrous parody of a Jewish state. In which Kahanist racialism and ethnic cleansing are state policy. This isn’t a Jewish state. It’s a Judaean state of, by and for the settlers. It’s a form of idolatry where, instead of worshipping traditional Biblical prophetic values of tolerance, justice, and equality, it worships land and power. While appointing a rabbi who endorses battlefield rape, Lieberman has made even more important appointments in the vital sector of Israeli defense industries. He just appointed a Yisrael Beitenu Party hack, Uzi Landau, as CEO of Rafael Industries. This will be a huge gravy train for the Party and its machine. Imagine the jobs the Party can dole out to the faithful, the contracts it can also distribute to businesses allied with the Party! This is the way business is conducted in a corrupt garrison state like Israel. If any of you are so naïve as to doubt this will happen, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

IDF colonel-rabbi implies: Rape is permitted in war
Yossi Gurvitz, +972 Magazine, Mar 28 2012

Answering a question from a concerned reader regarding the Torah’s position on rape during war, Col Eyal Qarim of the Military Rabbinate wrote nine years ago, out of uniform, that ‘prohibitions against immorality’ are removed during war. Is it permitted for a Jewish soldier to rape a gentile woman during wartime? This question, based on the biblical mitzvah of Eshet Yefat Toar (“a comely woman”), was referred to nine years ago (Hebrew) by Rabbi Eyal Qarim. The questioning party seemed anxious and worried, and wanted to know whether the iron-age mitzvah is applicable to IDF soldiers today. Following comments doubting whether rape was the issue of the Rabbi’s answer, I post here the question that he was asked:

Is it allowed in our days for an IDF soldier, for example, to rape girls during a fight, or is such a thing forbidden?

Rabbi Qarim answered thus:

“The wars of Israel […] are mitzvah wars, in which they differ from the rest of the wars the nations wage among themselves. Since, essentially, a war is not an individual matter, but rather nations wage war as a whole, there are cases in which the personality of the individual is “erased” for the benefit of the whole. And vice versa: sometimes you risk a large unit for the saving of an individual, when it is essential for purposes of morale. One of the important and critical values during war is maintaining the army’s fighting ability. […] As in war the prohibition against risking your life is broken for the benefit of others, so are the prohibitions against immorality and of kashrut. Wine touched by gentiles, consumption of which is prohibited in peacetime, is allowed at war, to maintain the good spirit of the warriors. Consumption of prohibited foods is permitted at war (and some say, even when kosher food is available), to maintain the fitness of the warriors, even though they are prohibited during peacetime. Just so, war removes some of the prohibitions on sexual relations (gilui arayot), and even though fraternizing with a gentile woman is a very serious matter, it was permitted during wartime (under specific conditions) out of understanding for the hardship endured by the warriors. And since the success of the whole at war is our goal, the Torah permitted the individual to satisfy the evil urge (yetzer ha’ra) under the conditions mentioned, for the purpose of the success of the whole.”

Wow. Herein lies a hornet’s nest. The first is that according to Qarim, the rape of female prisoners is not just permitted, it is also essential to war; the success of the whole at war relies on it. Genghis Khan, according to tradition, said that the best thing in the world is “to crush your enemies, to see them fall at your feet, to take their horses and goods and hear the lamentation of their women. That is best!” But even he, who excelled at rape, did not see it as essential to warfare, just a satisfactory outcome. Stalin likewise dismissed complaints about rapes carried out massively by the Red Army, saying “a soldier has urges,” but he did not see it as an essential element of military life. Qarim came up with a new military doctrine, which replaces Napoleon’s: an army marches on its phallus. According to this logic, perhaps the IDF should appoint to each unit not just a supply officer, but also a Comely Woman Officer (CWO), to make certain no soldier is left unsatisfied. Another problem is that Qarim invokes here the usual apologetics of those who speak of “Jewish morality.” He claims war is a conflict between nations, not individuals, and that the individual has no importance in war. The raped woman is not a woman, not a person, has no feelings, and if she feels pain it is unimportant. She is not a woman or a person, just an individual of an enemy tribe whose misfortune was to be captured. Furthermore, Qarim says that rape during wartime is immoral if carried out by a rival tribe, but all Jewish wars are by definition mitzvah wars. If the rape of the defenseless is part and parcel of “Jewish morality,” it’s not hard to reach the conclusion it is inferior to all modern morality. It is also worth noting (Hebrew) that “Jewish morality” is a by-product of German blood and iron romanticism. Yet a third problem is that essentially, Qarim says there is nothing which may be prohibited in war if it is done “for the success of the whole.” We know that the killing of armed combatants is permitted. This is, after all, the essence of war. Now we now learn that, for His Blessed Name, the rape of women is also permitted. Then we must ask ourselves whether it is also permitted, for the sake of victory, to also kill unarmed people. Children, for instance, who we have good reason to think may one day seek vengeance for the death of their fathers and brothers and the torturing of their mothers and sisters. The notorious book “Torat ha-Melekh” answered in the affirmative. It would be interesting to know what Qarim thinks, and whether there is anything he thinks a Jewish soldier ought not to do for victory. But the real problem here is that Eyal Qarim is an IDF colonel (Aluf Mishneh), and is a senior officer in the Military Rabbinate, i.e. is in a senior position in the IDF religious edicts apparatus. I’ve sent the following questions to the IDF Spokesman:

  1. Is the rape of women during wartime agreeable to the IDF Ethics Code?
  2. If not, why does a prominent military rabbi promote it?
  3. If not, does the IDF intend to end the service of Col. Qarim, or bring charges against him?
  4. How does the IDF Spokesman intend to deal with the anticipated damage to its image in the international arena, resulting from Col Qarim’s ruling?

Frankly, I did not expect an answer, but surprisingly enough an enraged officer from IDF Spokesman New Media Unit called me. His official response was that Qarim was not an officer in active service when he wrote that ruling, and furthermore that my question “disrespects the IDF, the State of Israel and the Jewish religion,” and hence his unit will no longer answer my questions. I told him that, as an Israeli citizen, I considered Col Qarim to be a ticking time bomb which will blow up in the IDF’s face should a soldier rape an enemy woman: it would automatically be seen as official policy. I told him this had happened in the past. He vehemently denied it and wouldn’t listen. I think that the fact that Qarim was not on active duty when he wrote it is unimportant. What is important is that the Military Rabbinate chose to recall an officer who wrote such a ruling to active service. Earlier, Qarim was the religious officer of Sayeret Matkal, and was briefly considered a candidate for the position of the Chief Military Rabbi. This is the face of the IDF in 2012, and this is the face of the rabbis it chooses to employ. There are certainly more humane rabbis than Qarim, yet somehow these are not the rabbis who are promoted.

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