Yossi Gurvitz: IDF Colonel-Rabbi Implies Rape is Permitted in War

Rabbi_Colonel_Eyal_Karim

Rabbi Colonel Eyal Karim

Israeli journalist Yossi Gurvitz describes himself as a former Orthodox Jew who claims to have seen the “light” and turned atheist at the age of 17. We are unfamiliar with his work but received this tip from a reader regarding one of his recent articles.

It is titled, IDF Colonel-rabbi implies: Rape is permitted in war. Colonel Eyal Qarim was questioned, (seemingly while not in uniform) about whether rape is permitted in war, and his answer implied that it was allowed.

Now I am unfamiliar with halacha or Jewish law, but my guess is it is a system as varied and expansive as Sharia’. Most likely you can find any opinion under the sun within halacha and so I am sure many will insist that the opinion proffered by the IDF Rabbi is not the only one, and is not the position of the IDF.

However, looking at the question and answer it exposes a troubling indication that an IDF Colonel Rabbi who was once being considered for the position of Chief Rabbi held the view that “rape is permitted in war.” More over it is not the first time that extremely problematic views have been expressed by influential IDF Rabbis.

It also brings us back to the question, “what if they were Muslim?”  If a prominent Muslim scholar had offered such an opinion one can be assured that it would be all over MEMRI.

Gurvitz omitted the whole question from the reader to the Rabbi, but we provide an approximate translation via. Google for context:

There have been various wars between nations, such as the First World War, for example, different nations fought each other, and no one was particularly good for the Jews or bad for the Jews…

But if they had captured a village and there were Jews and Jewish girls were raped, it is considered, rightly, a disaster and tragedy to the girl and family.

If yes, rape in war is considered a shocker. How, then was I told that a long, beautiful woman is allowed, according to some authorities, even before the process described in the Torah, I mean, surrender and lay with it created, and only then take her home, etc.?

This seems contradictory. After all, if rape is considered a civil war and not something shocking, why, apparently, Jews allowed?

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

Now it’s very clear that the questioner is asking whether or not rape is allowed in war time. This is the answer that Rabbi Qarim gave (translation via. Gorvitz):

“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 in the original – YZG), 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 (yetzer ha’ra in the original  -YZG), under the conditions mentioned, for the purpose of the success of the whole.”

Gorvitz comments on this:

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.

….

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 at war. The raped woman is not a woman, is 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 systems. 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), and 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 seek one day 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 happened in the past. He vehemently denied it, and wouldn’t listen.

I think that the fact that Qarim was on hiatus at the time – earlier he was the religious officer of a crack unit, Sayeret Matkal (commando unit) – is unimportant. What is important is that the Military Rabbinate chose to re-call an officer who wrote such a ruling to active service. Qarim 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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