New Israeli army chief rabbi told to clarify contentious remarks

2016-11-21 23:02


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Jerusalem - Israel's top court on Monday said the army's incoming chief rabbi could not be appointed until he explained homophobic and misogynistic remarks, including seemingly justifying raping gentile women in war.

Colonel Eyal Karim has until Wednesday to "clarify" his position to the High Court on issues he has raised in the past, a court spokesperson told AFP.

The court issued an interim order on Karim's appointment following an appeal by secular left-wing opposition party Meretz, in light of remarks that surfaced when the decision to make him the military's top rabbi was announced in July.

A military ceremony due to be held on Wednesday for Karim to take office was postponed following the court's decision, military sources later said.

Monday's decision was lauded by Meretz, but right-wing and religious politicians saw it as crude intervention in a military decision and a bid to hamper freedom of religion.

In 2002, when he was a civilian, Karim was asked about whether Jewish scripture permitted soldiers to rape non-Jewish civilians during wartime.

"Although intercourse with a female gentile is very grave, it was permitted during wartime out of consideration for the soldiers' difficulties," he wrote in an answer on a religious website.

In 2012, he issued a statement saying his comments had been taken out of context and that he was totally opposed to rape, arguing his statement referred to biblical times.

The army has also issued a statement saying Karim "has never written, said or even thought that an Israeli soldier is permitted to sexually assault a woman in war".

Thousands of women serve in the Israeli military, but Karim has also said he opposes this as it could damage them and the country "due to loss of modesty".

He has also suggested gay people were "sick and disabled" and should undergo medical treatment, and argued wounded Palestinian suicide attackers should be killed.

Under pressure to cancel his appointment, military chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said he "stood behind his decision" after meeting Karim who clarified his remarks.

Karim had stressed he supported enlistment for women, and that he and the rabbinate would respect any person, "regardless of their religion, race or sexual orientation", said an army statement issued in July.

Karim, 59, is a former rabbi at the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva, or Jewish seminary, in Jerusalem's Old City.

A former commander of an elite paratroop brigade, he is due to succeed Rafi Peretz, who has spent six years in the post.

Read more on:    israel  |  gay rights

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