The IDF high command has announced a series of military promotions. They will shortly be presented to defense minister Avigdor Lieberman for final approval.
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. This is a translation of a portion of Yediot’s story:
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 wars of “obligation.” In other words, 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.
Haaretz also reports that Krim told his Orthodox audience that wounded Palestinian attackers were not human, but rather animals who should be summarily executed. This is a criminal act for which Elor Azarya is now being prosecuted.
He also said homosexuals should be treated mercifully as if they were “sick or deformed.” Jews should hope that gays can redeem themselves from their unnatural behavior and return to a natural approach to sexuaity, meaning a relationship between man and woman. Homosexuality, he found, “destroyed” the natural order. Man, he believed, had free choice to behave according to nature and should choose to do so.
The ruling that women could not testify in court was intended to protect them, since their “sentimental” nature would not permit them to withstand the rigorous nature of cross examination.
When asked his views about the “Jewish jobs” movement which attempts to force businesses to employ Jews only, he responded that it was not racist since it’s intent was to help Jews.
If a Jew found a copy of the New Testament he should burn it. treating it with “extreme brutality.” Doing so was right and just since Christian doctrine was considered “idolatry” and harmed the world.
He was asked whether Druze or Bedouin should serve in the IDF. He replied that those who serve loyally were permissible, but that the lives of Jewish soldiers always “came first.”
The IDF Responds
When Haaretz asked the IDF public affairs office whether these statements represented the policies and values of the army, it refused to respond.
It’s worth nothing that when Yossi Gurvitz wrote his 972 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, 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 favor 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 his 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 Judean state–of, by and for the settlers. It’s a form of idolatory where, instead of worshipping traditional Biblical prophetic values of tolerance, justice, and equality, it worships land and power.
While approving the appointment of 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.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.