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Friday, March 30, 2012

972mag attacks Judaism

Yossi Gurvitz of 972mag has written two screeds this week where he claims that an IDF rabbi allows troops to rape enemy women.

In the first article he publishes a query to Rabbi Eyal Qarim, a colonel in the IDF who was not answering in any official IDF capacity, and the rabbi's answer, which makes it look like Qarim is saying that rape is permissible nowadays during wartime. In his second, he ridicules the rabbi's denial, all the while clucking about how he knows how terrible Jewish law is and most of his critics don't know enough Hebrew to be horrified.

What he doesn't tell you is that he completely  and purposefully misrepresents the question that is being asked, and the actual question changes how the answer can be understood.

According to Gurwitz, the question was:
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?

And the answer was:
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.

His translation of the answer is accurate - but he knowingly deleted the part of the question that was being answered.

Here is the full question:
I read on this website about the "beautiful woman captive," as well as the laws in the Torah [about her], and my question still remains - in various wars between nations, as the First World War, for example, different nations fought each other, and neither was particularly good for Jews or bad for Jews in particular...but if the [combatants would] conquer a village with Jews and Jewish girls were raped, it is considered, rightly, a disaster and tragedy for the girl and family.

If so, rape in war is considered a horrific thing. How then, as I was told by a rabbi, could a beautiful woman captive be permitted, according to some authorities, even before the process described in the Torah? Do you mean that you surrender to your desire and sleep with her, and only then take her to his house, etc.? This seems contradictory.

After all, if rape of civilians in war is considered shocking, why, apparently, are Jews allowed?

And is it permissible in our times for an IDF soldier, for example, to rape women in warfare, or is that forbidden?
The question was not a soldier asking for permission to rape, as Gurwitz implies. Exactly the opposite.

Now look at Rabbi Qarim's answer. He was answering the question of how the Torah can permit such an act, and Qarim answered that it falls under the category of things that are normally forbidden that are allowed in wartime because victory is a necessity in wartime which subsumes both individual rights and individual responsibilities. He makes clear, twice, that there are very specific conditions and laws that guide a soldier's conduct even when he is overcome with desire in the heat of war.

The point is that Rabbi Qarim was answering the question of how one can justify that the Torah can allow this to happen to begin with. He never answered the question of whether it was allowed today, because the answer is obviously no.

And this is exactly what Rabbi Qarim wrote this week in his clarification that Gurwitz disparages
It is obvious that the Torah never permitted raping a woman. The Comely Woman ruling is intended to make the soldier retract his intention of marrying the prisoner, by a series of actions which diminish her beauty and put the emphasis on her personality and grief. If, by the end of the process, he still wishes to marry her, he is obligated to do so by the usual legal manner.

In addition, the whole essence of the ruling was to soften the situation in the barbaric war world of the time, when a soldier might have done what he wished with a captive, and the goal of the ruling is to prevent the soldier from taking the captive as wife during the storm of battle. It is clear that in our times, when the world has progressed to a level of morality when captives are not taken as wives, this ruling is certainly not to be acted on, particularly as it is completely contrary to the ethics and the orders of the military.

Gurwitz is purposefully twisting the question to make Judaism look monstrous (or, as he says, "Those texts were written mostly in a barbaric period by ignorant people, fuelled by the hatred of mankind which is endemic to Judaism." Is this considered unbiased by 972mag and its funders?) [The article has since been silently changed to tone down that language a little. Original screenshots are available.]

He hypocritically says that "the rabbis did not want their texts to be available for everyone. Control over jargon also grants you some measure of power." And yet he purposefully refused to translate the entire query so his Hebrew-challenged readers could not check his own twisting of the truth to make it look like a rabbi today was supporting raping women captives!

It is possible to question ancient legal rulings in context of today's sensibilities. In fact, such questions should be welcomed. This is exactly what the questioner was doing.  There are even widely divergent views within traditional Judaism of exactly how to interpret this passage of the Torah. But Gurwitz is not interested in finding out how Judaism evolves - even Orthodox Judaism, even today - to deal with issues like this. He does not want to know what Jewish law says about contemporary matters. No, he "knows" that it is a sick belief system. He wants to demonize Judaism to as wide an audience as possible, and he is not above resorting to gross deception to accomplish his goal.

And he relies on his audience's unfamiliarity with Hebrew to accomplish his sickening, and truly anti-semitic, agenda.