A prominent Israeli rabbi known to have advocated genocide in Gaza also advised that soldiers may rape during wartime, it has emerged.
Writing on Kipa.co.il, a popular Hebrew-language website catering for religious Jews, Eliyahu contended that Israeli soldiers would lose their motivation to wage war if they are not allowed to rape non-Jewish women.
The comments were made five years before Eliyahu recommended that Israel should use massive force in Gaza.
In 2007, he said that Israel “must kill 100,000, even a million” people in Gaza if that was necessary to stop Palestinian resistance fighters from firing rockets.
Eliyahu’s 2002 comments on rape were highlighted in a recent Facebook post by Ruhama Weiss, a Jerusalem-based academic.
“Don’t weaken his spirit”
In a column called “Ask the Rabbi,” Eliyahu suggested that a biblical law authorized sexual violence under certain circumstances. He was responding to a question – apparently by one of the website’s readers – about whether women could be viewed as “war booty.”
According to Eliyahu, an Israeli soldier should be subject to few, if any, constraints when fighting a war.
“Now he has got to fight, and you shouldn’t be preaching morality to him,” he wrote. “Do it at home, before the war, and not now in the middle of the war. Don’t weaken his spirit. If you forbid him from a beautiful woman and he’s enraptured by her outer charms, then he’ll think about her and is likely to get to the point where the Jewish people will be defeated. What will you gain from that?”
Eliyahu interpreted a biblical scripture as meaning “if it burns in you, take a beautiful woman,” thereby excusing rape during war.
After justifying the woman’s rape, Eliyahu goes on to blame the victim, wondering if she “may have specially made herself up, in order to take [the soldier] down and incriminate him.” Eliyahu even implied that these rape victims ought to be thankful for not subsequently being killed, or kept in sexual slavery for the rest of their lives.
“Notice her life was spared during wartime,” he wrote. “She isn’t even held captive by sword. He cannot live with her, as one lives with women and then sell her as a slave. He frees her!! Free as a bird!!”
Niche of bigotry
The revelation that Shmuel Eliyahu has given such reprehensible advice should come as no great surprise.
The 60-year-old Israeli cleric, whose salary is paid by the state, has carved out quite the niche for himself as one of the country’s leading bigots, inciting against indigenous Palestinians, African refugees, Israel’s gay and lesbian community and even secular Jews.
He has been investigated by the Israeli authorities for alleged incitement to racism – though without being prosecuted.
In 2010, Eliyahu authored a religious edict forbidding Jews from selling or even renting property to non-Jewish people.
Eliyahu leaned on a local resident in Safad, a then-89-year-old survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, to stop renting rooms in his home to Palestinian citizens of Israel, students at the local college. The man eventually asked the students to leave, after he was warned over the phone that his home would be torched if he didn’t.
Eliyahu is a son of the late Mordechai Eliyahu, who served as Israel’s chief rabbi from 1983 to 1993.
When that post last became vacant in 2013, the Jewish Home – a party deeply involved in the Israeli settler movement – urged that Shmuel Eliyahu should fill it. The Jewish Home is part of Israel’s ruling coalition.
Eliyahu’s advice resembles that which Eyal Krim, now the chief rabbi in the Israeli military, has previously given.
In 2003, Krim also sanctioned rape during war in an “Ask the Rabbi” column for Kipa.co.il.
Last year, his appointment as the army’s chief rabbi was delayed for a week. Angered by his remarks on rape, some left-leaning politicians appealed against his appointment to the Israeli high court; their appeal was rejected.
During that brief delay, Krim received the full-throated support of over 150 army rabbis, as well as government ministers from the Jewish Home party.
In recent years, numerous Jewish Home lawmakers have themselves been accused of sex crimes. Allegations against one such lawmaker have been examined by a forum of rabbis, affiliated with the party. The rabbis decided against calling the lawmaker for questioning.
The head of that rabbinical forum was Shmuel Eliyahu.