Jewish groups harshly criticize European council resolution calling circumcision a “violation of the physical integrity of children.”
Jewish groups spoke out harshly this week against a resolution passed on Tuesday by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe calling male ritual circumcision a “violation of the physical integrity of children.”
The resolution urged European Union member states to “initiate a public debate, including intercultural and interreligious dialogue, aimed at reaching a large consensus on the rights of children to protection against violations of their physical integrity according to human rights standards.”
It further proposed that governments should “adopt specific legal provisions to ensure that certain operations and practices will not be carried out before a child is old enough to be consulted.”
The Jewish ritual of brit mila was included in a long list of practices covered by the resolution, which also included female genital mutilation, early childhood medical interventions in the case of intersexual children, corporal punishment, and the submission to or coercion of children into piercings, tattoos or plastic surgery.
“This is a sign of anti-Semitism, in my opinion,” Benjamin Albalas, President of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
Any suggestion to ban circumcision “sends out a terrible message to European Jews that our practices, and therefore our very presence on this continent, is treated with disdain,” European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor stated.
A large majority of delegates voted to remove a reference to the “religious rights of parents and families” from the measure.
In response, Milah UK, an organization aimed at promoting ritual circumcision among British Jews, said that while “the adoption of this report is non-binding and does not represent any direct threat to mila,” the readiness of the Parliamentary Assembly to dismiss arguments in favor of religious freedom is troubling.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association, said that aside from issues of religious freedom, the science behind the motion may also be faulty.
“The writers of this report have made a partial examination, and did not take into consideration the opinions of most experts, including from the World Health Organization, about the positive health aspects of circumcision,” Margolin told The Jerusalem Post.
“We are particularly concerned at the domino effect this will have, in light of previous decisions across Europe, including attempts to ban kosher ritual slaughter, as an attack on the very essence of Jewish life in Europe,” an Israeli Jewish Congress spokesman told the Post.
Steven Kramer, leader of the Zentralrat Der Juden, an umbrella group representing German Jewry, was even harsher in his condemnations, telling The Jerusalem Post that the motion was “unacceptable” and that it is “completely insane” to compare female genital mutilation with male ritual circumcision.
Kramer, who emphasized that he was speaking as an individual and not in his capacity as a communal representative, recalled Germany’s recent battle to restore the legality of circumcision after a May 2012 ruling by a Cologne court banning the practice.
The German Jewish community held a seminar in Berlin on Thursday for ritual circumcisers to familiarize themselves with local regulations.
Kramer asserted that German Jews “will certainly fight for our religious freedom” again.