MK Nachman Shai presented For Life, a Knesset-produced film meant to combat a Parliamentary Assembly of the Congress of Europe resolution seeking to limit ritual circumcision, in France on Tuesday night.
Shai (Labor) aired the film before the PACE Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which held a lively debate in Strasbourg between four doctors from the US, Germany, Turkey and France on the pros and cons of circumcision.
Israeli hospital directors and experts, as well as Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, appear in For Life, explaining that circumcision is not harmful to baby boys, has many health benefits and allowing it is an essential component of religious freedom.
“We see this decision [to limit ritual circumcision] as deeply harmful and a violation of religious freedom,” Shai told the committee. “This is not just a medical matter, but a Jewish tradition, which we, as Jews, will continue to uphold.”
The meeting followed a motion passed by German ex-MP Marlene Rupprecht in October of last year, calling male ritual circumcision a “violation of the physical integrity of children” and recommending that PACE’s 47 member countries “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.”
The motion is non-binding, but member states take PACE initiatives seriously.
Shai pointed out the unfortunate timing of Tuesday’s meeting in the same week as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, calling it “absolutely miserable.”
The committee also showed It’s a Boy, an anti-circumcision film by Victor Schonfeld, a Jewish director from the UK who posited in a recent op-ed in The Jerusalem Post that it is anti-Semitic to uphold the ancient tradition of circumcision, which Jews and Muslims have kept for millennia, since the days of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael.
Since the motion passed in October, the Knesset actively campaigned against it, saying the original vote was “hijacked,” since only 100 out of 570 PACE members voted on it. Despite the sparse numbers, the decision cannot be reversed or amended.
However, a new resolution with opposing legislation can be passed. MKs collected over 100 signatures from European lawmakers for a counter-resolution, which is expected to be brought to a vote later this year.
“It’s sad that this hearing is taking place after the committee already made its decision. One hundred PACE members support our new motion and we plan to continue our activities until the previous one is canceled,” Shai stated.
The Knesset’s draft resolution reads: “The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in full respect of agesold faiths and the basic right of freedom of religion, and reiterating its longstanding advocacy of religious tolerance declares hereby that the circumcision of male children, in contrast to female genital mutilation, is a religious rite, performed for thousands of years. The Parliamentary Assembly recognizes that male circumcision is a basic and vital tenet of Judaism and Islam, and an important tradition in a number of Christian denominations.
“The Parliamentary Assembly notes that claims that circumcision harms the health and body of young boys do not rest on scientific evidence.
“As demonstrated in an official paper published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in August 2012, there are health benefits of newborn male circumcision.
“Therefore, the Parliamentary Assembly declares that male circumcision does not present a risk to the physical and mental health of male children and concurs with their right to be protected against the violation of their physical and mental integrity,” the resolution concludes.