European rabbis told MKs on Tuesday that laws prohibiting kosher slaughter will
lead to banning circumcision.
The Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora
Affairs Committee meeting was called following a motion for the agenda by MKs
Ya’acov Edri (Kadima), David Azoulay (Shas), Avraham Michaeli (Shas) and Uri
Maklev (United Torah Judaism).
Dutch Senate delays verdict on ritual slaughter
In July, a bill claiming that ritual
slaughter is cruel to animals passed in the Dutch lower house of parliament.
However, the Dutch Senate rejected the bill, which would have made both kosher
and Muslim halal slaughter illegal.
Similar laws exist in Luxembourg,
Norway, Switzerland and Sweden.
Edri told the committee that he heard
complaints about the “evil decree” – anti-shechita (kosher slaughter) bills –
during a trip to Belgium and the Netherlands, and promised then that he would
bring the matter for discussion in the Knesset.
He told the rabbis
present that these laws were “unacceptable,” and he would fight to end them. In
addition, Edri said he had contacted the European Parliament in connection to
Maklev took issue with the claim that shechita was cruel to
animals, pointing out that the same authority that declared it a mitzva to eat
kosher meat, said cruelty to animals was a sin.
The presence and
agreement of MKs from five parties in the meeting (the Likud, Kadima, Shas, UTJ
and Labor) proved that this issue was important for the Jewish people, Maklev
Committee chairman Danny Danon (Likud) pointed out that even if
European Jews could import kosher meat, the laws made it very expensive to live
according to Jewish law.
Chief Rabbi of Rome Riccardo Di Segni, the
author of a book in Italian on the laws of kashrut, said the anti-shechita laws
come from two sources: Green parties defending animal rights, and “extremist”
parties that opposed immigration.
Those who proposed the bills were not
openly anti-Semitic, but it was not difficult to find a connection with such
activity and opinions, Di Segni said.
He added that the growing presence
of Islam in Europe threatened shechita, in that anti-Islam measures ended up
hurting Jews, and that bills banning circumcision came from the same
Rabbi Moshe Friedman, representing the European Rabbinical
Council, said that twothirds of the European Parliament rejected legislation
banning ritual slaughter, as well as a bill to negatively label kosher
He said, however, that there was still a danger that similar bills
would be proposed again.
“We are cautiously optimistic, but we cannot be
complacent,” Friedman said. “The message European citizens have received is that
Judaism is a religion that is cruel to animals, and the path from this to
prohibiting circumcision is very short.”
Such laws were “anti-Semitism
disguised as animal rights,” and anti-Muslim legislation was also anti-Semitic,
because Arabs were Semites, the rabbi said.
The bill in the Netherlands
narrowly avoided becoming law because 12 US congressmen sent a letter to the
Dutch Senate saying it was undemocratic, Friedman said.
He also said that
the Foreign Ministry was not involved in the battle against anti-shechita laws.
The ministry’s Shmuel Ben-Shmuel denied this.
Ben-Shmuel said this
problem had existed for years, and the Foreign Ministry had cooperated with
Jewish organizations abroad on the matter.
He warned against depicting
the phenomenon as anti-Semitic, saying that the laws were about animal rights,
and any effect on European Jewry was incidental.
Dutch Chief Rabbi
Binyamin Jacobs also said the legislation was not anti-Semitic, but rather
political, which is why rabbis in his country were able to convince senators not
to outlaw ritual slaughter.
He pointed out that 2,500 cows were
slaughtered for kosher meat per year in the Netherlands, while the general
public eat 500 million cows annually.
Because the amount of kosher beef
in the Netherlands was so small in proportion to non-kosher meat, Jacobs
concluded that the bill was generally anti-religious.
bills were the next step, he warned.
Alon Nuriel, a spokesman for the
Religious Services Ministry, called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to make the issue a priority and tell
European countries there would be serious consequences if it was not dealt with
Chief Rabbinate director-general Oded Winer called on
Danon to form a subcommittee that could serve as “an address for complaints”
about ritual-slaughter bans, no matter where they were imposed. This way,
communities facing a problem would know where to turn.
Danon closed the
meeting by asking the various rabbis and government offices to submit their data
on the issue, so a report could be written. He promised to call another meeting
for further discussion.