In a rare case of cooperation between Shas and Yesh Atid, MKs headed to the Council of Europe’s Presidium in Paris Tuesday evening to continue battling anti-circumcision measures on the continent.
MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu) led the delegation, which includes MKs Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) and Ronen Hoffman (Yesh Atid), to fight a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE ) resolution protecting children’s rights to their bodies. The measure – proposed by German MP Marlene Ruprecht and passed on October 1 – could be understood as banning ritual male circumcision for children, along with female circumcision, tattoos and body piercing for those under 18.
The initiative is non-binding, but member states take PACE votes seriously. The Knesset has made significant efforts to collect signatures from European parliamentarians on a counter- resolution it seeks to pass in April, reaching 102 signatures as opposed to 77 MPs who voted for the anti-circumcision measure.
The Rivlin-led delegation will meet with leaders of four of the Council of Europe’s five factions to convince them to put the Knesset’s counter-resolution on the PACE agenda for either late January or April. The Presidium, which consists of faction chairpeople, will set the agenda for those two meetings on December 15.
According to Rivlin, the anti-circumcision measure “is not a legitimate decision, and it is a joint goal of Jews, Muslims and anyone who believes in freedom of religion and conscience to cancel it.”
Rivlin, Vaknin and Hoffman plan to meet with party leaders and members of the Council of Europe’s Presidium and present them with the 102 signatures from PACE members, aiming to show that the original measure was passed unfairly when only a small number of MPs were present.
The Likud Beytenu MK expressed concern that parliaments in Europe would adopt the resolution and expand it to other religious customs, such as kosher slaughter, which is illegal in several European states.
“We want to make it clear to the Europeans that even if it’s legitimate for them to intervene in diplomatic or regional issues, it is not legitimate for them to be involved in Judaism and freedom of religion,” Rivlin added.
In their meetings with European MPs, MKs used research by the American Pediatric Association touting the health benefits of circumcision – including halving the risk of contracting HIV through intercourse – to show that the procedure is not a danger to children. They also cited studies by ethicists showing that it is not an ethical issue for a parent to circumcise a boy for his future benefit, even if he does not have a say in the matter.
In addition, last month, The Journal of Sexual Medicine published a peer-reviewed study by researchers at the University of Sydney proving circumcision does not reduce sexual pleasure.
Rivlin, Vaknin and Hoffman will also attend a meeting of PACE ’s Diplomatic Committee on the status of the Palestinian delegation, which was declared a “partner for democracy” two years ago. In addition, they will meet with French MPs and members of the Jewish community in Paris.