Knesset motion to reverse PACE ritual circumcision ban clears hurdle

MKs collect 102 signatures from Council of Europe MPs; Rivlin: Intervention in matters of Judaism is not legitimate.

December 17, 2013 21:20
2 minute read.
Baby undergoes circumcision

Baby undergoes circumcision R 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The Knesset’s efforts to fight a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE ) resolution to ban ritual circumcision bore fruit this week, when the PACE Presidium decided to put an Israeli counter-resolution on its agenda.

“We expect Europe to change its approach to the ritual circumcision ban and other issues related to freedom of religion and conscience,” MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu), who submitted the resolution with 102 signatures from PACE MP s collected by MKs in recent months, said Tuesday.

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“Intervention in matters of Judaism is not legitimate. I believe that the PACE Presidium’s decision will eventually lead to the decision [banning circumcision] to be reversed and will create a new atmosphere in Europe,” Rivlin added.

The resolution will be brought to the PACE Bureau, a broader forum than the Presidium, on January 27, which is also International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Bureau will vote on whether or not to bring the resolution to the PACE Plenum in April.

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.

If the PACE Bureau decides to move the resolution to the plenum, it will choose which committee will work on it.

Knesset Diplomatic Adviser Oded Ben-Hur says the Culture Committee is preferable, because the resolution “has to do with tradition and culture in a broader sense.”

The PACE resolution, proposed by German MP Marlene Ruprecht and drafted in the Public Health Subcommittee, protects children’s rights to their bodies, which calls to restrict male circumcision for children, grouping it with female circumcision, tattoos and body piercing for those under 18.

The initiative is non-binding, but PACE votes are taken seriously by member states.

At the time, Ruprecht said “The text adopted by the parliamentarians in a vote does not intend to stigmatize any religious community or its practices…It is the Council of Europe’s mandate to promote the respect for human rights, including children’s rights, on an equal footing with the fight against racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia.”

However, the Knesset saw the resolution as possibly leading to a ban on the Jewish tradition in some European countries, and sprung to action under Ben-Hur’s guidance.

The Knesset sought 80 signatures from PACE members for its resolution, but got 102, from Azerbaijan to the east and France on the West, with some from foreign lawmakers visiting Israel and others via delegations to Europe.

Ruprecht’s anti-circumcision resolution passed with only 77 votes.

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