MK Sheetrit argues against European council's anti-circumcision science

Hatnua MK addresses Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, rejecting resolution that brit mila "non-medically justified."

November 14, 2013 13:51
2 minute read.
Meir Sheetrit

Meir Sheetrit. (photo credit: Miiam Alster)


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Circumcising children significantly lowers chances of diseases, MK Meir Sheetrit (Hatnua) told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development Wednesday, using scientific arguments rather than religious ones in the continued battle against attempts to ban brit mila, or ritual circumcision.

Sheetrit returned to the scene of the crime in Strasbourg, where in October PACE passed a resolution calling male ritual circumcision a "violation of the physical integrity of children" and a "non-medically justified" procedure that should "not be carried out before a child is old enough to be consulted."

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The Hatnua MK spoke to the PACE committee, led by German rapporteur Marlene Rupperecht who proposed the anti-circumcision resolution, as part of continuing efforts by Israeli lawmakers to overturn the directive and convince European parliaments not to adopt it.

Sheetrit chose to a different tack than most Israeli politicians so far, focusing not on freedom of religion or anti-Semitism and using scientific arguments, instead.

"The committee said that circumcision is dangerous because 1.5 percent of children get infected," Sheetrit told The Jerualem Post Wednesday evening, "but infections can be taken care of. Circumcised males are 60% less susceptible to HIV and it lowers the risk of penile and prostate cancer. Those are fatal diseases, as opposed to a passing infection."

Sheetrit explained that the PACE members who passed the resolution "thought the risks outweigh the benefits, but that simply isn't true."

The Hatnua MK also discussed the ethical element of making a decision for a child who cannot decide on his own.


Opponents of circumcision raised the claim that the child should have autonomy.

However, there are two other ethical arguments for circumcision.

The first is that of "community and divinity," which fits with freedom of religion arguments, Sheetrit told the committee, citing University of Chicago cultural anthropologist Richard Shweder.

The second is the "best interests standard," cited by Dr. Caroline McGee Jones of the University of Texas Health Science Center, explaining that it is ethical for parents to circumcise their son if they believe it will benefit him and his well-being.

According to Sheetrit, PACE members from several countries approached him after the meeting to say he changed their mind, but Rupperecht remained unconvinced.

The committee could not overturn its resolution from October, but Sheetrit hopes to convince the PACE plenum to vote it down when circumcision is brought to a vote there in January.

PACE, which was founded in 1949, can only investigate, recommend and advise. As such, its decisions are non-binding, but are thought to have weight in European politics, especially in issues pertaining to human rights.

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