Circumcision

If not for the Holocaust, so,eGermans argue, they would not be accused of anti-Semitism for opposing circumcision.

By
July 24, 2012 23:38
3 minute read.
A circumcision ceremony in Bnei Brak

circumcision brit mila 311 R. (photo credit: Gil Cohen Magen / Reuters)

 
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Throughout the ages, anti-Semitism has mutated to accommodate itself to the zeitgeist. In the Middle- Ages, when Christianity dominated intellectual discourse, Jews were attacked for blasphemy. In the 19th and early 20th century, when science and rationality was the rage, Jewish practices were disparaged for their irrationality; the despicable pseudo science of Eugenics was used to “prove” that Jewish genes were inferior.

When nationalism was on the rise, the Jews were ridiculed for being “rootless.”

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With nationalism on the decline and colonialist regimes such as Britain, Belgium and Holland blamed for their oppression of native populations, the State of Israel is singled out for its purportedly “fascist” policies.

Today, the championing of “human rights” has become the most prominent value and anti-Semitism has adapted once again. A ruling handed down in May by a regional court in Cologne, Germany illustrates this dynamic. Circumcision (Brit mila in Hebrew or Khitan in Arabic) is, the court ruled, “a violation of physical integrity” and as such is a criminal act.

“The child’s body is permanently and irreparably changed by the circumcision,” the judges ruled. “This change conflicts with the child’s interest of later being able to make his own decision on his religious affiliation.”

To their credit, Chancellor Angela Merkel and German lawmakers were quick to distance themselves from the Cologne court’s ruling, vowing to draft legislation by autumn that “ensures that the circumcision of boys carried out to medically professional standards and without undue pain is fundamentally permissible.”

But the damage was done. The Cologne ruling gave respectability and legitimacy to the anti-circumcision lobby. Germany’s Pediatricians’ Guild joined the offensive, claiming that passing legislation protecting religious circumcision played down its potential “lifelong physical and above all emotional damage.”



And the move to ban circumcisions seems to be spreading to other parts of Europe. Two Swiss hospitals have announced they will stop performing circumcisions, according to recent media reports.

Germans support the ban on circumcision. A poll for Focus, a Germany weekly, found that 56 percent of those surveyed thought the Cologne court’s judgment was right, compared with 35% against and 10% undecided.

A YouGov poll for local news agency DPA said 45% of those asked were in favor of forbidding the rite of circumcision, with 42% opposed to a ban.

The groundswell of support for banning circumcisions in Germany and perhaps in other countries (Norway’s veteran Center Party recently proposed a ban on circumcisions for children under 18), like attempts to ban ritual slaughter, is probably directed primarily at the large and growing Muslim community. The Jewish community is, to a large extent, suffering “collateral damage.”

Nevertheless, a German-based BBC reporter pointed out that according to readers’ comments on newspaper websites, many Germans are tired of being “constricted” in their pursuit of human rights – in this case the banning of circumcision – because of the Holocaust. If not for the Holocaust, these Germans argue, they would not be accused of anti-Semitism for opposing circumcision.

We beg to differ. Numerous medical experts have refuted claims that circumcision – unlike female genital mutilation – causes harm when performed properly (particularly when performed when the baby is just eight days old as is the case in the Jewish tradition.) Published medical research indicates that circumcision can reduce the incidence of AIDS among heterosexual males and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as penile cancer and urinary tract infections.

If this is the case, why are Germans and other Europeans so opposed to the practice? Precisely whose human rights are they championing? It is disingenuous to cite the protection of “human rights” as justification for banning a practice which does not cause undue damage and might actually have medical benefits.

Some European countries may have issues with a growing, often radical, Muslim population that is resisting integration. But restricting the rights of Muslims and Jews to carry out a religious ceremony symbolizing purity and man’s covenant with God is surely not the way to proceed.

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