Thursday, Apr 11, 2024

It Can Happen Here

Anti-circumcision fever is sweeping Europe and even parts of the United States, with circumcision foes dressing up their crusade in the noble-sounding language of liberalism and human rights. In the past year, prominent political parties in Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway have campaigned to ban circumcision, and in 2011, similar attempts were made in San Francisco

In New York City, the “bris milah lawsuit” is being carefully monitored by many who see the government’s “informed consent” regulation – unprecedented in American history – as an indirect attack on bris milah. Across the ocean, anti-circumcision forces have been quick to exploit these developments to advance their crusade.


A prominent Norwegian political leader, calling ritual circumcision “abuse of children” and demanding its abolishment, misquoted a [Jewish] critic of metzitzah b’peh, declaring that “100 children in the United States die each year from circumcision.”




As explicit religious bigotry is out of vogue in most Western liberal societies, the crusade against circumcision – both in Europe and the United States – draws its energy from 21st century notions of human rights. These are enshrined as the highest possible moral absolute, with the rights of children occupying the top rung.


Following this trend, circumcision in European countries is depicted as an assault against the “physical integrity of children” and therefore immoral, even criminal.


The European Council passed a resolution this month equating circumcision with other forms of violence against children. “In kindly-seeming [language],” writes an editorialist in the Guardian, “full of excellent legislative warmth and kind ideals, was the Jew bomb… equating ritual circumcision with torture and even murder.”


The resolution was carried by 77 votes to 19. Following a barrage of international protests, German delegate Marlene Rupprecht, who wrote the report for the Council, took refuge in doubletalk, as she downplayed and outright denied the resolution’s obvious aim.


“The text does not intend to stigmatize any religious community or its practices, Rupprecht protested. “It is the Council of Europe’s mandate to promote the respect for human rights on an equal footing with the fight against anti-Semitism,” she assured critics.


The German lawmaker’s true intentions, however, are revealed in other writings of hers, the Guardian op-ed notes. In these writings, Rupprecht asserts that “ritual circumcision is clearly a human rights violation against children,” and speaks of the need to bring the practice to an end.


Recalling the more than a million Jewish children murdered by Germans doing the Holocaust, some could not help cringing at the spectacle of German officials lamenting over the so-called violation of “physical integrity” of children subjected to ritual circumcision.


Others gave voice to their incredulity over the European Council pouncing on ritual circumcision as a violation of human rights, while ignoring so many real issues of critical importance.


“Imagine. The Council of Europe has at last identified the greatest threat to children in the world,” scoffed former Kenesset member Dr. Aryeh Eldad in a Jerusalem Post article. “No, it’s not Assad and his chemical weapons. It’s not Khamenei and his nuclear weapons. It’s not even settlements this week. What is it they’ve got in their crosshairs? The orlot of the Jews in Europe who insist on circumcising their sons. The greatest threat to children!




Unlike anti-Semitic propaganda of the past which accused Jews of spiritually and physically contaminating Christian communities, the current anti-circumcision crusade maligns the religious practice of circumcision as “child abuse,” redefining bris milah as an act of violence and mutilation.


Just about anything can be justified these days in the name of protecting the child, including hatred and religious bigotry. With Europe increasingly secularized and atheistic, experts say the moral crusade against circumcision brings together some of the worst trends of our age. These include undermining parental authority especially in the domain of religious values; the over-glorification of child rights; intolerance of freedom of religion, and the trashing of people’s traditional beliefs.




Consider the inflammatory rhetoric from one of Norway’s prominent political leaders, cited above.


“Circumcision on religious grounds is a form of abuse and should be a criminal offense. This is about the rights of small children. In the United States, 100 boys die every year after circumcision,” the leader of Norway’s Center Party told a Norway newspaper.


Whether spawned by breathtaking ignorance or deceit, this type of extremist rant is becoming mainstream in parts of Europe.


“Norway’s Labor Party minister has repeatedly come under pressure to criminalize the ritual circumcision of infant boys,” the Norwegian paper, VG, reported. “But (Health Minister) Strom-Erichsen has instead indicated that a new law will likely require that all circumcisions be performed exclusively in hospitals at the taxpayers’ expense.”


Offering a bizarre example of how 21st century cultural correctness is wedded to old-fashioned prejudice is a vicious cartoon that recently appeared in one of Norway’s leading papers.


In the cartoon, the cartoon shows a bearded, stereotypical Jewish figure stabbing a young child with a three-pronged devil’s pitchfork. The mother of the child is holding a blood-stained Biblical-looking book while saying, “Mistreatment? No, this is a tradition, an important part of our belief.”


“This bloodthirsty cartoon revisits all the ancient anti-Semitic motifs. It crosses all lines of decency and is dripping with hate and anti-Semitism,” said Dr. Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress. He said the cartoon, “reminiscent of Nazi propaganda, constitutes incitement and even a hate-crime and may result in legal action.”


“Cartoons of this type have incited attacks and even the mass murder of Jews in the past,” Kantor said. “The reason we have laws against hate is because modern society understands the connection between incitement and violence.”




“With the rise of the far-right and a deepening climate of anti-Israel hatred in Europe, anti-Jewish and anti-Israel laws are being pushed through far more easily.


Defending Judaism against attacks on Jewish rituals is gradually becoming a ritual in itself,” notes an editorial in the Jerusalem Post in response to the European Council’s recommendation to prohibit circumcision,


The article cited the spate of attacks across Europe on Jewish rituals, singling out Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Finland.


In Germany, a court in Cologne ruled last year that circumcision was illegal in the region under its jurisdiction. Following international outcries from Jewish organizations and religious liberty activists, a law was adopted in Germany stating that circumcision would remain legal.


Earlier, a similar fight was waged by Jewish organizations worldwide against anti-shechitah legislation in the Netherlands. After international protests and intervention by Israeli officials and Jewish organizations, the proposed law, which had been accepted by the Lower Chamber, did not pass the Senate in June 2012.




Passionate outcries by the Jewish community and the readiness to fight for Torah laws and traditions have obviously succeeded in beating back government legislation hostile to Jews in some countries.


But not in Poland. Jews there were defeated in their recent efforts to appeal a prohibition against kosher slaughter in that country. The Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland argued that the ban on shechitah encroached on religious freedoms guaranteed under the Polish Constitution. The Polish Parliament in July rejected their argument.


Poland’s Rabbi Michael Shudrich said the ban against shechitah triggered terrible memories for Jews. Poland began legislating against kosher slaughter in 1936 in an effort to push out the Jews, and the Germans banned it altogether after they occupied the country in 1939.


Schudrich, according to a NY Times article, said the Jewish community was hoping for a legal ruling from the constitutional court after the court, buckling to animal rights activists, upheld a 2002 ban on religious slaughter. The ban overturned a previous 1997 law granting the Jewish community the right to practice shechitah.


Following international protests, the government sought to lift the ban. But then in July, Poland’s lower house of Parliament rejected the proposal.


The kosher slaughter ban was “a setback to the Jewish revival under way in Poland,” a spokesman for the Jewish community told the NY Times. “In a place which experienced the Holocaust and anti-Semitism during Communism, you would hope that there would be a special responsibility to make Jews feel welcome. The ban is bad for Jews and bad for Poland, as it makes it look like an intolerant country.”


With the sharp rise in anti-Semitism across Europe, Poles apparently feel they are on the right side of history in banning shechitah. Who in Europe is much concerned with making Jews feel welcome?




Across the ocean, Jews in New York City are battling anti-circumcision sentiment in a different guise – the government’s informed consent regulation that seeks to eradicate metzitzah b’peh by imposing harsh restrictions on mohelim and parents who want it performed.


On the heels of the regulation, many believe, will come further crackdowns on bris milah. Some of these – such as laws mandating that bris milah be performed with glove and only in a sterile environment (a hospital) – have already been hinted at by city health officials.


The City of New York has also crafted a unique human rights narrative to justify its attack on mbp. Along with protecting children with its “informed consent” regulation, the City says it is primarily standing up for the rights of parents.


According to the government, the basis for the informed consent regulation is that parents had complained to the DOH that a mohel had performed mbp on their child without their knowledge or consent.


“Last year, after receiving complaints from parents that mbp had been performed as part of their child’s bris without their consent or knowledge, the City passed [the informed consent] regulation,” an attorney advocating for the City wrote in a Jewish Press op-ed.


The author, Akiva Shapiro, insists the regulation is “necessary to protect the religious rights of parents to make informed choices about their child’s religious upbringing and medical care.” He asks the reader to imagine a scenario where the infant whose parents were kept in the dark by the mohel about his performing mbp, contracted herpes and died.


The central question, he writes, is this: “Should the mohel have explained the mbp procedure and told the parents he would be performing it as part of the bris, giving them the opportunity not to have it done?”


The careful reader has a very different question: What is wrong with this picture?


If a mohel had actually sneaked in mbp behind the parents’ back as Shapiro [and the City of New York] claim, how would they have found out about it? Consider the possibilities:


Guest At The Bris: (taps baby’s father on the shoulder): Not sure you noticed–the mohel just did metzitzah b’peh on your baby.”


Father: Are you serious? What a chutzpah! I’m going to report this to the DOH.


Or maybe it happened like this?


Mother Of Baby To Mohel After Bris: Is everything ok with the baby?


Mohel: Everything seems fine. The metzitzah b’peh shouldn’t cause him any problems.


Mother: Metzitzah b’peh! How could you? We’ll go straight to the authorities if anything happens to him.


Or maybe the “complaining parents” Shapiro and the City want us to visualize only complained after their baby died from herpes and someone suggested it was the mohel’s fault for doing mbp?


The only thing wrong with that picture is that, to our understanding, the neonatal cases of herpes following mbp that were cited by the City in their brief all came from the religious community. Far from complaining to authorities, the parents, as many have made clear in personal testimonies, were harassed by health authorities for NOT divulging information about the bris and the mohel.


So who, in fact, are these “complaining parents” whose grievances, the City maintains, were the catalyst and justification for the “informed consent” regulation?


To prop up their human rights narrative that regulating bris milah is vital to ensure parents retain full rights over their children, the City needs them to exist.


But do they? Shouldn’t the public have clear answers about a matter so pivotal to the government’s rationale for its unprecedented regulation of bris milah?



Critics of the informed consent regulation say NYC government has overreached, meddling into areas not meant for an “unelected, unaccountable bureaucracy.”


“Today New York has a budget of $70 billion a year, twice what it was when Mayor Bloomberg entered office, and some of the highest taxes in the nation, a New York Post editorial stated.


The Post article went on to discuss the disproportionate attention Jewish circumcision is receiving compared to urgent concerns New York City residents face.


“We’ve got big decisions to make on outstanding contracts with public unions. And on issues from school reform to violent crime, we stand a real chance of going backward. So what are our two main candidates for mayor talking about? Jewish circumcision.


Thank Mike Bloomberg’s aggressive nannyism [policies that are overprotective and interfere with personal choice] for this absurdity.


His Department of Health is going after a particular circumcision practice favored by some Orthodox groups. The practice involves the mohel using his mouth to remove blood from the infant’s circumcision wound. The Health Department says it can cause herpes, and it wants to impose consent forms.


We don’t deny there are health risks to children in this city. In 2012, 10 children were killed while riding bicycles. Are we going to demand consent forms for that, too?


The basic answer is that parents make these decisions, not an unelected and unaccountable city bureaucracy. That’s especially true when the bureaucracy is treading on something as sensitive as a religious practice that has gone on for centuries.


The candidates seem to understand that, with Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota each having promised to revisit the Health Department’s meddling if he becomes mayor,” the Post article concluded.



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