Encouraged by Israeli diplomats, parliamentarians from the Council of Europe have submitted a motion opposing an earlier resolution condemning ritual circumcision of boys.
The motion was submitted last week by 101 members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the council, according to Micaela Catalano, a spokeswoman for the assembly, which has 318 parliamentarians and whose resolutions are non-binding.
Israeli diplomats said they initiated the process that led to the motion’s submission.
The Council of Europe is an intergovernmental organization that encourages dialogue and is not connected to the European Union.
The new motion calls Jewish and Muslim circumcision of boys “a religious rite which does not present risks for children and should be respected as a longstanding religious tradition.”
Titled “Freedom of religion and religious practices,” the December 11 motion urges the assembly to make recommendations on tolerance of religious practices. It also mentions an earlier, anti-circumcision resolution that the assembly passed in October.
Titled “Children’s Right to Physical Integrity,” the October resolution calls non-medical circumcision of boys a “violation of the physical integrity of children.” In an unusual move, Israel’s Foreign Ministry had condemned that resolution, warning it was helping to foster hate.
Nimrod Barkan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, told JTA that the Israeli Foreign Ministry, through its missions around the world, had campaigned over the last two months to collect signatures of council parliamentarians opposing the October resolution. That resolution had passed thanks to 78 assembly members out of the 91 who participated in that vote.
The assembly’s bureau will decide next month whether to follow up on the new motion by compiling a report on religious freedoms or to take no further action, Catalano, the assembly spokeswoman, said. If a report is compiled, the assembly will vote on whether to adopt its resolutions.
Resolutions passed by the assembly cannot be revised, but new ones may be passed, she added.
An Israeli delegation led by MK Reuven Rivlin recently met with members of the council in Paris to argue the case against banning religious circumcision.
Rivlin said he believed that Europe would change its position regarding circumcision and religious freedom.
The ritual circumcision of boys younger than 18 has come under attack increasingly in Scandinavia and other European countries both by left-wing secularists and right-wingers who fear the influence of immigration from Muslim countries.
Following the October anti-circumcision resolution, government advisers on child welfare from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland issued a joint resolution in favor of banning the ritual circumcision of minors. All the advisers have adopted the position individually in recent years, but had never before cooperated to promote it regionally.
Taken together, the resolutions stoked fears that individual countries would feel empowered to enact legislation outlawing circumcision.
In November Israel’s Deputy Minister of Religious Services Eli Ben Dahan (Jewish Home party) met with the secretary general of the Council of Europe to urge protection of religious freedoms, and prevent restrictions on ritual circumcision and animal slaughter.
Slaughter without prior stunning was made illegal in Poland as of January, following a ruling in November by the constitutional court on a petition by animal rights activists. In July, lawmakers voted down a draft amendment to the law on animal protection that would have allowed for the slaughter of animals without prior stunning, as required by Jewish and Muslim law, if carried out so as to follow religious customs.