Israel strongly criticized a resolution by the Council of Europe against male circumcision, a ritual obligation for infant Jewish boys and a common rite among Muslims, on Friday.
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“Israel calls on the Council to rescind immediately the resolution,” a statement issued by Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.
A resolution that calls male ritual circumcision a “violation of the physical integrity of children” was passed overwhelmingly on Tuesday by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, a pan-European intergovernmental organization.
It calls on member states to “clearly define the medical, sanitary and other conditions to be ensured for practices such as the non-medically justified circumcision of young boys” and also to “adopt specific legal provisions to ensure that certain operations and practices will not be carried out before a child is old enough to be consulted.”
“Circumcision of male children is an ancient religious tradition of two important religions, Judaism and Islam, and it is also common among some Christian circles,” the foreign ministry’s statement said. “Any comparison of this tradition to the reprehensible and barbaric practice of female genital mutilation is either appalling ignorance, at best, or defamation and anti-religious hatred, at worst.”
According to Palmor, claims that circumcision harms young boys’ health and bodies are false, and do not rest on any scientific evidence. He noted that an official paper published by the American Academy of Pediatrics on August 2012 shows the health benefits of newborn male circumcision.
The resolution is “an intolerable attack both on the respectable and ancient religious tradition that lies at the base of European culture, and on modern medical science and its findings,” it added. “This resolution casts a moral stain on the Council of Europe, and fosters hate and racist trends in Europe.”
Israel's statement called on the council to annul the resolution immediatly.
“The decision by the Council of Europe concerning male circumcision shows ignorance and a fundamental misunderstanding of one of Judaism's most sacred customs,” MK Nachman Shai (Labor), heads the Israeli delegation to the Council of Europe, said in response.
Shai said he will to ask the council to reconsider its stand on circumcision. Until then, he intends to work with colleagues in other delegations to delay the decision, before legislation banning circumcision is set in motion in European countries.
“This initiative should be stopped here and now,” he said.