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Israel condemns Council of Europe resolution on ritual circumcision

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Israel's president Shimon Peres has called for a Council of Europe resolution on ritual circumcision to be rescinded. Photograph: Li Rui/Xinhua Press/CorbisIsrael's president Shimon Peres has called for a Council of Europe resolution on ritual circumcision to be rescinded. Photograph: Li Rui/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Circumcision does not harm boys' health, says Israel, claiming resolution 'fosters hate and racist trends in Europe'.

Israel has denounced a Council of Europe resolution opposing ritual circumcision, saying it casts a "moral stain" and "fosters hate and racist trends in Europe".

A strong statement issued by Israel shortly after the council adopted the resolution last week was reinforced on Monday by a letter sent by the president, Shimon Peres, calling for it to be rescinded.

The council's resolution called on 47 member states to regulate practices concerning ritual circumcision, "to overcome some of the prevailing traditional methods, which do not take into consideration the best interest of the child and the latest state of medical art".

The resolution was carried by 77 votes to 19, with 12 abstentions.

Both Judaism and Islam require the circumcision of boys, usually conducted soon after birth.

A statement issued by the Israeli foreign ministry called on the council to overturn the resolution, saying that "claims that circumcision harms young boys' health and body are false, and do not rest on any scientific evidence".

The resolution cast "a moral stain on the Council of Europe, and fosters hate and racist trends in Europe", it added.

Israel objected to inclusion of female genetic mutilation in the resolution, saying it bore no comparison with the ritual circumcision of boys. "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. 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," the statement said.

The resolution was "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".

Peres's letter to the council's secretary-general, Thorbjorn Jagland, said male circumcision was a "fundamental element of our tradition and obligation as Jews". Jewish communities across Europe would be "greatly afflicted to see their cultural and religious freedom impeded", he added.

Nursuna Memecan, the leader of the Turkish delegation to the council, also objected to the resolution as "irresponsible, dangerous and provocative", according to a report in Hurriyet.

Marlene Rupprecht, the resolution's German author, rejected the criticisms, saying the resolution "in no way compares the circumcision of boys to female genital mutilation".

The text "does not intend to stigmatise any religious community or its practices", she said in a statement on the council's website.

"On the contrary, the assembly calls for public debate aimed at reaching a wide consensus on the rights of children to protection against violations of their physical integrity."

She added: "It is the Council of Europe's mandate to promote the respect for human rights, including children's rights, on an equal footing with the fight against racism, antisemitism and xenophobia."

The Guardian

October 9 2013, 11:15

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