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Europe Lawmakers Push Back on Circumcision

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 told JTA 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, told JTA. 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.

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