A film produced by the Israeli parliament in a bid to combat attempts to ban the religious ritual in European countries states that circumcision is freedom of religion and involves no damage or risk.
The film, "For Life," which was presented last week to the Parliamentary Assembly of the COE by Knesset Member Nachman Shai of the Labor Party, features doctors rejecting the claim that circumcision is a dangerous procedure and calling for freedom of religion on the matter for both Jews and Muslims.
Even Roger Moore supports circumcision. The Knesset PR film
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein initiated the parliamentary activity ahead of the COE parliamentary assembly discussion and managed to gain the support of some 100 COE members demanding to cancel a previous anti-circumcision resolution.
Before leaving Israel to attend the discussion, MK Shai found out that circumcision opposers were planning to present a documentary specifying the procedure's risks, "It's a Boy!" by Victor Schonfeld.
Edelstein immediately initiated the production of a 15-minute counter film on behalf of the Knesset (together with the Government Advertising Agency), which will be used by the Knesset and Foreign Ministry representatives in the future as well – until the resolution is canceled.
In favor and against circumcision
The Knesset film features the directors of the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv and the Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital in Jerusalem, the Muslim directors of the Nazareth and Nahariya hospitals, Israel Prize Laureate Prof. Avraham Steinberg, the Knesset speaker and others.
The speakers voice their support for the medical advantages of circumcision, based on research, and refute claims about the infant's suffering during the procedure.
"I was circumcised at eight. Much better than having it done later…" British actor Roger Moore is quoted as saying at the start of the Knesset's PR film.
"Circumcision has many medical advantages and almost negligible disadvantages if done properly by trained, experienced people and particularly if done at a very early age," Prof. Steinberg says.
Gynecologist Dr. Chana Catane, who has six boys, is interviewed both as a mother and a physician: "There have been many many papers done about the correlation between the age of the child and the presence of pain, and of course as the child gets older and older then the presence of pain is much higher and the length of feeling pain gets longer and longer."
Prof. Gabriel Barabash, Dr. Masad Barhoum and Dr. Osnat Levtzion-Korach raise detailed claims about "studies which have shown significantly low rates of HPV infections which lead to cervical cancer."
'It's a Boy' trailer
Several days ago, after the discussion, the COE posted on its YouTube channel an interview it conducted with Jewish director Victor Schonfeld on his anti-circumcision documentary, in which he praised the COE's resolution.
"I made the film 'It's a Boy' emerging from my own Jewish identity and concerns that there was a taboo in the Jewish world, and in fact in the Muslim world, about looking with open eyes and with open ears at what happens to children when they go through ritual circumcision," he says.
"The film investigated to what degree children suffer and are harmed by the custom, and what we found was shocking to me as a Jew. We found children in extreme suffering, procedures done without any anesthetic and the suffering was very, very obvious.
"And then the complications that we heard about from parents full of remorse for inflicting this custom on their children were also shocking, ranging from the most common place of extreme bleeding which required hospitalization to injuries that are permanent to the genitals… to death."
Schonfeld says he supports the COE's call for "an intense public debate about potential restrictions on this practice. I believe children's bodies are their own and we as parents have the job of protecting them, and the Council of Europe has taken a great stride forward by trumpeting children's rights to physical integrity. No religious group should have an exemption from looking after children."
Schonfeld was invited by the COE to present through his film, which he made about seven years ago, the claims which led the COE to rule several month ago that circumcision is a "violation of the physical integrity of children according to human rights standards."
'Until the resolution is canceled'
"We are in the midst of a struggle," said MK Shai. "It is our responsibility to reverse the decision. We must take every opportunity to ward off the claims against circumcision, and I am very glad that some of the best medical experts immediately responded to our request and provided their professional opinion."
Anti-circumcision filmmaker voices support for Council of Europe
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which represents most of the continent's states, passed a resolution in October calling male ritual circumcision a "violation of the physical integrity of children according to human rights standards."
Jewish organizations expressed their fear that this declarative move would be perceived as a professional recommendation by the most important body in the continent on democracy and human rights issues, which might lead to a wave of legislation banning circumcision across Europe.
The decision drew an angry reaction from Israel, and President Shimon Peres even said the anti-circumcision resolution violated human rights and expressed his outrage over the comparison between male circumcision and female mutilation.
Council of Europe chief Thorbjoern Jagland responded in a letter to Peres, assuring him that "nothing in the body of our legally binding standards would lead us to put on equal footing the issue of female genital mutilation and the circumcision of young boys for religious reasons."