The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has ruled that the circumcision ritual complies with the European Convention of Human Rights, overturning a resolution it adopted in October 2013, which called male ritual circumcision a "violation of the physical integrity of children according to human rights standards."
Following two years of intense lobbying by the leaders of Europe's Jewish community, the amendment was approved last week after members of all the factions of the Knesset persuaded a large number of European Parliament members to support the submission of a counter resolution.
The efforts were led by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and the Knesset's diplomatic advisor, Oded Ben Hur. Edelstein expressed his satisfaction over the decision, thanking the Jewish and Muslim Knesset members who took part in many meetings with members of the Council of Europe and led PR campaigns on the issue.
"From the very first moment, it was clear that the Council of Europe's recommendation was outrageous and irrational and that it blatantly violated many people's freedom of religion," Edelstein said. "I hope that we will not be required to fight for elementary rights like circumcision in the future."
'A victory for common sense'
MK Esawi Frej, who addressed members of the Council of Europe before the vote, said that "this is a victory for common sense. The argument over the performance of the circumcision ritual is legitimate, but the opposition should not be forced through legislation."
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), said: "Religion has always been a key issue in Europe. PACE's adoption of the conclusions serves as an important step in our struggle to ensure that religious rituals can be conducted freely and publicly.
"The adoption of the report essentially cancels the Council of Europe's resolution against circumcision, and will encourage all European countries, governments and parliament members to insist on Jewish rights in the continent. We will continue to work with the European Union institutions in the future discourse on the issue, and expect the decision to convey the appropriate message to all EU countries."
Israel's battle against anti-circumcision resolution
PACE, which represents most of European states, ruled overwhelmingly two years ago that male circumcision and female genital mutilation are forbidden, unless the child is over the age of 15 and has given his or her consent to the practice.
The council passed the resolution based on a report by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, by a vote of 78 in favor and 13 against, with 15 abstentions. It called on the council's 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."
Both the Jewish and Muslim communities were outraged by the comparison between male circumcision and female genital mutilation. Then-President Shimon Peres sent a letter to Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland, urging him to intervene. Jagland clarified in response 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."