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August 29, 2012 11:27 am

German Circumcision Ban Shows Jew-Hatred Back in Fashion

avatar by Jonathan S. Tobin /

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While German Chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured) has vowed that the German parliament will pass legislation legalizing circumcision in the fall, negotiations over the language of such a bill have revealed that many in the Bundestag may push for restrictions on the practice such as forcing the use of anesthetics or requiring a doctor to be present. Photo: Jacques Grießmayer.

When a court in Cologne, Germany ruled in June that circumcision should henceforth be considered illegal, those who are tasked with raising the alarm about signs of anti-Semitism spoke out. But cooler heads, including those who know Europe well, told us not to worry so much.

However, when prosecutors were petitioned to bring charges this week against a rabbi in Bavaria for performing brit milah—the covenantal rite of circumcision that is integral to Jewish identity—it was widely taken as a sign that this issue is not going away. Indeed, with hospitals in Germany, Austria and Switzerland now refusing to perform circumcision for fear of legal sanctions, it’s clear that this is just the beginning of what may be a long hard fight with no assurance of a happy outcome for European Jews.

It is true that the bris ban is a threat to Muslims as well as Jews, and optimists are cautioning horrified onlookers to see it as more a function of intolerance of any minority rather than a specific recurrence of anti-Semitism. But Jews and Muslims are in very different situations in Europe these days.

Prejudice against Islam has cropped up throughout Western Europe. But the sheer number of Muslims also works in their favor since, as is already the case in France, they have the potential to be a major political force. The scattered remnant of European Jewry has no such advantage. In the last generation animus against the state of Israel, often imported into these countries by Muslim immigrants, has given a veneer of faux respectability to traditional Jew-hatred now practiced by both intellectuals and street toughs. It is in that context of what the U.S. State Department has admitted is a “rising tide of anti-Semitism” that movements to ban circumcision or kosher slaughter in Europe must be understood.

What makes the circumcision ban in Germany so upsetting is that it was assumed that fear of awakening the ghosts of the Nazis would keep anti-Semites in check there. Laws and a culture of guilt about the legacy of past generations have served to keep expressions of Jew hatred on the margins of German society. But with judges and doctors and others openly attacking Judaism, it’s apparent Germans are increasingly undeterred by such factors.

To her credit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed that the German parliament will pass legislation legalizing circumcision in the fall. But negotiations over the language of such a bill have revealed that many in the Bundestag may push for restrictions on the practice, such as forcing the use of anesthetics or requiring a doctor to be present. Such a bill would be unacceptable since it would infringe on a tradition that is safe and causes no harm to infants. It would also be an intrusion into communal life by the authorities that might set an ominous precedent. Though campaigners against circumcision always claim they are only seeking to protect children, their hostility to Judaism and Jews is a badly kept secret. That was made clear even here in America when those seeking to put a bris ban on the ballot in San Francisco last year published an anti-Semitic comic book to promote their efforts.

At the moment, German Jews are hopeful that this problem will soon blow over. But even the greatest of optimists cannot look around Europe and pretend that Jew-hatred isn’t growing. Not even shocking crimes, such as the shooting of a teacher and three Jewish schoolchildren in Toulouse, France in March by an Islamist gunman was enough to stifle anti-Semitism there. As Jewish groups report, anti-Semitic attacks on Jews have risen in France since the incident. There, as is the case elsewhere in Europe, hatred for Israel has become the excuse for more blatant cases of bias.

The bris ban may be the thin edge of the wedge for other problems that will crop up. Anything that chips away at the religious freedom of Jews will serve as a green light for the haters to become more violent. Though there was once hope that Europe would again be a place where Jewish life could thrive, as Israel and Judaism itself become the focus of more hostility, it is hard to envision that Jews have much of a future on the continent.

JNS Columnist Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of COMMENTARY magazine and chief political blogger He can be reached via e-mail at: Follow him on Twitter at!/TobinCommentary.

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  • David V

    The Sage Moses Maimonides said in the “Guide to the Perplexed” Part III, Chapter 49 that the purpose of circumcision was to cause pain and to diminish sexual pleasure, while maintain the ability to procreate. He also said in that same chapter that it was hard for a woman that has had intercourse with an uncircumcised man, to separate from him.

    He of course justifies circumcision as a covenant with God and says that it “brands” and “distinguishes” Jewish man from other races. If branding children like cattle with the express intent to cause them pain and diminish their sexuality is not a violation of Human Rights, what is?

    How many outdated mitzvot are no longer practiced by the Jewish people? It’s high time that circumcision joined them.

  • Mariel

    The health benefits of circumcision have been well established in peer-reviewed publications. This is not anti-Semitic, it’s just bad public health policy and they’re going to reverse it anyway. Googling info on WebMD and Wikipedia does not equal actual medical or scientific training (i.e. MD or PhD).

  • Robert Twic

    I’m a 65 yr old Jew,that circumcision hasn’t harmed. It’s harmful only when it’s used to identify Jews so that they can b persecuted.

    Anyhow, the Rabbi gives the baby boy a gauze dressing, already soaked in sweet wine, to suck on, while the circumcision is being done. The child is anethetisized by the wine, the alcohol from the wine, that is, while the procedure is being done.

  • Benjamin

    I’m German and very proud of the circumcision ban!

    Try thinking like this:

    For the first time in history, a country finally has the guts to strenghten children’s rights so that no child should be harmed against its will – even if religion justifies this harm!
    Even better, this country has developed from a brutal dictatorship that violated every human right…to a modern democracy where the human rights might now even be more important than these oohhhh-soooo important and precious religious traditions.

    • RJSUSA

      You’re a fool. The concept of human rights comes from Mt. Sinai. While the Greeks and others were murdering deformed children, the Jews believed every life is sacred.

      Europe hates Judaism. It is trying to take the sacred and the holy out of life in favor of some bizarre, utilitarian concept of human rights. Europe is over.

  • Eric R.

    Combine this with your other news about a Jew wearing a yarmulke being attacked in Germany, and you can see that Europe is still a Nazi sewer, unrepentant in its Jew-hatred. The only good Jew to the denizens of this Socialist (National or International) hellhole excuse for a continent is a dead Jew.

    Europe is dying – demographically, culturally and economically – and it’s dying wish is to at least have a Judenrein Europe, and if possible, a Judenrein world.

    Frankly, there’s not much else the Europeans care about at this point.

  • Actually, circumcision is very harmful, and more Jews are recognizing this harm and forgoing circumcision. See .

    • Sheldon R., Ph. D..

      Funny you would say that when actual scientific evidence continually mounts indicating health benefits of circumcision. Just because some Jews may not undergo a ritual circumcision, doesn’t mean that circumcision is harmful. At the same time, just because you are Jewish doesn’t mean you can’t be an anti-semite, Mr. Goldman.,-Says-AAP.aspx

      • pkjames

        The study by the AAP you point to is seriously flawed with ecological fallacy. Most people will not benefit from the procedure. The savings is placed at $313 dollars, far less than the average circumcised man will spend on lubrication to pleasure himself as opposed to the uncircumcised man. Pediatricians are not sexually transmitted disease experts. Permanently and irrevocably marking, branding, a child so that he will forever be marked as belonging to a religion is the height of violation for religious freedom. I support Germany and other European nations who are taking a stand for children’s rights..and for animal rights about kosher slaughter. Practicing what you want on others is not religion, it’s domination.

      • Look I have a Ph. D..

        Do people actually believe you have a Ph. D. if you put it after your name on he internet? I sure hope not.

        • Ed

          That is the dumbest argument I ever heard. THe average person will spend more than 313 bucks on lube. Why? Because you said so.