I’ll never cease to be amazed at some of the laws which wind up on the books in other countries, but that’s probably the result of taking the American system of justice for granted. One recent story however has gotten me to thinking. It comes from our friend Jeff Dunetz at his blog and it deals with the nation of Norway. It seems that the country is currently considering a new law which would ban the circumcision of boys until their 16th birthday. (JPost)
The Progress Party in Norway voted on Saturday in favor of a law banning ritual circumcision of children under the age of 16, a day after the environment committee of Belgium’s Parliament of Wallonia voted in favor of banning ritual slaughter, posing a threat to both shechita (kosher slaughter) and brit mila (circumcision) in Europe.
Proponents of the Norwegian bill, which was discussed during the party’s national gathering over the weekend, claim that circumcision constitutes mental and physical harm to children and constitutes a serious violation of children’s rights. The Progress Party is the third-largest party – with 29 of 169 seats in parliament it serves as the junior partner in Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s cabinet.
It’s certainly not the first time this debate has arisen, but Jeff argues that it’s almost surely being done because of Norway’s long history of trying to keep out the Jews.
While it is true that after my Bris I couldn’t walk for a year, most babies don’t start walking till they are about a year old, so in all probability, the real rationale behind this proposal is that Norway is considered by many as the most anti-Semitic and anti-Israel nation in Europe.
Historically movements to ban circumcision are centered in attempts to move the Jewish commitment from God and refocus it on man. In fact, almost every campaign to destroy the Jewish people started with a ban on circumcision, followed by a ban on kosher slaughter and finally a ban on teaching Torah (Norway reversed the order, they.began with Kosher slaughter).
To be honest, I’d never even heard about a history of antisemitism in Norway, but then again it’s fairly rare that Norway makes it into any news which makes it onto my radar. Mostly I tend to think of them as yet another group of socialists living “up there” in northern Europe. But Jeff provides a trove of evidence to back up his claim. For example, I had no idea that Norway’s original constitution actually banned Jews from the Kingdom. I was also unaware of the history of banning ritual slaughter of animals long before anything like PETA came into prevalence, with the nations in question not seeming to care quite so much about animal welfare as preventing people from eating Kosher.
Most of the cases I’ve heard about in the United States generally have nothing to do with religion, but rather men who are suing their parents or the hospital where they were born for having circumcised them without their consent. A number of such cases have been settled in favor of the plaintiff to the tune of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. And the plaintiffs have had a growing body of evidence from the medical field on their side. For the past 18 years the American Academy of Pediatrics has been issuing revised guidelines which say that the benefits of the doing this were not sufficient to warrant the surgical procedure.
But in those situations we’re not talking about sweeping societal policy or laws enacted by the government. These are individual choices that parents and doctors make. In that light it’s certainly worth having a discussion over what’s really the best approach. But while I certainly wouldn’t want the government to be forcing every parent to get their sons circumcised, by the same token I wouldn’t want them forbidding it either. Given how long it’s been going on without noticeable deleterious effects and the fact that it’s embedded into at least one major religion, it’s a matter best left up to the families, their doctors and their religious advisers. So with all of that in mind, I really have to question Norway’s motives here. Absent some better explanation, it certainly does sound like a series of moves designed to make Jews feel unwelcome with no other real benefit from the law coming to mind.