Israel attacks move to restrict male circumcision

JERUSALEM - Israel on Friday accused a leading European human rights body of fostering hatred and racism in calling for the circumcision of boys on religious grounds to be monitored more closely.

The 47-nation Council of Europe adopted a non-binding resolution this week that urged a public debate on "non-medically justified operations and interventions" on children.

The report highlighted female genital mutilation but also referred to ritual male circumcision and other practices.

Israel said the Council should immediately rescind the resolution, which only a third of the 318-member body voted on and 78 supported.

"Any comparison of (male circumcision) to the reprehensible and barbaric practice of female genital mutilation is either appalling ignorance, at best, or defamation and anti-religious hatred, at worst," the Israeli Foreign Ministry said.

It said circumcision of male children was "an ancient religious tradition" in Judaism and Islam and among some Christian groups, and was medically beneficial.

The resolution cast "a moral stain on the Council of Europe, and fosters hate and racist trends in Europe."

The document cited research supporting the medical benefits of male circumcision, but its main advocate, rapporteur Marlene Rupprecht from Germany, said she backed opposing medical opinion, which she quoted in the notes to the resolution.

Member states should therefore consider the impact of non-medical interventions in light of the child's best interests in order to define lines of action, the resolution said.

Countries should also define the medical and other conditions to be ensured for certain religious practices "such as the non-medically justified circumcision of young boys".

The Council promotes democracy and human rights in Europe but does not make laws and has little power to enforce its recommendations.

In December, Germany enacted a law to protect the right to circumcise infant boys in a show of support for Muslims and Jews who had been angered by a local court ban on the practice earlier last year.

Female genital mutilation - the partial or total removal of external female genitalia - is carried out for religious and cultural reasons in 28 African nations and parts of the Middle East and Asia.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in December urging countries to ban the practice, calling it an "irreparable, irreversible abuse" that threatens about three million girls annually.