Years ago, an Israeli friend of mine told me that he considered the fact that he was circumcised at birth, an offence caused to him by his parents. He believes that he was deprived of the fullness of sexual pleasures as a result.
A few days ago, a German court ruled that male circumcision was equal to grievous bodily harm and could only be permitted for medical reasons. Germany is a federal country and the state court ruling is not binding in the other German states. In all likelihood, however, it will be tested in the other states and probably also go up to the High Court.
Four million Muslims and about 100,000 Jews who live in Germany may have a problem. How many 18-year-old men would voluntarily undergo circumcision? The speaker of the Jewish community has already reacted with anger: "Circumcision of newborn boys is a fixed part of the Jewish religion and has been practised worldwide for centuries. This religious right is respected in every country in the world."
For many, circumcision is a cultural ritual that is almost as powerful as a religious command. A thirtsomething year old friend of mine told me that when his wife had announced to him that she was not having her son circumcised, he at first found it hard to accept. They are both Israeli Jews and atheists and he told me "I found it difficult to even consider that my son should not have the same kind of dick as I."
But are we to allow grievously bodily harm to our children just because it is a religious ritual that has been practiced for centuries? In addition to the human rights question, this could also add to the friction and issues with the growing Muslim population.
This exciting decision might force the courts to define religious freedom in an ever less religious Europe. I am looking forward to it.
Friday, 29 June 2012
Wednesday, 13 June 2012
This one is aimed at my German readers: The Bild Zeitung has recently spent two days with Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, and produced a sickening eulogy. Boy, do they paint a false Bild. Does Bild always produce such crap? How far can they go with the misinterpretation of Axel Springer’s support of Israel?
To get it right, I recommend you read Hans-Christian Rößler’s Im Fahrstuhl nach oben: Wie die “Bild” Zeitung Sara Netanjahu lobt in the FAZ of 11 June.
Just back from a short visit to Israel. Tel Aviv, a wonderful city to enjoy, has a vibrant cultural life, great beaches, restaurants and bars and is generally fun to be in. However, can one avoid the question whether it is morally right to enjoy life in Tel Aviv whilst at the same time one is responsible for the evils carried out as an occupying power?
Years ago, during the first days of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when it was not at all clear that we would manage to stop the Egyptian and Syrian attack, I was walking along the beach in Tel Aviv and I remember a feeling of envy. I envied the foreign diplomats, whose embassies dot the beach line. They were in the same physical danger as we were but I envied them for the fact that nobody wanted to attack them, nobody wanted to kill them, get rid of them, push them into the sea. It was not their shit.
I now find myself in a similar position. Could it be that the way to enjoy life in Israel is not to be an Israeli? Foreigners can have the fun without the burden of responsibility.
One group of foreigners is even worse off than the Israelis: These are the thousands of African illegals filling the poorer quarters of Tel Aviv and other cities. In the last days, Israeli politicians have taken to pouring oil into the fires of an ugly hatred of illegals.
Considering our history, and our constant finger pointing at countries that closed their gates to Jews, this is another low point in Netanyahu’s Israel.
Netanyahu has announced the immediate building of hundreds of new homes in the occupied territories: “the construction of 10 housing units for each home that was evacuated would enable 1,000 more residents to live in Beit El, and would deter opponents of settlements from petitioning the court.” This was Netanyahu's response to a an Israeli Supreme Court decision that forced him to dismantle five houses that were built on land privately owned by Palestinians.
Indeed, it quickly became more than 10 houses for each one dismantled. Within a week, the Israeli government has announced the building of 851 houses as a retaliatory measure for having to dismantle five.
The Israeli peace movement Peace Now has successfully appealed to the Supreme Court and the Israeli government is kicking and screaming. Netanyahu wants to deter Israeli citizens from approaching a court of law for justice and found a solution: collective punishment to those who approached the court combined with even more settlements in the occupied territories.
Even if this does not fall into the legal definition of collective punishment, it is just as ugly.