Religious Services Ministry calls on PM, FM to make issue a priority and warn of consequences for European nations.
Photo by: Nati Shohat/Vosizneias.com
By Lav Harkov
European rabbis told MKs on Tuesday that laws prohibiting kosher slaughter will lead to banning circumcision.
The Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee meeting was called following a motion for the agenda by MKs Ya’acov Edri (Kadima), David Azoulay (Shas), Avraham Michaeli (Shas) and Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism).
In July, a bill claiming that ritual slaughter is cruel to animals passed in the Dutch lower house of parliament. However, the Dutch Senate rejected the bill, which would have made both kosher and Muslim halal slaughter illegal.Similar laws exist in Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland and Sweden.
Edri told the committee that he heard complaints about the “evil decree” – anti-shechita (kosher slaughter) bills – during a trip to Belgium and the Netherlands, and promised then that he would bring the matter for discussion in the Knesset.
He told the rabbis present that these laws were “unacceptable,” and he would fight to end them. In addition, Edri said he had contacted the European Parliament in connection to the issue.
Maklev took issue with the claim that shechita was cruel to animals, pointing out that the same authority that declared it a mitzva to eat kosher meat, said cruelty to animals was a sin.
The presence and agreement of MKs from five parties in the meeting (the Likud, Kadima, Shas, UTJ and Labor) proved that this issue was important for the Jewish people, Maklev said.
Committee chairman Danny Danon (Likud) pointed out that even if European Jews could import kosher meat, the laws made it very expensive to live according to Jewish law.
Chief Rabbi of Rome Riccardo Di Segni, the author of a book in Italian on the laws of kashrut, said the anti-shechita laws come from two sources: Green parties defending animal rights, and “extremist” parties that opposed immigration.
Those who proposed the bills were not openly anti-Semitic, but it was not difficult to find a connection with such activity and opinions, Di Segni said.
He added that the growing presence of Islam in Europe threatened shechita, in that anti-Islam measures ended up hurting Jews, and that bills banning circumcision came from the same motives.
Rabbi Moshe Friedman, representing the European Rabbinical Council, said that twothirds of the European Parliament rejected legislation banning ritual slaughter, as well as a bill to negatively label kosher meat.
He said, however, that there was still a danger that similar bills would be proposed again.
“We are cautiously optimistic, but we cannot be complacent,” Friedman said. “The message European citizens have received is that Judaism is a religion that is cruel to animals, and the path from this to prohibiting circumcision is very short.”
Such laws were “anti-Semitism disguised as animal rights,” and anti-Muslim legislation was also anti-Semitic, because Arabs were Semites, the rabbi said.
The bill in the Netherlands narrowly avoided becoming law because 12 US congressmen sent a letter to the Dutch Senate saying it was undemocratic, Friedman said.
He also said that the Foreign Ministry was not involved in the battle against anti-shechita laws. The ministry’s Shmuel Ben-Shmuel denied this.
Ben-Shmuel said this problem had existed for years, and the Foreign Ministry had cooperated with Jewish organizations abroad on the matter.
He warned against depicting the phenomenon as anti-Semitic, saying that the laws were about animal rights, and any effect on European Jewry was incidental.
Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyamin Jacobs also said the legislation was not anti-Semitic, but rather political, which is why rabbis in his country were able to convince senators not to outlaw ritual slaughter.
He pointed out that 2,500 cows were slaughtered for kosher meat per year in the Netherlands, while the general public eat 500 million cows annually.
Because the amount of kosher beef in the Netherlands was so small in proportion to non-kosher meat, Jacobs concluded that the bill was generally anti-religious.
Anti-circumcision bills were the next step, he warned.
Alon Nuriel, a spokesman for the Religious Services Ministry, called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to make the issue a priority and tell European countries there would be serious consequences if it was not dealt with satisfactorily.
Chief Rabbinate director-general Oded Winer called on Danon to form a subcommittee that could serve as “an address for complaints” about ritual-slaughter bans, no matter where they were imposed. This way, communities facing a problem would know where to turn.
Danon closed the meeting by asking the various rabbis and government offices to submit their data on the issue, so a report could be written. He promised to call another meeting for further discussion.