Resolution on Disturbing Trends in Europe of Concern to Jews and Other Religious Minorities

Posted on: Thursday April 24, 2014

Whereas certain trends in Europe are of concern to Jews and other ethnic and religious minorities and

Whereas recent events in Hungary reflect a deliberate effort by the ruling Fidesz party that dominates the Hungarian Parliament to dismantle the democratic system including constitutional amendments and legal changes that have the effect of limiting free speech, curbing the independence of the judiciary, limiting religious freedom by giving parliament the sole right to decide which religious organizations are considered “churches” for the purpose of domestic legislation, prompting serious criticism by the European Parliament and the Venice Commission, a Council of Europe expert body specializing in constitutional reform and

Whereas this political climate has resulted in increased expressions of an anti-Semitic, anti-gay and anti-immigrant nature as well as acts of incitement and violence against the Roma community, as noted by the World Jewish Congress in Budapest in May 2013 and

Whereas there has been a precipitous rise in the number of physical attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions, including physical and verbal threats and physical violence against Jews in Malmo, Sweden, and Sarcelles, France and riots in Jewish neighborhoods in Antwerp, Belgium (where Islamists waved flags of Hamas, an outlawed terrorist organization), resulting in increased fear and anxiety to members of the Jewish community, apparently as a direct result of resurgent Islamic fundamentalism, and

Whereas boycotts against Israeli academics and the refusal of European academics and artists to speak or work in Israel have become increasingly common in European academic societies and universities, violating all commonly acknowledged principles of academic freedom and inhibiting the exchange of ideas essential to academic and artistic pursuits and

Whereas claims that circumcision is harmful to a child and a violation of the child’s rights led to passage of a resolution in October 2013 by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) asserting that religious circumcision contravened “the rights of children’s physical integrity” and while not binding on member states or on the Council itself, has acted as a catalyst for a number of anti-circumcision initiatives in certain European states affecting both Jews and Muslims and

Whereas claims that religious slaughter is a violation of animal rights have led to the banning or limitations the religious practices of both Muslims and Jews with respect to animal slaughter based on faulty assumptions both about the nature of religious slaughter and of pre-slaughter stunning and  

Whereas seemingly “innocent” concerns for the rights of children and animals and debates about circumcision and shechita related to such concerns have historically been connected to a rise in anti-Semitism.

Therefore be it resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly stands with our colleagues in Masorti Europe in fighting back the forces that seek to restrict religious practices, impose academic boycotts and contribute to the increasing level of anti-Jewish rhetoric; in calling upon European governments and officials to strive to understand and respect rituals and practices that may be unfamiliar to them but which are intrinsic to the religious traditions of Jews and Muslims; in asserting that these practices are carried out with safeguards both for the well-being of the child and to minimize the pain and suffering of animals; and in distinguishing between honest concerns about such practices and the cynical exploitation of these issues by those with xenophobic, anti-Muslim or anti-Semitic motivations and

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly in endorsing the various points of concern of the European Jewish Community, calls upon the citizens and governments of Europe to be mindful of the potential dire consequences for Jews and other minorities in Hungary as well as for the potential for these trends spreading to neighboring countries and

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly calls upon the European Council and the European Commission to move from reprimanding Hungary to taking action and warning that there will be consequences if current trends are not reversed and

Be it further resolved that we welcome the Council of Europe’s parliamentary hearing in January 2014 on the subject of male infant circumcision - to which representatives of the European Jewish Congress were invited - during which members of the Parliamentary Assembly heard from medical experts in the field and we welcome the statement of the current spokesperson of the parliamentary committee that the Assembly will cease discussing the issue and

Be it further resolved that we join the European Jewish Congress in calling upon the European Union to uphold Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights that guarantees freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including freedom to manifest religious practices and to uphold the European Union directive L 137, "European Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter" permitting member states to allow exemptions for religious slaughter and for national governments to work with the Europioean Jewish communities to ensure that shechita continues to conform to the highest standards of concern for the welfare of animals and remains a permitted form of slaughter in its member states and  

Be it further resolved that we call upon academic societies and universities to resist efforts to draw them into boycotts against Israeli academics and artists, actions which violate the essence of academic and artistic freedom, repress rather than encourage the dialogue so essential to dealing with political differences and call to mind the disastrous consequences - well known to European democracies - that have so often followed efforts to restrict academic freedom.