Europe needs to allow Jews to practice shechita: opinion

On its surface, last week’s ruling by Greece’s highest court to ban shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter) is an internal political issue in which Israel must not interfere.

Eight European countries have already banned shechita (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, Slovenia and Estonia) and Israel has kept quiet.

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As the French statesman General Charles de Gaulle pointed out, nations have no friends, only interests.

In fact, Israel has concrete interests vis-à-vis Greece: a strategic military alliance, cooperation in the energy sphere, a cheap and easily available destination for beach and landscape-loving tourists; support for Israel in the European Union votes; and many others.

A Greek national flag flies as people visit a beach, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Athens, Greece, on April 28, 2020 (credit: GORAN TOMASEVIC / REUTERS)

On the other hand, the once glorious Greek Jewish community has been reduced to a shadow of what it was before.

Unsurprisingly, the animal rights lobby won out over the pro-Jewish lobby, which doesn’t really exist. The few local Jews who observe kashrut will have to become vegetarians, emigrate, or import kosher meat, which has not yet been banned from them.

If the damage caused is minimal, and if Israel has good reason not to jeopardize its diplomatic relations with a friendly nation, why should this decision sound the alarm bells?

An attack on Jewish life in the name of liberal values

To understand the severity of what Greek law represents, we have to understand how it fits into an ongoing progressive process that will ultimately make organized Jewish life impossible.

Although classical liberalism, with its focus on social justice and individual rights, benefited Jews in the past, “progressive” activists now attacking Jewish particularism are harming Jews with a limited understanding of what it means to be. “illustrated”. The damage they inflict goes beyond questions of shechita and brit milah (the covenant of circumcision); They are also attacking Jewish burial (for environmental concerns) and Jewish schools (on charges of ethnic discrimination and gender segregation).

Last summer, Belgium banned shechita, and now they are arguing about the legislation that would prohibit the brit mila there, on the basis of claims of children’s rights. Opinion polls show support for such a ban across Europe. So far, only Slovenia has legislated such a ban, but legal efforts to do so continue in Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, and, as noted, Belgium. The anti-circumcision movement is very active and is not expected to diminish anytime soon.

Ultimately, if the Jewish people do not take countermeasures, the British bans are likely to be enacted. And, as with shechitaIf one ban is successfully enacted, others will follow.

In general, societies characterized by increasing secularism show strong anti-religious sentiment. The Council of Europe has declared that all member states should “demand that religious leaders take an unequivocal position in favor of the advancement of human rights. […] on any other religious principle “.

Hypocrisy, internal contradictions and cultural preconceptions

Even if we assume, for the moment, that the intentions of “progressives” are in no way tainted by anti-Semitism (a very dubious assumption), it is clear that they harbor Eurocentric cultural assumptions.

We can point out, for example, that hunting, which results in the cruel killing of hundreds of thousands of animals every year, has not been banned by any European country, yet shechita, which allows a few hundred Greek Jews to perpetuate their tradition. has been outlawed.

Lacking sensitivity or empathy for non-European cultures, these “progressives” are unable to understand why Jews insist on ritual sacrifice without stunning, or on having the baby’s foreskin removed when it is exactly eight days old.

Lacking an understanding of the place of Halacha (Jewish law) in Jewish life, they are unable to heed community leaders who warn that “Brit Mila’s bans will force Jews to leave Europe,” and that the result practical of such legislation would be “cultural genocide.”

The Jews most committed to their identity will leave the continent, while others will avoid drawing attention to their Judaism; organized communities will essentially cease to function.

This is all the more surreal when we consider that just a few weeks ago, at the opening of a museum in memory of the illustrious Jewish community of Thessaloniki, which was completely destroyed in the Holocaust, Greek politics and Vice President of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, promised that Europe would spare no effort to promote the revival of full Jewish life on the continent.

Calling on the Israeli government to intervene

Although Israel has a moral duty, based on its Declaration of Independence and Article 6 of the Nation-State Law, which has constitutional force, to guarantee the safety of Jews in the Diaspora, it has not addressed the new Greek legislation.

The Jewish state has shown itself willing and able to rescue Jews in immediate danger of death, an important obligation reserved for emergency situations. The current danger is more spiritual and cultural than physical, which means that Israel could, theoretically, turn a blind eye, as it has done in the past.

But in light of the developments currently underway in Europe, and which are beginning to spread to North America, Israel would do well to consider mounting a smart and effective intervention.

The late Shimon Peres sent Angela Merkel and the head of the European Union personal letters that persuaded them to reverse decisions to ban brit milah, and American politicians convinced Iceland and Norway to abolish restrictions on Jewish life.

Israel, given its good relations with Greece, should use the appropriate communication channels to request that the Greek government intervene and overturn the ruling.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Jewish People’s Policy Institute. It coordinates its activity in the fight against anti-Semitism and the promotion of the continuity of Jewish community life in Europe.

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