These are the words of the Conference of European Rabbis as reported by Spiegel Online in this article. Exceptionally inflammatory words, particularly coming as they do in response to a German court ruling. The Rabbi who issued the statement for the Conference, Pinchas Goldschmidt, is the Chief Rabbi of Moscow. A Rabbi from Munich took a less strident tone:
Rabbi Yisroel Diskin, Director of Chabad in Munich, says the ban is concerning for Germany’s Jewish population but he is optimistic that the state will overturn the ruling.
“I’m sure that the German government or Parliament will correct this issue and I hope it will be very soon,” Diskin told The Algemeiner. “Just the message from the court, that circumcision is not allowed, is a very serious issue for Jews in Germany.”
The German Medical Association cautioned practicioners against performing circumcisions while Angela Merkel’s spokesperson replied to the controversy by saying that the government wanted Jewish and Muslim life in the country and called on lawmakers to enact legislation that makes circumcision legal.
Well, you couldn’t ask for a more charged situation in terms of rights: civil vs. religious, legal vs. medical, parent vs. children and throw in the tragic history of Germany and the Jews. In light of all of these things, one might excuse the Rabbi’s response. And expect the conciliatory tone of the German government.
Except, this isn’t about “Germany” or “the Jews”, at least not directly. The case in question involved a 4 year old Muslim boy who was taken to a hospital after complications from his circumcision and the ruling currently holds only in Cologne. It also is taking place in a larger context of anti-immigrant activities in Europe which have seen the rise of Nationalist parties as the European economy suffers, hate crimes against immigrants and legislative actions which have included “Swiss ban on minarets, French and Belgian bans on Islamic veils in public and an attempted Dutch ban on halal meat.” (Jerusalem Post.com)
In other words, this is about Muslims, not Jews specifically and not Germany specifically. Insofar as Jews practice circumcision and eat kosher meat, they are affected by these actions. However, Jewish women don’t wear veils and synogogues are not built (typically) with minarets. These actions are not an attack specifically on Jews and certainly not the worst attack since the holocaust. The Rabbi from Moscow was off point and out of line.
Last year I declared a moratorium against invoking the “Nazi” card in moral philosophy. My point was that using the moral limit case to test a theory or idea was a) a bad idea if your theory can’t handle everyday examples and b) inappropriate and disrespectful. In this case I think we are seeing a corollary about using the Holocaust as a rhetorical device. I understand the need to never forget, speak out strongly against hatred, oppression and anti-semitism and be vigilant against fascist nationalism. However, we must also be careful not to engage in discourse that doesn’t contribute to positive solutions to these issues or co-opts the oppression of an Other.