The Israeli Embassy in Oslo is criticizing a decision by Norway’s conservative Progress Party over the weekend to support any proposed ban on circumcision of baby boys in Norway. Circumcision is a ritual within both the Jewish and Muslim religions, and the embassy called any prohibition of it “disappointing and unfortunate.”
The party policy approved during Progress’ national meeting on Saturday has no immediate effect, since it simply indicates how the party would vote in Parliament if such a ban were proposed as law. Circumcision has been controversial in Norway for years, with many doctors refusing to perform it on the grounds it’s medically unnecessary. As a result, many Muslims and Jews have had the procedure carried out at unauthorized clinics, so politicians agreed a few years ago to offer circumcision at state hospitals. Doctors still reserve the right to refuse to perform it, however.
“Circumcision is an essential part of the Jewish identity, both for religious and secular Jews,” Israeli Ambassador Raphael Schutz told news bureau NTB. “As the representative for the Jewish state (of Israel), the embassy wants to express its disappointment (over the Progress Party’s decision) and hope that the measure will be reversed.”
Progress Party leader Siv Jensen, who also serves as finance minister in Norway’s conservative government coalition, was quick to point out that she personally opposed her party’s ban on circumcision. She also stressed that her party has been a firm supporter of Israel for years.
Progress nonetheless became the only party in Parliament to make a ban on circumcision part of its party platform ahead of the national election in September. Jensen stressed that the ban, however, is only part of her party’s program for the next four years, and not government policy.
Kari Kjønaas Kjos, a Member of Parliament for the Progress Party, told newspaper Dagen that she voted in favour of the ban “simply because this is about the rights of children.” She’s not surprised by the negative reaction but said that “for us, this is about children’s rights to control over their own lives. this is about altering an otherwise healthy child, without the child having the possibility to object.” Kjos thinks men should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to be circumcised when they’ve grown up, “and we won’t involve ourselves in that.”