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Newspaper Publishes Lie About Jews and Female Circumcision

Watchdog: growing tendency to blame Judaism for practice of female genital mutilation - despite repeated proofs this is a lie.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 6/3/2014, 4:16 AM

Baby (illustrative)
Baby (illustrative)
Thinkstock

Foreign press fabricates lies about Judaism regularly, whether it's the conviction that Jews were behind the Islamist uprising in Egypt or traditional accusations of blood libel. 

But on Monday, watchdog blog CiFWatch demonstrated that British newspapers have perpetuated yet another outrageous claim: that Jews are guilty of practicing female circumcision, or Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). 

In January, the London Evening Standard published a story - quoting a blogger at the Huffington Post - claiming that "Christians, Muslims, Jews, animists, and non-believers" are guilty of supporting the physical harm of over 140 million women worldwide.

Similar claims were made in a September Guardian report by staff feature writer Homa Khaleeli. But while the Guardian story was corrected within hours of CiFWatch noting the mistake, the Standard allegedly never published corrections to the misnomer. 

Organizations working against the barbaric practice - which involves harming teenage girls' genitalia for a variety of reasons, mainly concerning retaining virginity before marriage or other social norms - have noted on multiple occasions that while the practice has been proven to be aligned with tribal cultures, not religions, its prevalence is higher among Muslim communities in the Middle East and Africa. Studies supporting this have been brought by both the AHA Foundation and Child Info. 

In fact, FGM has never been practiced within the Jewish community - except for within the context of a small portion of the Ethiopian Jewish population, within which the practice has since virtually disappeared. 

Harvard Professor Shaye J.D. Cohen debunked rumors of Jewish FGM in an essay entitled “Why Aren’t Jewish Women Circumcised?: Gender and Covenant in Judaism," as CiFWatch reports. 

"Aside from the Beta Israel of Ethiopia (the so-called Falashas) […] no Jewish community, in either ancient, medieval or modern times, is known to have practiced female circumcision," he wrote. "The practice of the Beta Israel is simply part of general Ethiopian culture, in which female circumcision is widely practiced, and is not a relic of some long-lost Jewish tradition."

And as Dr. RH Belmaker published in a 2012 study in the Journal of Israeli Psychiatry, even Jews in FSM-practicing environments - especially Muslim countries - have not brought the practice to their communities. According to Belmaker, "Jews from Arab countries where FGM is practiced do not practice FGM. However, major immigration of Jews from Ethiopia to Israel permitted study of this practice."

"We confirmed the report that Ethiopian Jews did practice FGM in Ethiopia [but] we reported the dramatic and total cessation of this custom among this community after immigration to Israel," he added. 

The World Health Organization's list of countries with documented cases of FGM does not include Israel at all, nor does data complied from years worth of UNICEF surveys.

UNICEF data does, however, document FGM in several Muslim countries in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Gaza. 

Moreover, religious justification for FGM also stems from either differing verses in hadiths, or Islamic texts, or from cultural norms and practices found in African and animist societies.

By contrast, the Torah specifically labels circumcision as a male practice, introducing the concept in passages about Abraham in Genesis, when he converted to traditional Judaism's predecessor, practical monotheism. Biblical matriarch Sara, however, was never given this edict. 

Israel itself has upheld the Torah's views preventing the practice as well, releasing a well-documented statement on the issue in response to the European Council's discussion of banning all circumcisions in October. 

"Circumcision of male children is an ancient religious tradition of two important religions, Judaism and Islam, and is also common among some Christian circles," Israel said, in an official statement. "Any comparison of this tradition to the reprehensible and barbaric practice of female genital mutilation is either appalling ignorance, at best, or defamation and anti- religious hatred, at worst."