Poland must respect religious freedom, Polish president told on visit to Israel

Written by on November 6, 2013 in Europe - No comments

The issue of kosher slaughter in Poland ‘’is currently being examined by the constitutional court,” Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski said during a meeting with the Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, in Jerusalem, the European Jewish Press said on November 5 2013.

“I hope the verdict will protect religious rights, so that no one in our country feels limited. This is very important to us,” he said, after Edelstein insisted that Poland must respect religious freedom and reject laws forbidding Jewish rituals like circumcision and kosher slaughter.

Kosher and halal slaughtering were both banned in Poland after the Constitutional Court, ruling in November 2012 on a motion from animal rights groups, deemed it incompatible with animal rights legislation.

In order to enshrine ritual slaughter in Polish legislation designed to streamline the way that Polish procedures correspond with EU rules, the Polish government drafted regulations to again allow ritual slaughter. But in July, the Sjem, the Polish parliament, rejected the government bill that would have reinstated the practice.

Komorowski said that sometimes parliaments are “forces of nature that are hard to control,” and that the executive branch of Poland’s government did not initiate the ban.

“Such decisions have broad ramifications in Europe, like the Council of Europe’s call to limit circumcision. I am convinced that we can find a common denominator with our friend, Poland,” Edelstein said.

‘’It is important for Jews to feel wanted and not rejected by European countries.”

Earlier, the Polish president said his country will stand by Israel and defend the interests of Jews everywhere, at a reception at Israeli President Shimon Peres’ residence.

“We are sensitive to every manifestation of anti-Semitism in Europe in general and in Poland in particular,” Komorowski said, adding that “Poland is well aware of the security challenges confronting Israel.

“Poland fully comprehends the distinctive need for Jews to live in their own sovereign state after such a long absence,” he added.

At a news conference with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Polish president praised the relations between Poland and Israel which, he said, ‘’are not only focusing on the reflecting on the past together, the tragic past, the past that was especially difficult and tragic in the period of the Nazi occupation and the Jewish Holocaust.’’

‘’It is really a possibility for us now to develop direct relations, human relations, between our young people in Israel and in Poland, representatives of our military, our business community, our trade, our culture. An element of this process is also the intensification of political and diplomatic relations,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, A Jewish group deplored that a conference on labelling of meat from ritually slaughtered animals in the European Parliament did not include a representative of the Jewish community.

The conference on November 5 in Brussels was hosted by Danish MEP Morten Messerchmidt from the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group (EFD), who is leading a campaign to label all products arising from ritual slaughter ‘’to comply with animal welfare standard and consumer protection,’’ targeting especially the kosher and halal meat, the EJP reported.

Muslim and Jewish groups object such a labelling. Kosher laws require an animal to be fully conscious when it is slaughtered. The method of slaughter is a quick, deep stroke across the throat with a perfectly sharp blade with no nicks or unevenness. Jewish groups emphasise that this method is painless, causes unconsciousness within two seconds, and is widely recognized as the most humane method of slaughter possible.

The European Jewish Association (EJA), a Brussels-based umbrella group for various Jewish organisations active on European level, asked on Monday MEP Messerchmidt to add a Jewish representative to the conference panel ‘’in order to ensure a balanced discussion on this issue which is of profound importance for Jews and Muslims across Europe.’’

But the conference organiser said it was ’’too late’’ to change the programme and added that any representative was welcomed to attend the conference and ask questions.

‘It is not fair to organize such a conference without anyone representing the Jewish point of view regarding kosher meat,’’ Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Director General of the European Jewish Association told Messerchmidt in an email.

‘’It is very easy to agree with the importance of animal rights but human rights are not less important,’’ he said.

‘’The proposed labelling on ritual slaughtered meat is wrong because it gives the impression that the animals are not killed in a humane way,’’ he said.

‘’For us Jews it’s a big problem first because the Jewish way of killing animals is very humane.’’

‘’The kosher meat is already labeled as kosher so there is no need to make another label,’’ he added, warning that the kosher market could become very expansive if such a measure is introduced because part of the Jewish ritual slaughtered meat, which is not kosher, goes to the general market. ‘’Because people will not buy this meat prices of kosher meat will go up dramatically,’’ Margolin said.

The situation is different for the halal meat which goes only to the halal market.

(Photo: Marecheth Ho’eElohuth)

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