Immediately following the passing of a controversial Polish bill on January 26th that outlaws the mentioning of ‘Polish death camps,’ the lower house of the Poland’s parliament is expected to vote this week on a bill that would ban shechitah (kosher slaughtering of animals) and the exporting of kosher meat.
The 48-page animal welfare bill specifically forbids the slaughtering of animals in an “unnatural state,” making it virtually impossible to do a proper shechitah.
“Kashrut laws forbid to apply any pressure on the knife to protect the animal from unnecessary pain,” said European Jewish Association (EJA) Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin, as quoted by YNet.
“Preventing this pressure is impossible when the animal is standing with its head leaning heavily on the knife.”
If passed, the new restrictions will affect the other Jewish communities of Europe as well since the cost of kosher meat Israel has often been imported from Poland. The bill penalizes any violators with a prison sentence of up to four years.
Dr. Charles Asher Small, a prominent scholar and public speaker who specializes in contemporary anti-Semitism, told Breaking Israel News senses that anti-Semitism factored in the decision to propose such a bill.
“There’s definitely an anti-Semitic discourse around the issue,” he said “The outcome is problematic, and some of the intent at the least is anti-Semitic.”
A similar bill was passed in the Polish parliament in 2013, but after Rabbi Menachem Margolin challenged the law in a Polish constitutional court, it was deemed to have intruded on freedom of religion and was subsequently repealed.
Dr. Small, who is founding director of the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy (ISGAP), a non-partisan, international and interdisciplinary research center dedicated to the study of contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism, says that the renewed attempt to ban shechitah is not at all unexpected or coincidental.
“Anti-Semitism in general needs to be understood in a deeper, analytical, historical perspective,” he explained to Breaking Israel News. “Given the history of anti-Semitism in Poland, culminating with the Holocaust, we shouldn’t be surprised that the kosher meat issue is coming to the fore at the same time that the holocaust denial suppression laws are coming into power.”
“We need to start to look at Polish society not in a prescriptive manner but really in an analytical manner to see how anti-Semitism and the perception of Jews is rooted deeply into that society and its culture, its religion, and its politics,” he added.
Rabbi Margolin for his part, spoke of increased populism playing a role in the effort to ban shechitah.
“Populism and nationalism are skyrocketing and creating wars with the Jews for political purposes,” he said. “There is an unclear desire here to exclusively harm kosher slaughter and limit kosher meat exports. They are failing to explain the logic of the law.”
Concurring with Rabbi Margolin, Dr. Small said, “this is speaking to a reactionary nationalist constituency in Poland that’s gaining power and strength.”
Meanwhile, Rabbi Margolin is calling upon the government in Poland to “avoid enacting this shameful law and to take into account that the Jewish people’s faith in the Polish leadership is deteriorating.”
“These restrictions on kosher slaughter are in complete contradiction to the principle of freedom of religion of the European Union,” he added. “The situation in Poland is unacceptable. […] I can’t imagine what the next stage will be after the Holocaust law and imposing restrictions on kosher slaughter in the country.”