Tip about the iceberg
But it turns out that this was only the start of an international influence campaign for Danish politicians during 2018.
According to a report by the Danish Embassy in Washington, Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and delegates from both the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Conference of Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations (CoP) paid a visit to pressure the ambassador on the proposal and its traction among the Danish public.
Another report, this time from the US police intelligence service, revealed: “The Jewish World Congress has appeared before official Danish representatives to argue that a ban will threaten the existence of the Jewish community in Denmark.”
There is also evidence that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was interested in the outcome of the proposal.
Although discussions between Frederiksen and Netanyahu were closely guarded, the Danish Prime Minister requested information about a meeting with Netanyahu shortly after rejecting the ban, where she told him about the result.
Later, Frederiksen was at the forefront of a controversial vaccine alliance between Denmark and Israel, which triggered criticism in Europe.
Interfere or just freedom of speech?
“It is quite unique, at least in my area, that foreign governments are so interested in a bill in Denmark,” remarked religion researcher Brian Arly Jacobsen from the University of Copenhagen.
The level of foreign interest is undoubtedly unusual. Many politicians have condemned it as interference.
Liberal Alliance group chairman Ole Birk Olesen commented “it crosses a line as to what good alliance partners do to each other.”
Peter Hvelplund, chairman of the Unity List, called it ‘unacceptable’ and said “these are internal Danish affairs – not something that other powers have the right to interfere in.”
Socialist People’s Party legal spokeswoman Karina Lorentzen agreed. “I think it is overwhelming and a little surprising that such pressure is being exerted. For us, it is only about children’s right to their own body and to decide for themselves what to do with it. ”
“A double standard”
However, not all politicians are armed: “It does not surprise me that the US embassy, which represents the US government, is trying to lobby Denmark in this matter. We also do it from the Danish side, so I honestly think it is a double standard, “said Venstre group chairman, Karsten Lauritzen.
The interim US Ambassador to Denmark, Stuart Dwyer, defended his US representatives, commenting “Diplomacy is about engaging in a wide range of issues, so I see it as a normal diplomatic engagement.”
Andrew Baker, director of the AJC, was also quick to avoid accusations of tampering. “[Our contact with the Danish government] had to explain that it was a matter that worried us and a topic that had our attention. ”
Minister of Justice Nick Hækkerup spoke on behalf of the government: “It is almost impossible to find cases where external interest groups do not try to influence what the government thinks. The crucial thing is how we take in and react to the views. ”
More than a domestic matter
With many voices complaining about leading the circumcision debate, the government had to weigh Danish domestic perception against foreign policy implications.
In the end, foreign policy implications won.
“Honestly, I myself have a hard time with circumcision. That is why I have previously been in favor of a circumcision ban, ”Frederiksen explained to Berlingske in 2020.
“Fortunately, I have dared to change my attitude. I know what the millennium-old ritual means for religious minorities in Denmark. And I know that some Danish Jews will no longer be able to see themselves in our society if a ban is implemented. ”
The Liberal Party’s chairman, Jacob Ellemann-Jensen, was quick to support the Prime Minister. “We must be able to meet the Jewish community in Denmark – we owe it to them.”
“The consequences if Denmark is the first country in the world to issue a ban are too great for me and the Liberal Party to continue,” Lauritzen admitted.
“It’s not the same as supporting circumcision because we do not”
The debate rages on
Despite the government’s decision, a latest poll conducted by Epinion showed that 73 percent of Danes believe that a ban on ritual circumcision of boys under 18 should be introduced.
Only 10 percent answered that they were against a ban.
The Prime Minister’s U-turn comes to the heart of the circumcision debate – it is a thorny intersection between body politics and cultural policy.
Far from settling the debate, the emergence of more information on Danish politics promotes a distinction between public and political opinion.
Source: The Nordic Page