Circumcision is in the news now that San Francisco, California will vote on a referendum in November to criminalize the practice, even though it’s a religious requirement for Muslims and Jews, and common in the general population. Foreskin-free has been the norm in the US since the mid-20th century, although there’s a vocal minority in the US who regard it as cruel and sadistic. The medical establishment largely agrees that while medicallly unnecessary, circumcision is not abuse, does not cause harm and may even convey some health benefits. Neither government nor law enforcement has ever tried to interfere with what’s ultimately a decision made by parents for religious or medical reasons.
The real problem here is the way some Californians think they can put their fellow citizens’ religious (and/or medical and parenting) decisions to a vote. But I confess, thus far I haven’t waded into the debate because it’s moot; if the ban passes, a court will strike it down for violating the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.
Here’s where I got angry: when the debate slid into ugly ethnic hatred. Even though circumcision is far from an exclusively Jewish practice, the anti-Semites showed up to the party. Somehow opposition to circumcision took a wrong turn and landed in Nazi Germany:
Look! It’s a big, blonde, muscular hero taking on that ugly, malevolent, bearded Jew! Where have I seen that before?:
Oh, right. We’re glad we have that Aryan hero because everyone knows that sneaky, evil Jews pose a threat to innocent children:
The “Foreskin Man” cartoons are the creation of Matthew Hess, president of a San Diego group, MGM Bill,* which is gathering signatures to put a similar anti-circumcision measure on the ballot in Santa Monica. Hess denies that he’s an anti-Semite, saying “…we’re not trying to be anti-Semitic,” he replied. “We’re trying to be pro-human rights.” Human rights are surely the reason he created this grotesque caricature of a mohel***:
which bears more than a passing resemblance to this:
Hess’s mohel page also claims that the rabbi enjoys drinking the child’s blood—the “delicious metzitzah b’peh” he refers to is the ancient practice of using suction to stem the bleeding. It’s no longer done in mainstream Jewish circumcision rituals, and is never used in Muslim or secular ones. But no good Jew-hater ever passes up an opportunity to make use of the medieval blood libel about Jews drinking babies’ blood, so thanks, Matthew Hess, for keeping it real.
Hess’s claims not to be an anti-Semite fall even flatter when you look at his cartoons—none of which have similar caricatures of Muslims, or pediatricians or anyone else who performs circumcisions. No, the disgust and violence and hatred is reserved for Jews and the glory for the Aryan-looking heroes who save babies from them. There are legitimate objections to circumcision, but not by Hess and his group. They’re pushing straight up propaganda of the most time-honored and despicable kind, and it has nothing to do with circumcision at all.
*It’s also practiced by indigenous tribes in Africa, Australia and the South Pacific, although usually as a coming-of-age ritual for adolescents.
** MGM stands for “Male Genital Mutilation” as though male circumcision was the equivalent of FGM, a sure sign we’re dealing with some men’s rights bullshit.
*** In Judaism, the mohel (rhymes with “oil”) is a special practitioner trained to perform the medical and religious duties of circumcision.