Foreskin Man: Peeling Back the Mystery

Product of a real, live anti-Semite
A vigilant reader has informed me that I was entirely wrong in supposing that Foreskin Man, the comic put out by San Francisco circumcision opponents, was someone’s bad idea of meta-humor. The artist, Matthew Hess, is a real person of real German ancestry — not, as I had hoped, a Jewish prankster who named himself after a Nazi for a lark.

Debra Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle interviewed Hess. The interview is brief, but still revealing:

UPDATE:I spoke with Matthew Hess of this morning. I asked him if the comic is anti-Semitic. He answered, “A lot of people have said that, but we’re not trying to be anti-Semitic. We’re trying to be pro-human rights.”

The “next issue will deal with a different kind of circumcision.”

And he gave me permission to post material from the site.

Not anit-Semitic, but pro-human rights, huh? Well, now we know anti-circumcision activists can be just as mealy-mouthed as any other activists. I also have to wonder just what other kind of circumcision Foreskin Man is going to tackle in the next issue. Having taken down Monster Mohel, will he go after the Malevolent Mullah?

My reader made a point which I think valid. He said I had dismissed evidence that failed to jibe with the picture of the world I’d formed already. I had figured that anti-Semitism — at least of the overt, Nazi-like kind that Hess is plugging — was confined to the margins of America’s political dialogue. Sure, some far-leftists’ support for Palestine might evolve into a hatred of the so-called Israel lobby, but they’d have little to gain by banning circumcision. Sure, Jesse Jackson and Cornel West might pop off at the Jews every once in a while, but they would not expect any Aryan to avenge them; they’ve got serious Aryan issues of their own.

When I read that Hess and his friends call themselves “inactivists,” my heart broke a little. That’s clever, damn it. Urbanites who are clever enough to come up with a name like that and geeky enough to draw passable comics have no business disliking Jews. If anything, they should BE Jews. But now I realize I’m stuck in the New York of my childhood. It’s whole ugly new ball game out there.

My reader also warns of a new breed of anti-Semite I couldn’t have dreamed up in a million years:

In this instance, I think it’s yet a third kind of acceptable anti-Semitism, a little-known one yet one that is persistent especially in California: Gay activist anti-Semitism. A certain subset of gays are strong “uncut” proponents and want all penises to have foreskins because they prefer them that way, and so try to force the world to comply; when they get the biggest pushback from Jewish groups, their frustration turns to hatred.

I have no idea if he’s right. (I certainly don’t pretend to know anything about Matthew Hess’s sexual orientation.) But if he is — wow. Isn’t anti-Semitism supple? Isn’t it versatile? It slices, it dices, it makes Julienne fries! Historically, it’s proven able to provide a solution and an explanation for anything, even mediocre sex. Speaking from the Jewish side of my family, I quote the Scots: Whae’s like us? Damn few, an’ they’re a’ deid.

UPDATE: It’s occurred to me that some readers may not understand what’s so anti-Semitic about Hess’s portrayal of Monster Mohel and his band of no-goodniks. In a way, that’s a good thing — it suggests ancient slanders and stereotypes have fallen so far out of common use as to look new. Well, sorry to break it to everyone, but there’s nothing new under the sun — especially not the act of depicting Jews as ugly, hook-nosed ruthless monsters who harm children.

Here’s a poster from Der Ewiger Jude, or the Eternal Jew, a 1940 Nazi propaganda film:

Here’s one from Jud Suss, or Suss the Jew, which came out the same year:

I wish I could say these stereotyped images began with the Nazis, but they didn’t; they’re much older. Here’s a fresco from St. Paul’s church in Sandomierz, Poland:

The Nazis weren't that original.

No, they’re not circumcising the kid; they’re about to kill him and pour his blood into their Passover matzoh. Will Hess be able to top that in his next issue? We’ll just have to wait and see.

UPDATE: For an object lesson in how propagandists use distorted images to demonize their enemies, here’s an engraving of Joseph Suss Oppenheimer, the man whose life formed the basis of the movie Jud Suss:

Doesn’t look very foreign or very threatening, does he?

Monday Mourning Coming Down
Lent and the Lame Evangelist
Jud Süss, the Myth and the Man
Yes, He’s the Burying Kind
  • Greg

    This is about human rights. I have many Jewish friends who bris shalom(doesn’t require circumcision) and who keep their babies whole.

    I would’ve said no to circumcision.

  • Max Lindenman

    My objection isn’t to the proposed ban, per se. I don’t live in San Francisco, so I don’t have any skin, so to speak, in that fight. But I have a serious problem when somebody — anybody — thinks he can carry his point only by using grotesque, stereotyped images of the opposition.

  • Chromesthesia

    Well, that’s probably not the case. It’s not just some gay men who are against it. Circumcision really isn’t necessary at all and is excruciatingly painful to a little baby boy and can negatively affect him for years.
    It really doesn’t mean hating Jews at all, but hating that boys are being altered without their consent.

  • Josh

    I’m a Jewish American. I’m not easily offended by cartoons.

    What I am offended by is people cutting the genitals of non-consenting infants and children.

  • Kelev

    I’m a Jewish member of the Gay community. This comic is not “anti-Semitic.” It’s anti-mohel, and anti anyone who cuts unconsenting boys’ penises. The other Jewish characters in the piece are treated sympathetically and are the subject of the hero’s protection. Likewise, everyone, not just the mohel, who cuts kids’ genitals is depicted as a bad guy. As someone who was cut against my will in the name of “tradition” I can say that most, if not all, babies who are having their genitals sliced into by some stranger probably see that person as exactly the kind of monster this comic artistically depicts.

  • Josh

    I encourage readers here to educate themselves about the many functions of the male prepuce (“foreskin”). It’s there for a reason, and only its OWNER has any legitimate right to have it removed.

    A good place to start:

  • Bianca”

    “A certain subset of gays are strong “uncut” proponents and want all penises to have foreskins because they prefer them that way, and so try to force the world to comply;”

    That would only be true if babies, boys and girls, were born WITHOUT a prepuce and people were fighting to attach one to the child. But its not, all healthy children are born with a prepuce.

    If this is anti-semitic, then all anti-obama comics are racist. You cant just label someone a racist or anti semite because they dont agree with the practices. This comic doesnt say ‘Death to all jews’ or anything like that, its saying that Mohels violate infants basic human rights, and they do so in the name of religion to ensure that this sick practice is continued without penalty.

    Do we allow muslims to sunat (circumcise) their daughters in the US? No! Even though its part of their religion, its a violation of a girls rights to a whole body.

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  • Melissa

    Babies, born perferct. No Disassembly Required!

    Why can’t parents just leave their new baby boy’s penis alone. It is like that for a reason. One person’s religion doesn’t trump another person’s basic human rights. When the baby grows up, he can decide what, if any, permanent body modifications he would like.

  • Moishe Pippick

    ” I can say that most, if not all, babies who are having their genitals sliced into by some stranger probably see that person as exactly the kind of monster this comic artistically depicts.”

    An eight day old baby can barely perceive colors and shapes!

    Now regarding Foreskin Man, I love comic books and especially the great educational potential of the medium. THere are comics that will teach you physics and the history of the world. And then there are poorly produced, sensationalist, garbage comics like Foreskin Man. Nothing could do more to discredit an anti-circumcision movement than this comic book, which reduces what might be a legitimate public health issue to cartoon violence and caricature. And I’m only talking about the first issue! The second one takes it a step further by seemingly going out of its way to use the most offensive and painful imagery of Jews. Fer crissakes (or not) don’t the creators of this comic book understand that when you depict a Jewish figure and eagerly seeking to cut into the flesh of babies that it just might be misinterpreted as not being about a health issue? I mean are these guys effing retarded?

  • Joshua

    The fact of the matter is, mohels are perverts. They devote their lives to cutting off parts of little boy’s penises, with no medical need and no proper consent from the man who will live with the consequences.

    To say that a person has a “religious right” to cut off part of someone else’s body is ridiculous. People are crying anti-semitism, but this religion does command people to cut up little boys without their consent. Is it so wrong to be against that? Were we not against mormons who had multiple wives? Jehova’s Witnesses who denied life saving treatment to their children?

  • phil

    This comic is the WORST kind of anti-semintism – regardless of where you stand on the issue. If I was against gays getting married, and did a comic that showed gays as flaming queer transvestites having anonymous sex and spreading AIDS through their promiscuity, I would be nailed for “hate speech” – and I wouldn;t be HALF as harmful as the way matthew Hess protrays Mohels. It’s like the NAACP today said regarding a march by black parents against them (for keeping 22 failing NYC schools open and forcing black children to attend only them, so the teachers union will have customers) “they can march all day, we won’t respond” – just exactly what the racist South said about the civil rights marches. The left is JUST as -IST as the right and it’s putrid, intellectually STOOPID and racist. LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND DEAL WITH YOUR OWN RACIST SELVES. If you have the stomach for ir, which ya know – ya don’t.

  • Matthew

    I think a key issue that this is missing out is the way the Jews were potrayed in the comic. It’s not that it’s anti-semitic to be against circumcision.

    It was the fact that the comic relied on stereotypes of Jews that were perpetrated by the Nazis to further it’s cause. E.g. all the good characters being light haired kindly Aryan looking people and all the Jews being dark haired, hook nosed evil people just waiting to pounce of new born babies.

    If you can’t see how that is antisemitic I really despair but I don’t think it was explained very well on this.

  • Clark

    I note with interest that the majority of the commenters (not regular readers of yours, I’ll wager) either seem to have no problem with propaganda featuring Aryan-looking heroes and Jewish villains straight out of Der Sturmer, or are willing to overlook it for “the greater cause.” While their moral compass is seemingly beyond repair, would they not consider it profitable to learn some lessons from Dale Carnegie?

  • tumbler

    Wimpy Catholic said:
    “I have no idea if he’s right [i.e. that Matthew Hess is a gay activist]. (I certainly don’t pretend to know anything about Matthew Hess’s sexual orientation.) But if he is — wow.”

    Check out this link:

    “FOLSOM STREET FAIR: An Intactivism Update

    Intactivism outreach activities at Folsom Street Fair this year went well from all accounts. Once again, our presence was sponsored by Attorneys for the Rights of the Child and organized by this blog with a great deal of help from everyone involved. I arrived and set up the booth with Frank McGinniss early Sunday morning. Others arrived later to staff the space and gather signatures for the initiative, partially modeled on efforts by and with the advisement and assistance of Matthew Hess.”


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  • http://none Steven

    As a former San Francisco resident I shook my head when I heard of this outrageous attempt to pass this law — long before I knew of the anti-Semitic comic book propaganda. I am pleased the techniques of Fascists are being utilized in this ridiculous campaign. Like issues of contraception, condoms, abortion, etc, let parents decide for themselves! I understand infants cannot make the choice for themselves. Parents decide lots of things for their offspring. We hold them accountable, for some (vaccinations, food, shelter, school enrollment, etc).

    Totalitarian governments tell mothers to have many children (Stalin’s Russia) or only one child (China). Totalitarian governments outlaw “homosexuality” (Iran, USSR, Nazi Germany) or criminalize abortion (zig-zag in Russian case). Learn from history!

    I am nominally Jewish, and circumcised. I have no spiritual connection with my ancestry. Honestly, I have no particular opinion in favor or against circumcision (I have long heard the arguments, world-wide). I DO NOT know if I would circumcise my own son; I am childless. I DO KNOW I do not want my neighbors or the government deciding I this issue for me, or parents everywhere.

    I do not want the state fooling around in the realm of religion or spiritual practice, interference or promotion. I am atheist by conviction. I have no right to impose my views on others.

    Circumcision is an accepted medical practice, albeit optional. It does decrease the risk of STDs, but the counter argument is good hygiene (and rubbers) are much more important.

    Circumcision is important to hundreds of millions of religious faithful, globally. There might be more who favor the practice for medical reasons, alone. There is not sufficient societal interest to justify interference with this practice. There is no societal interest in forcing circumcision, either.

    The purposes of circumcision have nothing in common with female genital mutilation, designed to desexualize females and impose patriarchy. Bogus argument!

    My politics lean left. Like those who believe in liberty on the right, I do not want society, employers, or governments making unnecessary interventions limiting the choices individuals and families should be left to make on their own. Circumcision is a family decision. As a circumcised adult male, I might well decide men are best left with their foreskin. If I were to regret my Parent’s decision, I absolutely would not make their decision the center of my existence. There are more important issues in my world, and the real world.

  • elmo

    Circumcision is a fundamental part of Judaism. If you outlaw it, you are pretty much outlawing Jews and it seems that a lot of people would be ok with that, going by this combox thread.

  • dave

    This PLAIN NAZIism – Hess uses the EXACT imagery that NAZIs used to roll my grandparents uncles and aunts into the gas chambers. He is either a literal NAZI or a literal MORON. Either way, the blowback this guy is going to get is only beginning. If he also believed – as the NAZIs did that Jews were too passive to do anything about being reamed, he is about to find out what a pariah feels like – he’d better hope he can sell comics to NeoNazis at gun shows, cuz who’s gonna hire him to shovel dog poop? Hopefully nobody. Move, mutha, maybe the Arabs want you, you;re through in this country.

  • Yaakov

    My name is Yaakov and I am a Chasidic Jew. As shocked as I was by the comic book, the disgusting comments by such ignorant people really took me by surprise!

    Having seen dozens of Brisim (that’s the plural), the comic book completely distorted everything about them. A Mohel never uses scissors for one. The babies usually cry because they are naked, which is for a short period before the bris, and rarely cry for more than a few seconds afterwards. All modern mohels are trained professionals with medical licenses. It’s amazing the comments that so many people here, having never seen a bris by an kosher mohel.

    This terrible magazine demonizes Orthodox Jews. With distorted faces and barbaric practices, they are shown forcing others to submit at gunpoint. I am disgusted by all of the people here who argue that this isn’t racist. It’s nothing but filthy racism and bigotry.

  • ribgo

    I find it astonishing how many people, especially those in this thread claiming to be for the ban on circumcision, seem to associate the practice exclusively with Jews. I am a Catholic from a Catholic family whose 4 brothers were all circumcised and who chose to have my 2 boys also circumcised. My decision, however, had absolutely nothing to do with religion. It had to do with health. There was no mohel involved — there was a doctor — an MD, who performed the act quickly and returned a baby to me who was happily sound asleep within a few brief minutes after this so-called act of horror had occurred. My boys have absolutely no side effects from it, and those of you who are trying to imply that most, if any, boys do are just flat-out lying. And in addition to all of that, recent research has shown that there are health benefits for boys who have been circumcised. The great irony is that, as this push seems to be being led by a far-left activist group of gays (who I strongly doubt even represent the majority gay view), one of the great health benefits of circumcision is a 69% reduction in HIV risk.
    But, God knows, don’t let a few facts get in the way of a good-ole anti-semitic-ly righteous cause!

  • CommonSense

    Good grief! All you anti-circumcision whiners, GET OVER YOURSELVES! There’s absolutely nothing traumatic about circumcision! It’s FLESH, for crying out loud! Nerve-endings and sexual enhancement, my foot. It’s not mutilation, it’s not traumatizing, it’s not even that painful. It’s just removing some generally useless flesh from a male infant for reasons related to religion or hygiene. And for those who think men can be taught to keep their penises clean even with foreskin… I dare you to find me a man — or a boy — who has successfully been taught to keep anything clean. Take a look at a teenage boy’s bedroom and try to imagine what that says about his penis. You anti-circumcision types need therapy. Get a life. Get over yourselves. Leave people alone. Gads, this is insane…

  • Jose

    @elmo: Very concisely put. And when it comes to medical things, Jews aren’t like the Amish either* – if there were actual medical research suggesting that circumcision had significant health risk, you can bet the practice would have been abandoned by now.

    *Some of the more conservative rabbis are against birth control and abortion, which I won’t abide; but then again, so are some of everyone else.

  • Lee

    Why indeed is the Mohel on the cartoon cover? He is not doing ritual circumcisions on nonconsenting Aryan babies. My own cicumcision, on day 8, is not a memory. I think it humane that it was done when I was so young. Shouldn’t a near drowning experience of Baptism require consent by the logic of those who reject the whole cocept of parents as guardians of children?

  • ANetliner

    The imagery and language used in Mr. Hess’s comic are blatantly and grotesquely anti-Semitic.

    My question for Mr. Hess: if your sole intent is to educate on the subject of infant circumcision, why have you chosen to do so with inflammatory, offensive and stereotypical images of Jews?

    Members of my spouse’s family were exterminated in Auschwitz during World War II. Anti-Semitic images are not a marketing tool: they killed millions less than a century ago.

    All racial, religious and ethnic stereotypes are tools of hatred which have been used through the centuries to justify intolerance, persecution, the infliction of injuries and killings. To justify the use of such stereotypes to support a supposedly humane campaign to prevent circumcision is plain wrong and beyond irony.

  • Shaun

    Interesting comments.

    My take on this debate is this: the comic is clearly anti-Semitic. I agree with Max – the use of images that have been used in the past to demonize Jews is unacceptable, especially given the history of those images. Whatever the intention of the artist/writer, he should have been sensitive to this reality. Nothing takes place in a vacuum.

    This being said, I think that the campaign to ban circumcision is NOT anti-Semitic – it can easily be defended as a human rights issue. I disagree with Steven’s well-expressed comments above – parents have no right to bring harm to their children for religious reasons. If the state can determine that a particular religious practice is harmful to children, then it is perfectly legitimate for it to act against those practices. Note that this has happened a number of times with Jehovah’s Witnesses and transfusions. So, parents have no absolute right over their children’s bodies and that limitation must surely extend to their right to mutilate their children.

    Finally, I note that circumcision is a practice that affects more Muslims than Jews. It may be commonly associated with Jews in the West, but that is only because Muslims are relative newcomers to Western societies.

  • Bryan

    The overwhelming majority of circumcised men are non-jewish – Steyn @ NRO has the numbers at 90% in USA being non-Jewish, and 70% world-wide being muslim. But by shere coincidence I’m sure, our Aryan hero is facing some hook-nosed, taloned, bloodthirsty joooz straight out of Nazi propaganda or medieval European stereotypes. The comic is vile, anti-semitic filth, and anyone saying otherwise is either so ignorant they need instructions on how to breathe, or perfectly happy with the resurrection of a staple of bigotry and hatred. Bear in mind that option A is actually the better of these two possibilities.

  • Jason

    I feel that if Judaism, and Islam, were not so mainstream, circumcision would be roundly condemned by the civilised world. But since when does a supposed religious right trump an indivisual right. And incidently, the Hebrew scriptures, what Christians refer to as the Old Testament, doesn’t just call for young boys to be circumcised. Under certain circumstances, it prescribes both capital , and/or corporal punishment. “He that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death. — Exodus 21:15

    He that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death. — Exodus 21:17 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. — Proverbs 13:24

    Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. — Proverbs 22:15

    Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. — Proverbs 23:13-14 ” So should Jews/Muslims be permitted to permitted to physicly abuse, if not perform “honour killings” , as welll? Why should the supposed words of God take precedence over the wellbeing of others?

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Well, Max, looks as if the intactivist/anti-mohel crowd finally showed up.

    But, as you are a good and clever writer, I know you’ll handle them just fine.

    Shaun, the problem with your take on this is that if you support the cicumcision ban, then you are supporting these people, whether you want to admit it to yourself or not, because you’re helpting to push their cause. And, as another poster here pointed out, banning circumcision is tantamount to banning Judaism itself.

    Also, if it’s wrong for parents to harm their children in the name of religion, this is giving the state a lot of leeway to decide what “harm” is; it could, for instance, decide, at some point, that parents reading the Bible to children harms them, since it’s so violent, and has a patriarchal God, and so on, and so on. And if parents can’t harm their children for religious reasons, how can it be okay to harm them for purely personal reasons—i.e., abortion? (The intactivists have really stepped into it, with this one! Destroying foreskins is wrong, but destroying fetuses is okay?) It’s kind’ve like the bogus definition, “Hate crime”–gee, that crime was a hate crime, as opposed to all those “love” crimes going on out there?

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    commonsense, #24, it is amazing that so many intactivists claim such wonderful things for the foreskin—even the ones who never had one, and have no real grounds for comparison.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    elmo, I think outlawing Judaism is actually the ultimate goal here.

    It’s not about foreskins, or human rights; ultimately, it’s about getting rid of Judaism, the Old Testament, and, consequently, most of our Judeo-Christian culture.

  • Susanne

    //”I DO KNOW I do not want my neighbors or the government deciding I this issue for me, or parents everywhere.”//

    I know that I wouldn’t want my parents deciding on the state of my genitals.

    Being a girl, I am guaranteed by law that they won’t make decisions about my genitals.

    Why should an individual’s rights be dismissed because of what their parents or guardian want?

    //”I do not want the state fooling around in the realm of religion or spiritual practice, interference or promotion.”//

    You’re happy, then, for religious groups to brand neonates with marks of a religion that is not their own?

    //”I am atheist by conviction. I have no right to impose my views on others.”//

    If you think you have no right to impose your view on others, why do you defend people who force their views (regarding an incredibly personal topic) onto others? Do you think they have that right?

    I’m sorry, but you seem to be attempting to make an argument against people interfering with the decisions of others, but there is no greater interference in the context of circumcision than forcing this procedure onto someone – and act that can never be undone.

  • bb

    This is just another “not-for-profit” scam designed to get the masses focused on social issues…and sending their money to these organizations.

    I doubt that this is a gay agenda item like you try to imply, and frankly,your far fetched implication is as creepy as you say the stereotypical characterization of jews in mr Hess’s commic is. Yet it seems to have caught on with your readers. I just hope gay bashing does not become a way for you to bolster internet hits, for that would put you on the same level as Mr. Hess.

  • Susanne

    //”I think outlawing Judaism is actually the ultimate goal here.

    It’s not about foreskins, or human rights; ultimately, it’s about getting rid of Judaism, the Old Testament, and, consequently, most of our Judeo-Christian culture.”//

    Rhinestone, I think your paranoid and dishonest accusations have no more place in this world than the stereotyping of Jews in this ghastly cartoon.

  • TJ

    “I know that I wouldn’t want my parents deciding on the state of my genitals.”

    Would you want you parent deciding on state of your vaccinations? After all, there is more risk associated with vaccines that circumcision? (although both are vanishingly rare)

    That is what parents are there for. To make decisions on the health and well-being of the child.

    There are well-documented health benefits to circumcision, although many people downplay them, they do exist nonetheless. Can you tell us of any documented, routine drawbacks to circumcision?

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Susanne, this is America, in the 21st Century. This cartoon could have come straight out of Nazi Germany, circa 1930′s.

    And it’s appeared as a brochure in a very sophisticated campaign, supported by many supposedly liberal, tolerant and well-educated people, in the supposedly liberal, tolerant and well-educated state of California.

    Meanwhile, our president is calling for Israel to return to its pre-war borders, and the U.N. is considering making “Palestine” a state.

    But there’s nothing to be paranoid about here, folks! Stop making those dishonest accusations about liberal, tolerant and well-educated people! Nope, nothing to see here! Everything’s swell!

    /Sarc. off.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    TJ, you raise another interesting point here; the whole question of what parents can, and can’t, decide for their children. I see a whole can of worms, being opened here.

    Vaccines can be dangerous; should parents “impose” them on kids? After all, the kids can’t really consent to them. If surgery is necessary for a newborn, can the parents consent to it? Should the child’s individual rights be negated? Do the parents have the right to make this choice for the kid? What about glasses, braces, or other aids? Should parents be allowed to “impose” these on children? Perhaps the kids won’t want them! This could get tricky.

    Susanne, what about abortion? There certainly can’t be any procedure more drastic than this one, it can’t be undone and the child certainly wouldn’t consent to it, if it had a choice.

    (As for a religion stamping someone—um, you do realize that if someone wants to stop being a practiscing Jew, his synagogue isn’t going to come after him; roving bands of rabbis aren’t going to come after him, pull down his pants and force him to attend shul if he doesn’t want to.

    It’s the anti-semites, not the Jews, who’ll never forget you’re Jewish. . . )

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    It’s pretty obvious that male cicumcision isn’t mutilation, whereas the mis-named female circumcision is. (It’s actually multilation, and deliberate destruction of the female genital area.) The two things aren’t the same.

    Which raises the interesting question—we keep being told by various pundits that FGM is not really part of Islam, but is a nasty tribal custom, just a hangover from the past, and, really, Islam doesn’t really permit it, oh, no, no, no!


    If that really is the case, then Moslems will not demand to be allowed to practice it—because their religion doesn’t require it. If some of them insist, we can show the statements of those pundits, saying “No, this is not part of Islam.” (And, they’ll have a lot of “splainin’” to do.)

  • Sammy Davis Jr Jr

    I am Jewish American, and I think those who don’t find the cartoon offensive have company among the Jews who didn’t see the holocaust coming when they dismissed anti-Semitic cartoons and other “benevolent” attacks on Jews and Judaism. I suspect that the Jews who welcome laws banning circumcision are unaware of previous bans on circumcision in Jewish history by regimes such as the Romans.

  • Mer

    Some thoughts. Disclaimer: I am a lady (therefore I had no foreskin to lose) and I am a non-practicing jew and I am straight and I am liberal. All of those things, I’m sure, color my perspective.

    I do not think that the movement itself is anti-semitic. I’m sure there are some segments of the movement that are, as with any political movement. But, I suspect that the majority of those advocating the ban are really just interested in protecting a man’s bodily autonomy. There is a reasonable argument that, if a man wants to be circumcised, he should be able to choose that but not be forced into it as a child.

    I do think that the comic is anti-semitic. There’s no getting around it really. I suspect that Mr. Hess is part of the aforementioned small segment of the movement. The crazies always get the most press.

    I question whether or not Mr. Hess is a real person or simply some PR savvy person from the pro-circumcision side (for lack of a better phrase) doing their damnedest to color the anti-circumcision side as anti-semites.

    I take issue with the quoted reader’s suggestion that certain segments of the gay community are anti-circumcision because “they prefer them that way.” I think the quoted reader has zero authority for that opinion and completely made it up. It stinks of the exact kind of bias being portrayed in the comic. If there is a strong gay presence in the movement, I suspect part of it stems from the fact that the gay community already has a strong presence in political activism generally. The members of the community are used to campaigning for their rights and so it doesn’t seem radical to them. Plus, the modalities are already in place and so it would likely be a bit easier to assemble people and find funding. I also think that members of the gay community are more alert to injustices, shall we say, as result of being part of one of the more derided minorities.

    I do think that the legislation is going to be difficult to get and keep on the books. There are some constitutional implications: religious freedom, the right to raise your children as you see fit. Both of these are treated as pretty big deals by the courts. I also think it boxes certain liberal groups into a corner. It’s very hard to argue that one practice should be legalized because to not do so would be infringing on religious freedom and the right to determine your own family (gay marriage) while also arguing that something should be illegal in spite of the fact that it infringes on religious freedom and the right to determine your own family (which includes the right to raise your children how you see fit). It’s just a very hard position to take and still remain credible. (sidebar: I recognize the huge distinctions between marriage and circumcision.)

    Sorry that was so long.

  • http://none Ira Block

    Hi All,

    Those who wish to ban circumcision, whether for religious reasons or not, are the same as those who wish to ban abortions.

    They don’t do it, so the rest of us have to toe the line.

    In addition, those who claim that female genital mutilation is “circumcision” are being disingenuously fraudulent.

  • elmo

    @Susanne: if this bill passes Judaism will be outlawed. Are you okay with that? If so, how can you say that people who are alarmed by the propaganda are being paranoid?

  • James Loewen

    Jewish American scholar Leonard Glick (who wrote an excellent book, Marked in Your Flesh: Circumcision From Ancient Judea to Modern America) in my video interview with him commented, “I am totally convinced that cutting the genitals of children, infants or children, girls or boys is fundamentally evil.”

  • http://none Steven

    Why not get all worked up about little girls (and a few boys) getting their ears pierced? Probably a similar amount of pain and “harm”. I have no kids but I am not sure I like the practice. Want to let me decide that for your children?

    No one decent can associate with a political campaign that scapegoats in order to win — reap what you sow! Yes, gays have some appreciation for that phenomenon. I am gay; Hitler would have gladly cooked this Jew in an oven. I defend the rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses (military conscription refusal; bugging you by ringing your door bell on a Sunday) and Muslims (right to worship in peace — or gasp — wear a veil on Paris streets) based on my own survival as much as principle.

    We don’t need to invent some new ideology; we have the Constitution of the United States.

    Suderman says it best!

    Susanne #34: In response (I do appreciate this form of dialogue) to what I wrote:

    //”I am atheist by conviction. I have no right to impose my views on others.”//

    You write:

    “If you think you have no right to impose your view on others, why do you defend people who force their views (regarding an incredibly personal topic) onto others? Do you think they have that right?”

    My response: EXACTLY! I do not think you or I have the right to interfere with parents from deciding the issue of circumcision for their own infant sons. Leave it to the parents of the “other person” (AKA “their child”). My post did not take an absolutist position in favor of unlimited parental liberty because any thoughtful person will see the downside (child labor, unvaccinated children in school, child marriage, honor killings (It has “happened here”), or unregulated “home schooling”).

    The US Constitution works quite well, despite non-stop assaults against its core meanings. Defend it!

    There is no grave harm in male circumcision, so society has no business imposing popular will on parents deciding what is best for their infant sons. Yes, that has implications for religious freedoms, abortion, family planning, and gay marriage equality, areas where politicians and voters are only too willing to assault the rights of some to win an election or feel some smug pleasure ruling over their fellow citizens.

  • Susan

    I was concerned that this issue would be used as pro-circumcision propaganda (correctly, it transpires), enough that I wondered if Mr Hess might be a mole attempting to discredit the human rights movement against genital mutilation.

    I cannot even begin to address the logical fallacies I’ve read so far. I will simply state:

    The 4th Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law.

    The Federal FGM Bill protects female minors from even the most benign ritual bloodletting, regardless of culture or ritual.

    Ergo, my Jewish sons are already legally protected in the US from genital mutilation.

    Now, step up for your bitch-slapping & tell me that they’re no longer allowed to ‘practice Judaism’ because I obeyed Federal Law (& moral law) & refused to order them mutilated before they could protest. (We had a lovely Seder, thank you.)

    PS Nice homophobic rants (not to mention slandering all Germans as Nazis).