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Hey San Francisco, 1930’s Germany Called – They Want Their Anti-Semitic Propaganda Back!

I posted brief thoughts on this issue on Friday on Facebook. For the benefit of the non-Facebookers and for the sake of having a more permanent record of my

When the San Francisco ban on circumcision was first proposed months ago I wrote two posts defending one’s right to circumcise their son. One was from a legal perspective: Is a Ban on Circumcision Constitutional? Probably Not and the other from a moral perspective: Circumcision Follow Up (or why circumcision is not barbaric for Orthodox Jews).

Since that time, I have had several conversations in the comments on my blog as well as other Internet forums with the proponents of the ban. These folks call themselves Intactivists and they are a voice that needs to be reckoned with.

As Rabbi Adlerstein wrote in two places, the battle against circumcision is in essence a battle against religion. I don’t agree with every word of Rabbi Adlerstein’s essays but the fact remains that the reason Intactivists exist is because they believe religion is a myth. They believe that following the precepts of the Torah, New Testament, Quran or any other religious text that claims to be the word of God is backwards and ridiculous. By extension, any religious practice based on the words of these religious texts is similar to taking instruction from a fairy tale.

I can understand that position. I vehemently disagree. But I can understand it.

They reason that if the Torah is a fraud then following the Torah is silly. And if the Torah says to circumcise then circumcision is silly.

These people have the right to believe as they do.

They can even try to have the practice banned. A conversation will need to take place regarding the limits of governmental interference on a widespread religious practice. Medical data will be used but in reality be useless as the medical community takes no official position on the benefits or harms of circumcision. In the end, the likely result will hopefully be a better mutual understanding of the positions in this discussion and a legal conclusion.

I am happy to have the discussion with Intactivists. I believe a discussion benefits everyone.

However, a recent comic book seems to completely change the game.

A comic book called Foreskin Man has been published to promote the circumcision ban. The comic book is a propaganda piece that turns doctors and mohels into villains. The content is pure appeal to emotion. There is no logic, no discussion, no argument in favor of the ban. It is a good vs. evil story with the good cast as the Intactivists and the evil cast as those who circumcise. This would bad enough as far as propaganda goes.

But the comic book takes it a step further. Moving the conversation away from circumcision, the comic book taps into centuries of anti-Semitic propaganda using caricatures that haven’t been used since the Holocaust. Further, the comic book portrays the “good” side as blond, Aryan-looking and white. It looks like a KKK or Aryan Brotherhood comic book. The pictures are obscene and message to me is clear.

This is not about circumcision. This is not even about religion. This is about anti-Semitism.

Those who know me can attest, I am the last person to assert anti-Semitism. I am an optimist and don’t believe that the non-Jewish public hates Jews. But this comic book is anti-Semitic. Res ipsa loquitur.

The best case scenario for the Intactivists would be to claim that this comic book is NOT representative of their true views. It is one unhinged madman. That may be true, but until that is asserted or shown to be true, Foreskin Man casts the entire Intactivist operation under the shadow of anti-Semitism. Unless it can show otherwise, there is no longer any room for discussion. Once you use racial bias, epithetic imagery and ugly caricatures to make your point, you’ve lost the right to be a part of the conversation.

To be clear, I understand the Atheist’s position on circumcision. I welcome conversation about whether a circumcision ban is legal or moral or ethical or whatever. But the conversation is over until this disgusting anti-Semitic rhetoric ends and ends for good.

The Evidence: (lifted from Foreskinman.com)

Notice the fighting children each grabbing for a toy. This subtlety hearkens the slur of the “money grabbing Jew”.

Clearly a villain, this is Mohel Monster. I kid you not.

Being portrayed with no pupils, the artist is implying that the Mohel is not human.

Holding the holy book above the child is no only factually incorrect, but reminiscent of sacrifice.

The focus on metzitza is a gratuitous pot shot here. Also, note the hero’s very white, blond appearance.

Again, note the terrified baby, the tight grip on its arms and focus on the word sacrifice.

Finally, as if any proof was needed, this is exactly the kind of conflagration that is associated with the KKK and Kristallnacht. If they hadn’t before, they tipped their bigoted hand on the final panel. Disgraceful.


20 Comments
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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Mendelsohn/100000837818439 Stephen Mendelsohn

    BS”D

        I helped break this story, finding Foreskin Man on the web and sending it to the folks in SF fighting the ban.  I can tell you that Matthew Hess is not the only one promoting bigotry.  Check out these links:

    David Wilton’s blog, Male Cricumcision and HIV, approving of someone claiming Israeli Jewish doctors “slice African and Latino penis”:  http://www.circumcisionandhiv.com/2011/05/proteanview-circumcision-jewish-doctors-and-africans.html  Wilton is a leader in the San Francisco ban campaign.  Note the approving comments above the video.

    Foreskin Man distributed at Folsom Street Fair while prominent San Francisco intactivists gather ballot signatures:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhnLIxaZVGU

    Comments on Foreskin Man’s Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/foreskinman , such as “Speech Impediment Man JEWS ARE THE END OF ALL MANKIND.”

    And for the sheer ridiculous, intactivists marching in male member costumes:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwrCzXxf9m4

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Thank you for your good work. And thanks for the links.

  • http://mlewyn.wordpress.com/ mike1963

    I am assuming you meant “The best case scenario for the Intactivists would be to claim that this comic book is NOT representative of their true views.”

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Fixed. Thanks. (Want a non-paying job as an editor?) :)

  • Anonymous

    The tacit, and often explicit, assumption of many favoring the
    outlawing of infant circumcision is that the procedure reduces the
    quality of the sex life of the child when he becomes an adult. Of
    course, none of the men participating in this conversation have offered a
    personal before/after comparison. Most circumcised American men were
    circumcised as infants, and cannot report on sexual experience with a
    foreskin present. Similarly, uncircumcised men cannot report on sexual
    experience without a foreskin. Wild claims, and quoting of medical
    society political positions (which are quite different from clinical
    research!) are no substitute for properly controlled clinical trials.

    Fortunately, such clinical trials exist. In the last few years,
    there have been campaigns to circumcise consenting adult men in Africa
    to reduce the risk of AIDS. At least one of the trials did a before/after comparison of sexual satisfaction for the men undergoing circumcision.  All the men entering the clinical trial were sexually active. The trial randomly assigned about 2700 men to either
    be circumcised immediately, or after two years of observation. So–and
    this is important–both groups consisted entirely of men who consented to
    circumcision for themselves. That removes the bias that might have
    occurred were the groups composed of men with different attitudes toward
    circumcision. 

    The researchers asked the study participants to rate sexual function
    and satisfaction at 1, 3, 6, 12, 18, and 24 months after randomization.
    For the circumcision and control groups, respectively, rates of any
    reported sexual dysfunction decreased from 24% and 26% at baseline
    to 6.2% and 5.8% at month 24. Changes over time were not associated with
    circumcision status. Compared to before they were circumcised, 64% of
    circumcised men reported their penis was “much more sensitive,” and
    55% rated their ease of reaching orgasm as “much more” at month 24.
    The researchers concluded that adult male circumcision was not
    associated with sexual dysfunction. Circumcised men reported increased
    penile sensitivity and enhanced ease of reaching orgasm.

    The complete text of this study may be found at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3042320/?tool=pubmed.

    If the question of infant circumcision were a strictly rational argument, this lack of evidence of
    the main harmed alleged to be a consequence of circumcision would
    quickly drain the passion from it. Then proponents and opponents of
    infant circumcision would have to compare the small benefits of the
    procedure (reduced risk of HIV, reduced risk of penile cancer, reduced
    risk of urinary tract infection, eliminated risk of phimosis and
    paraphimosis) with the small risks of the procedure (small risk of
    infection, small risk of bleeding, small duration of pain-related
    behavior). A rational discussion would end up pretty much where society
    is now: the evidence doesn’t point strongly either way, so it should
    be up to the parents to decide. The passion and inflammatory language
    (“mutilation” “amputation” “blood ritual”) reveal that this is not a
    rational argument about an elective procedure; people don’t feel this
    strongly about ear-piercing of little girls. Rather this argument has
    become the vehicle through which passions, angers, and unresolved
    conflicts concerning religion, sexuality, and parental authority are
    expressed.

  • Roger Desmoulins

    I condemn Foreskin Man. I do not support the San Francisco and Santa Monica ballot initiatives, mainly because they are silly grandstanding that will accomplish nothing.

    Above you wrote as follows: “…the battle against circumcision is in essence a battle against religion.
    I don’t agree with every word of Rabbi Adlerstein’s essays but the fact
    remains that the reason Intactivists exist is because they believe
    religion is a myth. They believe that following the precepts of the
    Torah, New Testament, Quran or any other religious text that claims to
    be the word of God is backwards and ridiculous. By extension, any
    religious practice based on the words of these religious texts is
    similar to taking instruction from a fairy tale…”

    Rabbi, you are sadly mistaken. Intactivism in San Francisco and Santa Monica may have a strong secular and New Age flavor. And there is no reason for ritual circumcision to find favor with atheists, agnostics, and neopagans. But many intactivists around North America are committed Christians, and some are even frum Jews. The brunt of the indignation felt by these disparate intactivists are the millions of circumcisions performed on gentile boys within 48 hours of their birth. These circumcisions are often performed simply because parents fear that if they do not have it done, a son will be bullied by other boys and be rejected as a sexual partner by women when he becomes an adult. There is also a widespread unspoken fear that a natural penis is evidence that its owner was born to poor and uneducated parents.

    While Christ did not speak to circumcision, it is a blunt truth that the author of Acts did, as did Saul of Tarsus, the rabbi’s son better know as Paul. And they firmly denied that circumcision can have any religious or moral significance. In this respect, Christianity and Bahai stand firmly apart from the two other Abrahamic faiths, Judaism and Islam. The Koran, BTW, is utterly silent about any obligation to circumcise, and a handful of Moslems have begun highlighting that fact.

    Many Jewish family lines outside of North America and Israel no longer circumcise, but also do not put that fact in the public domain. 
     

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      I am in 100% agreement that babies may not be circumcised without a request from the parents. Count me in with those Intactivists.

  • Anonymous

    I have to agree that the comic misrepresents and derides Jews, making it indeed anti-Semitic. As someone who is deeply concerned about the ethical implications of circumcision, I also feel that it trivializes the much more nuanced aspects of this cultural and religious practice.

    In my experience, the vast majority of the “intactivist” community is NOT motivated by any kind of general negativity or lack of respect for Jews. It is made up of, in large part, by individuals who became aware of this issue through their own parenthood, men who object to having undergone the surgery, and, as you probably know, there are many Jews involved. The bulk of the personal frustration is aimed at the perceived lack of ethical responsibility on the part of the medical profession, and lack of fair representation in media and other formal channels.

    Like you suggested, I believe this imagery to be the product of one person’s fantasy run amok, and my hope is that the leadership behind the SF legislation will take a strong stand to distance itself from the comic and its creator. Mr. Hess should issue a formal apology, retract the comic, and perhaps resign from any leadership roles he may hold within the lobbying effort.

    As far as yours and Rabbi Alderstein’s assertion that, the genital-integrity rights argument fundamentally invalidates religious belief, I strongly disagree. Furthermore, I don’t believe that very many people take this position. The conflict arises not from the idea that all or any religious precepts are “silly”, “backwards”, or “ridiculous”, but from the moral and ethical objection to imposing those beliefs onto a third person, in a way that endangers him and also prevents him from consensual participation.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      I agree with your first three paragraphs.

      The problem with your fourth paragraph is that it devalues religious practice from obligation to ritual. Perhaps I “over spoke” by saying that anti-circumcision means religion is silly or backwards. In truth, it just means that religion is not to taken seriously as a value system. Believe me, I completely understand that position for a person who is not religious. The imposition of that position is what turns that position into an anti-religion position in my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    I personally would not choose to circumcise my son.  My (intact, jewish) husband agrees luckily, as this would be a deal breaker for me.  However, I agree with you that this comic book is terrible, racist, and anti-semitic.  I wanted to speak as an ‘intactivist’ who denounces this type of rhetoric.  
    I think the routine ‘medical’ circumcision should be ended.  If people want their sons circumcised, let it be done by a mohel, not a pediatrician.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Thank you for your thoughts. I appreciate your denouncing of this kind of anti-Semitic rhetoric.

      I also appreciate your distinction between routine circumcision and religious circumcision. I hope you can spread this message!

    • http://twitter.com/avulpineheart a vulpine heart

      i’ll just second everything the rabbi said about appreciating your comment. i can get behind “intactivists” who draw a line between medical circumcision and religious circumcision, and who see this comic for what it is. kol hakavod to you.

  • http://yeshivaforum.wordpress.com/ itchemeyer

    Even the baby is ugly. The Jew baby isn’t cute and innocent looking. He has the face of a 30 year old.

  • Susan Barnes

    Am I the only one who doesn’t get the deal with the scissors? I guess a knife would be scary too, but somehow the scissors imply to me that he’s going to cut the whole thing off, and scissors seem to be a less precise instrument than a knife. Are there mohels who use scissors instead of knives? They’ve “only” been around for about 500 years, so they can’t be traditional.

  • http://twitter.com/Ha_Safran Ha_Safran

    Congrats on getting a(n anonymous) mention in Time: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2077240,00.html

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      WOOT! THAT’S AWESOME! :)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DBTHAEQ3W7L4DQPDSZSGKSNRNM Roland Day

    All of these comments make one believe that there is nothing more to Judaism than a worship of circumcision. Circumcision, unfortunately has become a graven image, which is worshiped in place of G-d. Worship of circumcision is a clear violation of the Second Commandment.

    It is quite sad to realize that Judaism has nothing to offer but worship of circumcision, so any attempt to ban circumcision puts Judaism in danger of total elimination.

    Perhaps it is for this reason that Judaism maintains special religious officials called mohels, whose only function is to cut physiologically functional body parts off of baby boys. Such an action is monstrous by any objective evaluation. Surely that is the reason that the comic depicted a so-called “Monster Mohel.”

    One might think it is time for Judaism to clean up its act and to commence protection of the human rights of its sons.

    • http://twitter.com/daniopp Daniopp

      pick up a book, it may help to educate you….

  • Mult

    fuck this shit

  • icantbeliveyou