Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Revival of Jew-Hatred, for dick's sake

There are many ongoing discussions about the ritual of circumcision. We could talk about its place in Jewish cultural heritage, in Islamic cultures, in gender identity and role, in social privilege and tribal participation. Serious conversations -- in Jewish communities, seminaries, and families -- about body rituals, penises, foreskins, adults, children, parents, babies, and authority already occur. It is fascinating to hear queer, sex-positive voices talking about genitals, community, and God. There is a lot to be said about a millennia-old ritual, its practice and its impact in the 21st Century.

Those conversations are happening and will continue to happen.

However, the central anti-circumcision crowd in the Bay Area has fully disqualified itself from participating in any of that conversation. They have chosen not to engage in the conversations, either among Jews or between Jews and non-Jews. Anyone allied with Matthew Hess and mgmbill.org has chosen to have a different conversation: They have declared a kind of war on the Jewish community that I couldn't have imagined. It's not that I haven't seen it before, but I haven't seen it this close, recently, this ugly, and this unabashedly Hitlerian before, and in liberal camouflage. They want to talk Aryan domination and white supremacy. They clearly don't want to talk about circumcision.

The creation of the "Foreskin Man" comic -- which would be an Onion- or SNL-style absurdity under the best of circumstances -- actually conjures Nazi and classic anti-Semitic imagery of Aryan heroes and sallow-faced, vampirical Jews. No one should have to look at this poison, but everybody needs to see it. It's that scary, that venemous.


The idea that our Jewish cultural heritage should be on the ballot for a non-Jewish majority to vote on should already terrify us. The decision not to distinguish among Jewish, Muslim, and American cultural communities -- basically subordinating two religious minorities to a Protestant American norm -- is already an anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim act. Resorting to the Eurocentric archetypes of blond Nordic goodness and dark Jewish evil, though, is a call to restore the gas chambers. (And to be sure, these people want to disrupt the practice among the Muslim community, too, but strangely, they haven't penned that comic yet. I bet that one will be hateful and vile, too, when they write it. They did, however, go anti-Jew first.)

I can't believe how I sound. I never talk this way. But I haven't seen this in my own back yard before, and certainly not seen it creeping in under the guise of liberalism. That's it. I've never seen left-wing, anti-Semitic fascist propaganda before, and it confuses me and scares me

Any organization that chooses to throw the Jewish community under the bus or to use anti-Jewish imagery to achieve its goals, cannot be trusted in anything. They are not reliable advocates for any baby boys anywhere. Abortion foes who advocate killing clinic doctors are clearly not "pro-life." Anti-circumcision activists who promote Jew-hatred are clearly not "pro-justice."

Before they get to enter a discussion about the practice of circumcision and the ritual of brit milah they need to clean up and atone for their assault on the Jewish community. The atonement needs to be way louder and more profound than their offense, and that will take them a while. Then and only then might they have a right to speak up about anything else.

Please join the real conversation about circumcision. Go to www.stopcircban.com . Stop the promotion of classic anti-Semitism in any community.

1 comment:

  1. I have been following the movement against the American practice of routine infant circumcision for 30 years. And I can assure you that that movement is not antisemitic. Most players in that movement are quiet everyday mothers, not necessarily American, whose lives do not intersect with Jews. Matthew Hess speaks for few of us. I was unaware of his name until he began circulating his inflammatory "comics". I can assure you that his name and the organisation he heads are never mentioned in the blogs and social media I follow, mainly comment threads in Facebook and YouTube.

    There is no movement to ban circumcision outright, only one to require the informed adult consent of the person on whom it is performed. There are Jews who agree with this stipulation; see the blog "Beyond the Bris", the documentary film maker Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon, and the writings of Miriam Pollack. Since 1990 or so, foregoing bris has gained a toehold among the many Israelis who do not interact with Judaism except at weddings and funerals. Keep in mind that in the Moslem Middle East, circumcision is neither a badge of difference nor a body marker of Jewish identity.

    Many liberal and secular European Jewish families no longer circumcise. However, families for which this is the case do not wear the fact on their sleeves, and that is entirely understandable. I submit that the many Jews who doubt the existence of a personal God, who wince at talk of a Chosen People, and who see the Covenant as a myth, have no valid religious reason to circumcise their sons. Years ago, I concluded that the real unspoken reason for brit milah was to encourage endogamy and to discourage Jewish young men from walking away from Judaism. More simply, circumcision made it awkward for Jews to fall in love with Christians. This is no longer operative, because a large majority of Jews live either in Israel, surrounded by hostile circumcised Moslems, or in the USA, surrounded by benign circumcised Christians.

    As a gay man, you should be aware that the intact penis commands a lot of respect and affection among American gay men, especially in the large cosmopolitan gay communities of New York and San Francisco.

    For 150 years, brit milah has been on a collision course with the progressive attitudes towards human sexuality that many Jews hold. I submit that that collision has begun. Because the bits of the human body that circumcision throws under the bus stand at the Ground Zero of the human sexual experience, for both genders and for gay and straight alike. I know that because I retain those bits and have been married a quarter century, to a lovely woman who agrees that my body is as it should be, and that American sexual culture is regrettably mistaken.