Commentary Magazine


Circumcision Foes Cross the Line into Anti-Semitism

As we noted in the June issue of COMMENTARY, those who have been agitating for a ban on male circumcisions in California appeare to be motivated more by bizarre theories about male sexuality and specious comparisons to cliterodectomies than traditional anti-Semitism. But as the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Friday, the “intactivists” (as the anti-circumcision forces style themselves) have now crossed over the line between advocacy and hate.

Matthew Hess, the author of the anti-circumcision referendum that will be on the San Francisco ballot this fall (not to be confused with the Brookings Institute fellow), has written an on-line comic book called Foreskin Man. It depicts the antics of an Aryan-looking hero whose goal is to thwart the efforts to a sinister ritual circumciser named Monster Mohel, who is both depicted in a manner that can only be described as traditional anti-Semitism. The Mohel is a glowering Orthodox Jew about whom Hess writes, “Nothing excites Monster Mohel more than cutting into the penile flesh of an eight-day-old infant boy.”

While Hess tells the Chronicle that he is “pro-human rights,” it is no exaggeration or a false analogy to say that his work is reminiscent of the sort of thing that came out of Nazi Germany. His purpose is to portray traditional Jews as villains who seek to mutilate innocent children.

Though circumcision has been performed for a variety of reasons, including those of health that may or may not be valid, the act of circumcision is the originating act of the Jewish people; it defines the covenant between Abraham and the One God. While Americans are free to choose it for their infants or not, the attempt to ban the practice in San Francisco is a clear act of religious bias and blatantly unconstitutional. It should also be said that this measure is uniting Jews and Muslims, whose beliefs also call for male circumcision.

But as Foreskin Man shows, advocates of a ban are not merely irrational, they also seem to be motivated as much by religious prejudice as they are by anything else.