FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, JULY 15, 2011 OR THEREAFTER
BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
“ECHOES OF ANCIENT ANTI-SEMITISM IN CIRCUMCISION MOVE”
By now, most Americans have heard the story of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah many times, with its tale of a Greek king in ancient Syria (which included modern Israel) trying to eradicate the Jewish religion. He was thwarted by the guerrilla warfare of the Maccabees, who liberated the ancient Temple in Jerusalem in the second century B.C.
The story says they found enough oil to fuel the Temple’s ever-burning lamp just one night, but the small vial burned continuously for eight days until more was found, the reason Hanukkah lasts eight days and nights.
As usually told, this tale does not include some of the items King Antiochus decreed in his effort to put an end to the Judaism.
Here’s what a document called “Megillas Antiochus,” (the Scroll of Antiochus) written shortly after the events, records as the words of the monarch: “We will annul the covenants which (the Jews) have established with their God, that of the Sabbath and…circumcision.”
Not even Adolf Hitler or the Spanish monarchs and priests who conducted the Inquisition attempted to ban circumcision, which Jews regard as a key mark of their relationship with God, ordained in Genesis:17:10, which specifies that “Every man child among you shall be circumcised…and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.” The passage further says “the uncircumcised man…shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my convenant.”
Moslems also practice circumcision, but it is not nearly so central a feature of their religion or their identification with Islam.
Now comes a San Diego-based group called MGMbill.org (MGM stands for Male Genital Mutilation), which seeks to ban the practice of snipping off the tiny foreskins of small children, usually done on the eighth day of a Jewish boy’s life. Hospital circumcision of baby boys has also spread far beyond the Jewish and Moslem faiths, reaching 95 percent of all American boys in the 1960s, but now down to just over 50 percent.
The anti-circumcision group’s Web site claims affiliates in 17 states, with 11 of those sub-groups headed by women.
It has qualified a local initiative for San Francisco’s November ballot aiming to ban circumcisions of any male under age 18 except where medical conditions demand it. A similar measure was proposed in Santa Monica, but quickly withdrawn by its proponent, who wanted to include a religious exemption, but was told by the movement’s lawyers that would not be constitutional. The supporters’ main claim is that circumcision before a boy is truly sentient deprives him of control of his own body parts.
The San Francisco proponent, Lloyd Schofield, claims circumcision is the equivalent of female genital mutilation, banned in this country but still practiced in certain Third World precincts with the intention of depriving women of sexual pleasure. No one has ever claimed circumcision prevents male sexual pleasure.
MGMbill.org also denies there are any medical benefits to circumcision, despite studies showing circumcision somewhat lessens male vulnerability to sexually transmitted diseases and urinary tract infections. There are no recorded medical detriments.
Schofield claims many Jews support his initiative, but named none in an interview. “Scripture says a lot of things – for instance, that we should stone to death anyone who works on the Sabbath,” he said. “I say if someone wants to adhere to this, that’s their choice, but it should be their choice.” He did not mention that the operation, which typically heals in 10 days or less for infants, is far more painful and dangerous for adults.
MGMbill.org also has published a campaign comic book called “Foreskin Man,” featuring a muscular blonde hero wearing Superman-style tights and evil-looking Jewish figures, drawn in the style of Nazi-era anti-Semitic tracts, standing over a baby boy and holding back his mother as she fights to prevent the circumcision (see comic book cover at http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=149564035091485&set=a.128374157210473.20063.117501288297760&type=1&theater)
Pro-foreskin advocates are unfazed by the similarity of their efforts to those of a bigot whose name is still reviled about 2,200 years after his demise.
They claim a desire to protect young boys, and not anti-Semitism, motivates their effort to force Jews to ignore a Biblical mandate set forth almost 4,000 years ago, just after Abraham left his home in the country now called Iraq. Moslems would also be compelled to refrain from their religion’s tradition, the reason why Jewish and Islamic groups are in a rare coalition trying to get courts to knock this measure off the local ballot. At the same time, Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman of Los Angeles has proposed a bill that would no allow prohibitions of circumcision.
The bottom line is that there is at least some similarity between the current effort and what Antiochus attempted unsuccessfully.
Combine this with the proponents' comic book, and they should not be the least bit surprised if and when their effort is labeled flatly anti-Semitic, no matter how many Jews they may claim are among their best friends.
Elias is author of the current book "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It," now available in an updated second edition. His email address is email@example.com. For more Elias columns, go to www.californiafocus.net.