When the whole circumcision debate and ballot issue surfaced, I was one of the first to dismiss those who claimed it as an anti-Semitic attack. There is something, a survival gene some might say, in the Jewish mind that has us immediately wondering if there is a threat to the Jewish people whenever something like this come up.
A number of Jewish community leaders came out and said that a fair debate leading to a ballot proposal was part of democracy. The American Defamation League (ADL) President did, however suggest that it could “provide fodder for anti-Semites,” Abraham H. Foxman said. “Not all opponents to circumcision are anti-Semitic, but most anti-Semites oppose circumcision,” which is a cornerstone of the Jewish (and Muslim belief).
But this has all changed when ‘Monster Mohel,’ a comic book which is one of two titles in the ‘Foreskin Man’ comic book series created by the Male Genital Mutilation Bill group pushing to make male circumcision illegal in San Francisco, was released.A Mohel is a the title for the person who conducts the ritual.
The comic books feature clearly “identifiably Orthodox Jewish characters as evil villains, [who are] ‘disrespectful and deeply offensive … This is an advocacy campaign taken to a new low,” according to the ADL statement. “No matter what one’s personal opinions of male circumcision, it is irresponsible to use stereotypical caricatures of religious Jews to promote the anti-circumcision agenda.”
Nancy J. Appel, ADL Associate Regional Director for the Bay Area said the book, which features identifiably Orthodox Jewish characters as evil villains, was “disrespectful and deeply offensive.” In an interview with Ha’aretz, the left-wing Israeli newspaper, she said:
“This is a sensitive, serious issue where good people can disagree and which the Jewish community feels is an assault on its values and traditions going back thousands of years and centered in the Hebrew Bible,”
“It is one thing to debate it, is another thing to degrade it. ‘Foreskin Man,’ with its grotesque anti-Semitic imagery and themes, reaches a new low and is disrespectful and deeply offensive,” she said, adding that ” Some of the imagery calls to mind age-old anti-Semitic canards such as the blood libel, the accusation that Jews ritually murder Christian children.”
Where have we seen such images before?
What is ironic is that by going to such low extremes, the Male Genital Mutilation Bill group has just moved the focus of the debate from the act itself to racism and bigotry. You blew it, guys. Seriously.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).