Talk about anti-semitism? It’s now official: the anti- circumcision measure on the ballot in San Francisco is no longer an even remotely funny subject.
We’ve done a bit of a joking post here and a more serious one here about the measure that will be on the ballot in November in San Francisco seeking to ban circumcisions in the city. And there have always been allegations that some of the intent of this measure was anti-semitic. But what follows is what in my old job as a fulltime reporter would be called “confirmation” and, of course, there are predictable denials of what even a package of ham on the shelf at Von’s supermarket in San Diego would look at and say: “Hey, dude: this is anti-semitic!” The San Francisco Chronicle:
San Francisco’s anti-circumcision measure will be decided by voters in November, but the literature for the movement aims to sway them with some disturbing images — including dark, evil-looking rabbis and a blonde superhero saving babies from their clutches.
The measure, supported by self-described “intactivists,” would make circumcision performed on anyone under 18 a misdemeanor, even if it is done for religious purposes.
It would be punishable by a $1000 fine, or up to a year in jail.
But that’s not the half of it: check out the eye-opening “Foreskin Man,” the comic book for this anti-circumcision movement that uses images critics are calling blatantly anti-Semitic.
We’ve reproduced the cover above. It is now popping up on a lot of posts and articles. And not because journalists and bloggers like comic art. It’s because of what it seemingly says about those who are putting it out.
But, of course, those who are putting it out have an argument most people will consider spin. The Chronicle article notes that the report about the artwork was originally done by the paper’s op-ed columnist Debra Saunders:
Saunders interviewed Matthew Hess, author of the upcoming anti-circumcision referendum this week.
His website, mgmbill.org — which pushes “a bill to end male genital mutilation in the United States” –also pushes his literature and merchandise starring “Foreskin Man,” shown here at right.
The star cover image of his comic book shows a dark, bearded rabbi looming over a naked baby laying on a pool table, as a superheo appears ready to save the child.
Saunders asked Hess if his comic is anti-Semitic. His answer: “A lot of people have said that, but we’re not trying to be anti-Semitic. We’re trying to be pro-human rights.”
AHEM.These are anti-semitic images and seem to fit in with some of the images on this page.
He told her the “next issue will deal with a different kind of circumcision.”
Meantime, Hess is pushing his political effort with other dark, threatening images of Jewish characters.
His “Foreskin Man” card set being sold through Cafe Press features the terrifying-looking “Monster Mohel.”
And here is a panel from that, also from the Chronicle and appearing on many websites:
The Anti-Defamation League, which was organized to fight anti-Semitism, issued a statement Friday sharply attacking the publication, which it called “an advocacy campaign taken to a new low.”
“This is a sensitive, serious issue where good people can disagree,” the ADL statement said. “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.”
Hess did not immediately return a phone call seeking further comment Friday.
There are many serious arguments against circumcision. Thoughtful people can and do debate these. And those who support circumcision for religious reasons can jump the gun and charge bigotry if someone criticizes the practice.
But this is so blatant.
These images compare with the worst of anti-semitic art through the centuries. Rabbis looking like they’ve been cast for a new version of the murderers in “Halloween” or “Friday th 13th”…showing a tiny baby held down before the act with the clearly Jewish person hovering above looking as if he is about to rip the baby’s heart out. And the blonde, handsome muscled defender battling against those evil looking rabbis with the dark hair, beards and hats.
Yes, the supporters have now defined what the vote is about.
But perhaps not in the way they wished:
Their artwork has defined them.
SOME OTHER WEBLOG REACTION:
—Pajamas Media’s post HERE has another batch of images from the brochure. We’d prefer not to infect TMV with any more of them, so go to the link to see them. Here’s some of the post:
Ban proponents insisted their proposal had nothing to do with Jews — really, it’s all about the rights of children.
Well, any doubt that they were lying have now been dispelled, with the publication of new campaign literature for the upcoming circumcision ban. The campaign comic book, called “Foreskin Man,” after its baby-saving superhero, features a litany of evil Jews doing battle with blond Nordic saviors.
(Oh, and did I mention the artist’s last name is Hess? A relative of Rudolph, perhaps?)
I challenge anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the propaganda of Germany in the 30?s and 40?s to go to the link and claim that this is simply opposing a medical procedure. I challenge the author of this comic or any of the commentators at Joe My God to show these images to any of the survivors of the camps or any of the still living troops who liberated them and ask THEM if this is anti-Semitic.
The first amendment protects this speech but remember, this is a clearly drawn line. Where you stand on it self identifies you for what you are.
I often say I’m shocked by something that crosses my computer screen, but that’s not really true. I mean, I probably sort of shocked insofar as I’m surprised that someone has behaved according to type, but in an extreme way, or that something I’ve long assumed would happen actually did happen (or, in a surprising way, didn’t happen). But I’m very seldom shocked to the core of my being. Today, though, I was shocked, shaken really, by an email Zombie sent me.
Zombie has gotten hold of some of the campaign literature from those supporting the circumcision ban that made its way onto San Francisco’s November ballot. I am not kidding when I say that the material is indistinguishable from something the Nazis would have prepared.
I’ve called the argument over circumcision “The World’s Most Idiotic Debate.” I wrote last month about the “Foreskin Fetishists” behind the anti-circumcision movement, including the attempt to ban circumcision in San Francisco.
Now? They’re Foreskin Fascisti.
—ADL Press release on the comics:
San Francisco, CA, June 3, 2011 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today condemned the “grotesque anti-Semitic imagery and themes” in a comic book created by supporters of an anti-circumcision movement in San Francisco. The League called the “Monster Mohel” comic book’s imagery, which features identifiably Orthodox Jewish characters as evil villains, “disrespectful and deeply offensive.”
“Monster Mohel” is one of two titles in the “Foreskin Man” comic book series — the creation of Matthew Hess, the president of the Male Genital Mutilation Bill group and one of the leaders of the anti-circumcision legislation movement, which has achieved enough signatures to appear on a ballot for a public vote in November.
Nancy J. Appel, ADL Associate Regional Director, issued the following statement:
This is an advocacy campaign taken to a new low. 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.
The comic book portrays mohels — those specially trained to perform the traditional Jewish circumcision ceremony — as rapacious, bloodthirsty and bent on harming children. 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. Another comic in the series also calls up more subtle anti-Jewish themes, such as when a character complains that the “pro-circumcision lobby” has “all of the well-connected doctors and lawyers.”
We would have hoped those backing the anti-circumcision effort in San Francisco would know better than to use this type anti-Semitic imagery to advance their cause. 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.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.