Circumcision as a Political Issue
By Philip Giraldi
The Passionate Attachment
August 3, 2012
One wouldn’t think that circumcision had any political aspect, but as it is a Jewish religious practice it, of course, does – something that has sometimes been referred to as Jewish Identity Politics. The Washington Post ran a story and an editorial on July 25th demonstrating just how it works. The story, on page 3 of the printed edition, claims significant benefits derived from circumcisions, most notably that the possible transmission of the AIDS virus between a man and an infected woman decreases markedly. But the comments on the article, which basically recommends circumcision on public health grounds for African men, tell another story. The actual statistics used to support the surveys cited in the article show differences that are described as statistically insignificant and deliberately distorted. Several comments note that it is barbaric to mutilate the genitals of a child for a religious reason, recommending instead that those who support the practice should wait until they turn eighteen to have the operation performed on themselves. Other comments note that any article discussing circumcision in a critical way will inevitably result in a number of rebuttals that label the critics anti-Semites.
The recent controversy about circumcision springs from a German court ruling that the practice is genital mutilation of a non-consenting child and is therefore illegal. The ruling has caused circumcisions to be suspended in some German hospitals as well as in some health care centers in Switzerland and Austria. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has come under intense pressure from the usual suspects and is supporting a law permitting circumcision if one is Jewish or Muslim, even though the German public apparently supports the court ruling and the ban. Jews and Muslims both claim that it is a hallowed religious practice, but, as is usually the case, the loudest outcry is coming from American Jewish groups and newspapers like The Washington Post. The Post’s lead editorial “The Misguided Push to Ban Circumcision,” states that “The court’s case against circumcision mixes extreme and insensitive secularism with unstated but radical mistrust of parents,” then adding “Wherever they might occur, circumcision bans that disrespect religious traditions, or parents’ ability to weigh medical evidence, would be profoundly misguided.” The editorial writer incorrectly claims that even a circumcision performed for actual medical reasons would be banned and then goes on to summarize the newspaper’s own misleading story on page 3 to promote the public health benefits that it claims are derived from the practice.
One wonders how the Post views the religiously and culturally derived female genital mutilation that occurs frequently in parts of Africa. Is that one not okay while it is all right to do something similar to little boys? Of course there is also the hypocrisy factor — if it were only a Muslim practice and not Jewish one would have to suspect that the Post would be among the first in line to agree that it is immoral and should be made illegal.
What comes next? I am now fully expecting a congressional resolution, probably introduced by Howard Berman or Joe Lieberman, condemning the German government for its denial of religious freedom. It will likely pass unanimously.
Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest and a regular contributor to The Passionate Attachment.