I can’t take credit for having written that. Nor can Julius Streicher, founder and publisher of Nazi propaganda vehicle Der Sturmer. No, it’s from a comic book written in San Francisco by anti-circumcision activist Matthew Hess that not a few people have deemed somewhat anti-Semitic. (He’s at the helm of a movement in San Francisco to ban circumcision.)
The comic book, Foreskin Man (I could make this stuff up, I suppose, but this is all true), sports a cover that shows a dark, bearded rabbi looming menacingly over a naked baby laying on a pool table. Fear not – a muscular blond superhero stands poised to “save” the child.
To those familiar with anti-Semitic iconography, these images are a really short step away from blood libel. I refer you to this frame of the comic, in which the “Monster Mohel” and his machine-gun carrying, payess-sporting thugs break down a door in order to circumcise a baby. Or perhaps this one, where the “Monster” tells one of his “goons” that he will forcibly carry out the circumcision. Or, finally, where the “Monster” holds the scissors menacingly over a screaming baby with sheer blood lust scrawled over his face.
When asked if his comic is anti-Semitic by the San Francisco Chronicle, Hess replied, “A lot of people have said that, but we’re not trying to be anti-Semitic. We’re trying to be pro-human rights.”
Really? Calling a mohel “Monster Mohel,” and literally making a cartoon of something I literally hold sacred, promotes human rights? Interesting – because I think that promotes denigration of those who choose to practice their religion.
As a Jew who believes in the covenant of brit milah – as well as my rights as an American to exercise religious freedom – I’ll go out on a limb and say that my human rights are not being promoted here. In fact, they’re actively being defamed, as the practice of bloodthirsty monsters.
Maybe it’s more frightening, though. Because maybe Hess isn’t trying to be anti-Semitic – maybe the anti-Semitism just comes effortlessly.
Please feel free to contact Hess here. Suggest to him that perhaps you are human too, and perhaps you deserve the benefit of discussion rather than demonization. Our tradition is rich with elements of the former – and, unfortunately, our history is woefully familiar with the latter.