Snips and snipes

Concluding my last post
I didn't have time to finish off my last post, on racist graffiti. Here's my conclusions. First, that hate transcends lines of ethnicity, race and politics. Second, that the zero sum comparison/competition between different victimologies is on a hiding to nowhere because of the intimate connections and overlaps between different hatreds. 

Circumcision politics
As reported and discussed at Mystical Politics, a German district court (Cologne/Koln) has banned circumcision, or, more strictly, ruled that the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed thefundamental rights of the parents" and that doctors carrying out circumcision are committing grievous bodily harm. While there are forms of circumcision that do constitute GBH and quite rightly should be treated heavily by the law (link h/t Jogo), the Cologne ruling is outrageous, and racist (against Jews and Muslims) in effect. 

On this topic, I whole-heartedly agree with the Torygraph's pet right-wing Marxist contrarian Brendan O'Neill, who asserts that the rebranding of circumcision as 'child abuse' echoes the ugly anti-Semitism of medieval Europe. He goes further: "The labelling of religious practices as “child abuse” is the most cynical tactic in the armoury of today’s so-called New Atheists." Two so-called (I think it's him that calls them it, not what they call themselves) "New Atheists" who have robustly hit back are Zinnia Jones and Ophelia Benson, both very smart people, but I'm not convinced by their response. 

Lining up with Jones and Benson is Larry Derfner of +972, who supports the ban. One tweeter summarised this as "or How to Lose Jewish Friends and Alienate Jewish People", and indeed as if +972 and the Israeli left are not marginal and out of touch enough in the global Jewish community, this is rather bad politics for them. Note this almost Atzmonesque and rather racist sentiment: "this point has to be made loudly and repeatedly to all Jews, Muslims and other tribal types who feel they have no choice but to put their sons through this." In other words, thank the enlightened Aryan goyim for rescuing these backward Semites from their barbaric practices. 

This weekend's links
Francis Sedgemore/Lewisham NUJ: NUJ helps win Living Wage for London science interns; Charlie Brooker on Clive James, and a vintage letter from James about Pankaj Mishra (h/t Shiraz Socialist); Eric Lee and Paul in Lancs on Bomber Command; James B on internet piracyfighting to commemorate the Munich Olympic massacre; Reuben: The pwnership of a Tory minister does not negate the awfulness of Jeremy Paxmanmy first and last cassette LPsFlesh on Greeking the EUMarko v Ed on Croatian immigrants swamping the UKSarah AB on Maya Sela v Alice Walker on boycotting Hebrew translation; Alan Johnson on the Jihad at home; Adar Primor brilliantly summarises the rise of the European right, and concludes with two paragraphs of pure bullshit; the Soupy One on Stephen Sizer; Moshe Dayan's lesson for the Israeli left; Civil liberty or old-fashioned antisemitism?; Libya's Islamists; and that's probably more than enough for now.


Gypsum Fantastic said…
No, it's not racist. It's progress and then anti-intellectual muppets need to get with the programme - it's 2012.

It's about time these retarded religious fucknuts had a book on evolution shoved up their arses sideways and were made to leave their children alone. I know it's a really, really difficult idea to understand, but it people aren't willing or able then they'll just have to shut the fuck up and follow the sensible law that says you can't chop of a bit off your child's dick because your stupid religion says it's imperative to do so.

Nothing less will suffice.
The description of circumcision as "chopping off penis" is so clearly over the top and meant to invoke horror, outrage, and disgust that any reasonable argument that might be extracted from Benson's comments is lost in the din. At least for me. It's the kind of incontinent and inciting language one hears from anti-abortion fanatics when they speak against abortion*. It's the kind of language that causes some credulous individuals lacking emotional self-control to conclude that blowing up abortion clinics and killing doctors who perform abortions are the logical means of stopping these "crimes".

Really "Smart women" would pause to consider this aspect. But unfortunately we live in a culture in which the more passionately you express yourself about your particular bonnet bee, the more you are believed to be speaking the "truth".


* Examples:

"What irony that a society confronted with plastic bags filled with the remains of aborted babies should be more concerned about the problem of recycling the plastic." --Winifred Egan

"Fetal tissue' implants are not that much different from Nazi lamp shades made of Jewish skin. Both intend to put by-products of murder to good use."
--David Kupelian and Mark Masters (American Journalists)

The liberalization of abortion laws now will ultimately lead to legalized extermination of other humans, and will be another step in the decaying moral values of our current society.
liamalpha said…
The description of circumcision as "grievous bodily harm" is completely blowing out of proportion of what would be considered a minor cosmetic surgery. The CC's point about abortions is spot on: If circumcision is GBH, then late-term abortions should be considered as murder. I wonder how many people that agree with the first would agree with the latter...
Additionally, the banning of circumcision on account of it being "GBH" goes back to such enlightened people as Seleucid emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and Roman emperor Hadrian, who sought to annihilate Judaism by exactly this kind of bans. Nice touch there on the part of the Cologne district court!
TNC said…
Setting aside the religious and specifically Muslim and Jewish aspects of this story, I think it speaks to something deeper on the part of activists. Namely, their desire to defend those they feel are helpless and/or unable to defend themselves. For the right, as CC pointed out, it's often the unborn. For the left, it's many things--animals, children, and brown people. I'm not saying the impulse to defend others is wrong, but the way it manifests itself ranges from helpful to pernicious. What these folks all share in common is a savior syndrome. Beware.
Obviously at some point, thousands of years ago, it was decided for hygiene/ disease prevention reasons to circumcise - particularly so for those in hot countries. Make it a judaic imperative "Brit Milah" (Covenant of the Word) and probably lots of lives were saved. This occurred long before Christianity or Islam were even conceived and was probably widespread amongst many communities.

However, we now live in mostly different times and places. I am disappointed that Judaism, in more orthodox quarters, has not progressed in the way that it has in so many other aspects...constantly debating, resolving and enlightening.

I don't believe a child should be irreversibly changed in such an intimate and painful way without consent. I've been to a Brit and I felt complicit in something I could not reconcile - despite the good will and good people around me. The little boy was in great distress and it was heart rending.

As a mother of a daughter, I was spared the dilemma of whether to have a Brit/Bris or not. If it is a medical necessity, (quite rare),then it can be done in hospital.

If I'd have had a boy, his name would have been Benjamin Dov and I believe, I'd have stood my ground and said 'No'.
I once had a post on the subject. Funny how the exact same issues and concerns come up, years later:
bob said…
Why is it that when conservatives use language that equates the West with progress and non-white/non-Western people with retardedness, barbarism and backwardness, that's racist, but somehow some streams of left-ward thought think it's OK to use the same terms to attack Jews and Christians? (I imagine Gypsum Fantastic is equally harsh on all religions, but the vulgar rhetoric gives a good indication of the extreme version of the militant secularist mindset. There is no non-offensive way of calling Jews and Muslims retarded barbarians.)


By the way, I should probably be very clear of what I meant when I spoke about " effect". I am not arguing that the Cologne law is racist in intent. I am in general not interested in diagnosing racist motivations in people's souls, but am intersted in the material effects of words and deeds on people's lives. In this case, circumcision is a non-negotiable part of being Jewish for all practising Jews (though not all ethnic Jews) and many practising Muslims. Outlawing it, therefore, makes it impossible to be Jewish or Muslim in Cologne, a serious racist effect.

Like covering adult female hair, male infant circumcision is not actually a Koranic obligation on Muslims, although it is more or less universally practised by devout Muslims. However, for practising Jews, it is a very serious commandment, made by God to Abraham: "This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He that is eight days old among you shall be circumcised; every male throughout your generations."

I am not a cultural relatavist who thinks that culture trumps everything. If it were a case of serious harm to children, that would trump the effective racism card. Thus, the practise among some haredim of the mohel sucking the blood, which is demonstrably harmful in many cases, cannot be justified by the moral relativist/effective racism argument, and nor, of course, can female genital mutilation, of which Nancy McDermott argues: "Comparable surgery in a man would involve the removal of most of the penis and the scrotum."

I can't see how a procedure enacted by so many people for completely non-religious medical reasons could be considered grievous bodily harm. (At the danger of straying into the Too Much Information category, I write as someone not circumcised as an infant, but rather as an adult for medical reasons.)
bob said…
Three updates.

1. As Rebecca reports, a Berlin hospital, i.e. outside the jurisdiction of the court that made the ruling, has now suspended doing circumcisions for religious reasons after the court ruling. She quotes Walter Russell Mead: "As of this moment in Berlin, it is against German law to live as a Jew."

2. Frank Furedi, Spiked's guru, has written a much longer and more sophisticated critique of the law than the one put forward by O'Neill. Read it.

3. Reuben of Third Estate has a good post arguing that the German court was right but that anti-circumcision folks need to have a sense of proportion. His briefly made argument for the law is this: "Children do have rights. And, contrary to what Brendan O’Neill appears to believe, parents are not entitled to absolute sovereignty over their households." I absolutely agree with that point, but simply do not see infant circumcision as a violation of those rights. Parents do not have absolute sovereignty, but the state should generally only intervene against parental authority to protect children against actual harm, and I don't see the case that this is an example.


Didn't mean to write so much. Maybe I should post this as a post instead of a comment. Might do.
Gypsum Fantastic said…
Yes, you're right.I don't have a 'thing' about jews or muslims and was raised by a man who saw a concentration camp as a member of British Forces in 1945: All people who do stupid, stupid things - especially to children - and doubly so in the name of a fucking sky pixie preaching scientifically falsifiable bullshit (the age of the Earth is enough but there's a hundred other examples) are thick beyond belief. But that's life and for some reason we're stupid enough to let them. At least it's their own kids.
brockley dave said…
comments on circumsicion that its used in plenty of non religeous medical circumstances reduces any argument about it being child abuse.As circumcision normally takes place soon after birth its difficult to see how a Infants consent can be obtained.A parent has the right to take that decision on behalf of an infant.
On another subject i can verify that lots of people are moving back to vinyl .Despite most of my stall being cd .Vinyl outsells cd at least 2 to 1.Young people are willing to part cash for a bit of history ,artwork and a warmer sound in a way they wouldn,t for cd.The debate about cds and stealing music is difficult to take seriously as the views of those who download for free are tainted by so much self interest that its impossible to take their arguments as anything but false.
dreamer said…
"The rebranding of circumcision as 'child abuse' echoes the ugly anti-Semitism of medieval Europe"

No, we are not criticizing religion. We are criticizing the practice of cutting helpless babies who can't defend themselves, who can't understand what's happening and who can't consent to what's being done for them.

The fact that 2 religions hang to circumcision as part of their ritual is just an inconvenient part of the issue because it mixes a lot of emotion into something that is otherwise void of any meaning.