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“Foreskin Man” brings anti-Semitic imagery into circumcision fight

by Jonah Lowenfeld

June 3, 2011 | 12:02 pm

A panel from "Foreskin Man," featuring the comic book's villain, "Monster Mohel." (Courtesy www.foreskinman.com)

The backers of a ballot initiative in San Francisco aiming to ban circumcision in that city have consistently maintained that their efforts are not anti-Semitic.

But the “Foreskin Man” comic book, which was written and edited in 2010 by the founder of a San Diego group supporting efforts to ban circumcision in San Francisco and Santa Monica, gives further credence to the accusation that so-called intactivists are in fact motivated by anti-Semitism.

“The imagery in ‘Foreskin Man’ is functionally Anti-Semitic,” Abby Michelson Porth, associate director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), said. “The motives of the proponents of this ban are questionable given their direct connection with “Foreskin Man.”

The story told in the second issue of “Foreskin Man,” which is available on its website, centers on the story of Sarah and Jethro Glick and their newborn son. Sarah thought that she and her husband had agreed not to circumcise their son, but Jethro had other plans. He secretly invited the villain, “Monster Mohel,” to circumcise “little Glick.”

On the website foreskinman.com, Monster Mohel, a bearded man with a black hat on his head and a tallis around his neck, is described this way: “Nothing excites Monster Mohel more than cutting into the penile flesh of an eight-day-old infant boy.”

Last month, San Francisco city officials announced that the backers of an initiative to prohibit circumcision in the city had collected enough signatures to put the measure to voters in November 2011.

Lloyd Schofield is the official backer of the San Francisco initiative, which uses text from the group MGMbill.org, a San Diego-based group established by Matthew Hess. Hess is credited alongside the comic book’s illustrator and colorist on the comic’s website.

In response to a question about his motivations, Hess said that he and his supporters are, first and foremost, human rights activists.

“We do what we do because we strongly believe that no one has the right to cut off part of another person’s body without their consent,” Hess wrote in an email. “We believe that amputating part of a boy’s penis is no different in principle than amputating part of a girl’s vulva. If you ask any activist in Africa why she is trying to stop the practice of female genital mutilation, I suspect that her answers would be very similar to ours.”

Writing on May 31, before the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the comic book existence, Hess addressed those who accuse him of being motivated by anti-Semitism.

“As far as the anti-Semitism charge, I might understand such an accusation if our proposed legislation applied to everyone except Jews. That would be like saying we care about all boys except the Jewish ones,” Hess wrote.

The JCRC is leading the fight against the initiative in San Francisco and has assembled a coalition of HIV researchers, medical authorities, civic leaders, and clergy from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities to support their efforts.

The second issue of “Foreskin Man” depicts Monster Mohel as a dark-haired, wild-eyed man toting glistening scissors. Foreskin Man is a blond-haired muscle-bound superhero, complete with a cape. Check it out here.

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