Today’s New York Times reports a slight blow to the Intactivist movement (the anticircumcision lobby). Apparently, the American Academy of Pediatrics has moderately changed its position on infant male circumcision. The AAP announcing that new research, including studies in Africa suggests that the procedure may protect heterosexual men against H.I.V. They further remarked that this indicates that the health benefits outweigh the risks involved.
But the academy stopped short of recommending routine circumcision for all baby boys, a position they have maintained for 75 years. The Academy had previously taken a neutral decision on it but are now saying that the decision remains a family matter.
The Intactivists have been able to knock down the circumcision rate in theis country from 67 in the 1990’s to 54% now. The movement is gaining in international circles too. Recent legislation in Germany proves this point.
The question is, where did this new movement come from?
Although the notion of circumcision has been a matter of sharp debate (no pun intended) since Roman times, the current antagonism toward Bris Milah can be directly attributed to a book by psychologist Jim Bigelow that was first published in 1992, with a second edition in 1995. The book entitled, “The Joy of Uncircumcising,” has gained a cultish following and is both a study in propaganda as well as a how-to guide to restore that which was cut.
Matthew Hess, the sponsor of last year’s San Francisco bill against circuumcision and the apparent front man behind that movement, writes clearly that Bigelow’s book changed his life. No Bigelow – No Hess. Hess is a “community organizer.” Jena Troutman, the woman who submitted the proposal to the Santa Monica County Clerk, and subsequently withdrew it when the anti-Semitic elements were exposed in the media, is a lactation consultant. But Hess, founder of MGMbill.org, wrote the proposal that Troutman handed in – no Hess no Troutman. And Hess traces back to the Bigelow book.
So for insight into what is motivating this new phase of the anti-Circumcisionists – let’s take a deeper look at the book.
Each chapter is filled with emotional quotes in a side panel entitled “Men’s Voices.” They are written by people who are ostensibly “suffering” from having undergone a forced circumcision at childhood. So let’s examine some of these side panel quotes.
“I would give anything to regain what I have lost,” by S.H. in Chico, California.
“I felt so violated and so angry” – M.T. from Alabama.
“To say that I was stunned and outraged by this revelation would be an understatement. I simply could not believe that this had happened to me, and I wished that I had been left intact, even though I would have been in the minority.” – P.L., North Dakota
“For almost sixty years I have been very anticircumcision minded and until recent years felt I was almost a minority of one. In the past few years, it has been a pleasure to learn that some doctors and nurses now agree with me.” E.R. from New Mexico
“Recently, I was contemplating the damage done to me early in life without my permission, and a friend suggested that I contact you. I understand that you have techniques to reverse this, and I would very much like to learn more. I eagerly await any information you can forward.” University Professor, Cambridge, MA
The reader of these side panels begins to wonder: How is it that the tone of each letter, the historical introduction, the colloquialisms, the syntax -all sound, so remarkably, the same? How can so many varied and eclectic voices from cities all across the country appear as if they came from the same author? Also, in reading these boxes one has the vague déjà-vu feeling that one is watching an info-mercial. “A friend suggested that I contact you?” From a “University Professor in Cambridge? But university professors in Cambridge do not actually write this way. What then is going on here?
A sub-heading in the first chapter gives us a first clue. In informing the reading public of the purposes of his writing the book he invokes the following heading: To Inform Christians About the True Nature of Modern-Day Circumcision.
Uh oh. To inform Christians – not Americans? is this really a medical text?
On page 56 of the text we find our next clue. In it the author explains that originally, in the Bible – circumcision was just fine and not the severe, convoluted operation that it was soon to become – it was just “Milah” without something called “Periah.”
In other words, it was the Talmudic Rabbis who subverted everything and created something the author calls, “Radical Circumcision.” Everyone in the Bible both the Hebrew one and the “New Testament,” had a simple, normal circumcision. Sometime at about the year 140, the Rabbis promulgated a newer, more severe form.
Never mind that according to Jewish sources, Milah and Priyah were practiced since the times of Abraham.
But is Bigelow anti-Semitic? In his book he points to voices within the Jewish community – Reform Jews, Jewish feminists, and others who have also opposed circumcision. He cites a certain Martin or Moshe Rothenberg who has developed a ceremony called “Brit Bli Milah” – a covenant celebration for his infant son – sans Milah. Bigelow reassures himself on page 60 of his work, “ The voices opposing circumcision from within Judaism convince me once again of that which I know to be true in my heart—that I can be anti-circumcision without being anti-Semitic.”
So there we have it. He is once again convinced and has proven the notion to himself that he is not anti-Semitic. The anti-circumcision movement comes not from a concern for infants, but from a new manifestation of classical anti-Semitism.