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The Unkindest Cut? Maybe Not

July 13, 2012 – 10:25 am104 Comments

We immunise children without their consent, and also force them to eat broccoli. Worse than that, we even try to immunise them WITH broccoli, as pictured.

By Shyrla Pakula
On June 26 this year the District Court of the Federal State of Cologne, Germany, ruled that the circumcision of boys for religious reasons at the request of parents constituted the infliction of bodily harm and was therefore a punishable offence. The decision was made after a case of a  4 -year-old Muslim boy who suffered complications of bleeding 2 days after his circumcision by a Muslim doctor. The doctor was acquitted, but, in future, any doctor performing a circumcision in this sort of situation would be liable for prosecution, as would the parents who allowed it.

Of course, this criminalization of male circumcision affects Jews as well. In fact, the outcry against this legal decision is one great big uniter of Jews and Muslims in Germany, for what that’s worth.

It turns out that there are 220,000 Jews living in Germany, and vastly more Muslims.

Therefore I personally think that this ruling will not hold up because the Muslims will protest, so ironically, it will probably be the Muslims who will save the day so the Jews will be able to continue a 3,000-year-old practice which is so dangerous, that Jews are still around. So traumatizing to the helpless infant that Jews still win more Nobel Prizes than anyone else.

Yes, it is so dangerous that, in Africa, adult males are clamoring to be circumcised as it has been shown to be effective against the transmission of HIV.

Yes, yes, I know what the issues are here; it’s about harming a child who has no ability to consent to a non-medically necessary procedure. Even if his parents request the procedure, even if the operator is a doctor. The issue is also about the transcendence of the body over the soul. Now, where have I heard that before? Oh yes, the Ancient Greeks. And the Romans.  And the Soviets. And where are they today?

I know that this topic tends to generate more heat than light when it is argued. There are comparisons made to female genital mutilation, which is already illegal in Germany and other countries, as if the two procedures could be remotely compared in outcomes and effects on the child’s future. As if there is a skerrick of evidence that female genital mutilation (FGM) had any positive outcomes either! Not a one, only damage to girls for no reason except ‘to protect their honour’, whatever that is construed to mean. Whereas male circumcision sometimes needs to be done for medical reasons –which is allowed under this German ruling – and can protect against HIV, for example, female genital mutilation has only negative effects on girls and women, no matter how small the cut or what is or isn’t excised or stitched up. So making both male circumcision and FGM illegal serves to lump them together in a most unfair and disingenuous way.

The brit milah is an eternal covenant between G-d and the Jews. Now, G-d could have thought of other ways to make a covenant, I guess. If it has to be seared into the flesh, why not a piercing or a tattoo? I’m no talmid chochom or mystic, and I sure don’t know the mind of G-d, but it seems to me that the foreskin is accessible and expendable, but more, the penis represents the propagation of the Jewish people as well as the source of pleasure for man. With great privilege comes great responsibility! How amazing is that, that the source of these two vital – literally, ‘vital’ pertaining to ‘vitum’, life force – functions has this little removable turtleneck! I know this won’t change the minds of the ‘intactivists’, but I think it’s no coincidence that it’s the removal of the foreskin, rather than, say, the tonsils or appendix, that binds the Jews to G-d the Creator as an eternal reminder of the chosenness of the Jews. Also, once it’s removed, it’s gone, and no comebacks (unless the job was done badly, which can happen, unfortunately, or unless you are deluded enough to want to grow back the foreskin by surgical means), not like piercings or tattoos. No frivolity here.

So what about doing this procedure on a child who is unable to give legal consent? Whose parents, despite the fact that they take the baby for immunizations without consent, and force the child to go to school, and make a child eat broccoli, certainly without consent, and are thus in charge of the child’s welfare, both spiritual and physical- suddenly have no legal or moral authority to have their son circumcised. Suddenly, despite a 3,000 year tradition, which has such enormous power and meaning, and no doubt has contributed to the continued existence of the Jews, is illegal. Suddenly, the rights of the child to have an intact and perfect body and not have anything done with which he cannot consent, is sacrosanct. And all as a result of a ruling in a German court. I find this a little ironic on several levels.

It was the Jews, after all, who, under G-d’s command, abhorred Avodah Zara (idol worship), including the worship of Moloch, which involved mothers sacrificing their children by throwing them into the idol’s fiery maw and burning them alive. It was the Jews who came up with the whole idea of ‘Choosing Life’, and ‘He who saves a single life, it is as if he has saved the whole world’ and that ‘Man is a microcosm’ and ‘Man is created in the image of G-d.’ It sure wasn’t the Enlightened Germans who ran with that ball. But I digress.

Brit milah may seem like a minor procedure performed on a minor, but it’s of major importance. And the Jews will find a way to continue the eternal covenant. We always have.

 Shyrla Pakula is medical doctor, lactation consultant, and a grandmother. This is a slightly edited version of an article that originally appeared here on her blog, Doctor Booba.

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104 Comments »

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Sigh, it’s the same tired arguments again and again. Your religion does not give you the right to cut off part of your kid’s penis.

    “So traumatizing to the helpless infant that Jews still win more Nobel Prizes than anyone else.”

    Nobody can give a response to this better than the brilliant, late Christopher Hitchens. He expresses my moral outrage at this sentiment quite nicely:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4yS08N0xeU

    How nice of you to refer jokingly to cutting off the skin of a baby’s penis as a causal link to nobel prize winning. You are a morally abhorrent individual to do so.

    “Yes, it is so dangerous that, in Africa, adult males are clamoring to be circumcised as it has been shown to be effective against the transmission of HIV.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circumcision_and_HIV#cite_note-17

    ^That

    ^^^^ That up there. That’s the link that says you’re just PLAIN WRONG. And you probably know it. As a doctor you should understand the none of the surveys of the NUMEROUS studies into circumcision have shown a tangible health benefit. Some studies say yes, some studies say no. On the whole of it there is no evidence for a tangible benefit. You’d have to be utterly myopic to only focus on the few that support your hypothesis.

    If you’re going to make the argument that you need it because it’s a covenant between man and god, then prove god exists and I’ll listen to you. Until you can do that, don’t you dare harm your baby in that manner. Don’t you dare violate its rights.

    And for that matter, who are you to decide that the baby is Jewish? It can’t even think for itself and you’re going to circumcise it because you simply assume it’s going to be Jewish? What if it grows up and wants to be Catholic, or Buddhist, or thank god atheist? What is wrong with you that you make up your own kid’s mind for it?

    Do you understand that the exact same argument can be made for female genital mutilation as well? There’s no tangible benefit for it but hey I’m going to claim it’s a covenant with my god so buggar off I can do it.

    It doesn’t hold water.

    “Whose parents, despite the fact that they take the baby for immunizations without consent, and force the child to go to school, and make a child eat broccoli, certainly without consent”

    Now who’s being disingenuous? Learning things like mathematics and reading do not have negative effects on children. Show me one child who is negatively impacted by learning how to read.

    Show me one child who is negatively impacted by eating broccoli.

    You can’t. But I can show you hundreds of babies who died from infections arising from their circumcisions. And that’s just the documented ones. Who knows how many are dying from the crude tools they’re using in the 3rd world?

    If you want a circumcision as a rational adult. Go for it. But stop harming your babies. It’s not a hard concept to grasp.

  • TheSadducee says:

    And that response above (which is not particularly unusual) to a religious topic is why people in the religious community think this site has an anti-religious bias.

  • Ari says:

    Just a question out of interest for the author – What if female circumcision was mandated as a sign of covenant between the Jewish people and G-d?

  • Daniel Levy says:

    TheSad, so commenting on factual inaccuracies and moral failings is an “anti-religious bias”.

    Cool :)

  • letters in the age says:

    Aayan Hirsi Ali…

    Have you read her writings on female mutiliation and her own life story??

    Amazing story and her arguments are very strong against female mutiliation

  • Daniel Levy says:

    letters, I’ve met her in person. A truly amazing once-in-a-generation human being. I wish more people would listen to her message on the dangers of organised religion.

    It is for that reason that her life is in jeopardy every day, simply for speaking out about the atrocities committed against women on a daily basis by perpetrators of fundamentalist religion.

  • letters in the age says:

    Jealous Daniel….nice to have met her!!

    Her arguments on religious schools are interesting to say the least namely Jewish schools

    Shes the darling of the political class and an amazing survivor of extreme adversity

    ;)

  • Eric Glare says:

    I find the article rather flippant and smug, particularly for a doctor who we should expect to have a bit more compassion. I think there is thinly veiled racism and Jewish supremacy, eg “It sure wasn’t the Enlightened Germans who ran with that ball”. Guys who want their foreskin back are criticised as deluded but I think she is deluded when she says circumcision “has such enormous power and meaning, and no doubt has contributed to the continued existence of the Jews”.

    I agree with much of Daniel Levy’s comments except he is wrong about HIV transmission and circumcision and hasn’t read the page he quoted. The Wiki article and reference 17 (since published as a paper) both say the opposite to his conclusion – that circumcision reduces HIV infection by about 60%. And it is the 3 controlled trials not “numerous surveys” that are the important evidence. What is not agreed on by researchers and HIV prevention is whether circumcision is the right thing to do for prevention dollars and for the trauma and risk caused. The trail success occurred in resource limited settings where there were few other options and it is not thought that circumcision would have the same success in developed countries. In Australia there is no increased HIV prevalence in uncircumcised men.

    In any case we are now in an era of treatment as prevention where the majority of people living with HIV are not infectious enough to pass on HIV. Effective treatment reduces transmission by 96% in heterosexual couples and much more sustainably than circumcision. So I think it is our moral imperative to improve treatment access rather than circumcision in resource limited communities.

    I don’t think there are any moral arguments for circumcision and it is particularly repugnant that the morality of parents rests on them mutilating their baby.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Eric Glare,

    I must concede that you are correct that circumcision is beneficial in 3rd world countries.

    Countries in which there are very few Jews which makes the author’s point rather moot

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Also Eric,

    The cite note I linked to is some sort of bug in wiki.

    If you click [18], which is the article I wanted to cite, the quote accompanying it was

    “A meta-analysis of data from fifteen observational studies of men who have sex with men found “insufficient evidence that male circumcision protects against HIV infection or other STIs.”[18]”

    And if you click 18 it refers you to note 17 which points in the other direction. Bizarre…

  • Marcus McMahon says:

    Wow!
    I am pleased you are not my doctor! Broccoli and vaccinations are GOOD for your child. Circumcision? I’m not aware of any benefits for men in the first world in this day and age. Unless of course they have phimosis and recurrent balanitis.

    Perhaps in the future only atheists should be allowed into medicine. It would give you more time to work on your next Nobel prize.

  • Eric Glare says:

    So Daniel in chosing reference 18 you were cherry picking an older and substantially inferior study that matched your opinion whilst bypassing numerous paragraphs that told you your opinion was patently wrong. That is the same immorality we have complained about in this article.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Actually Eric, the point I was making, and I quote was that:

    “Some studies say yes, some studies say no. On the whole of it there is no evidence for a tangible benefit.”

    In fact, I was considering all of the studies, in the affirmative and the negative, on balance, to say that it was largely inconclusive. Which is true of circumcision in the first world.

    Obviously I had not read about the research of its effects in the third world and your response prompted me to search for that information and correct myself.

  • ariel says:

    if your child were born with a 6th finger would you request the doctor remove it?

    Why is the focus on circumcision and not also on baptism? I’m sure it’s just as traumatic for the child…

    The use of the word “harming” in reference to circumcision is unhelpful. We “harm” our children all the time without their consent.

    The hypothetical question on female genital mutilation is another straw man. Judaism (and Islam) don’t talk about female genital mutilation. If they did, they wouldn’t be Judaism (and Islam), so it’s a moot point.

    My 2c.

  • Levi says:

    One of the first things the Nazis did was ban circumcision. Warning against the dangers of organised religion, they set a wonderful precedent for every enlightened society to follow, right Daniel Levy?

    It’s no suprise that every campaign against circumcision has a antisemitic under tone. Just check out the recent one in San Francisco with the foreskin man comic book series – about an enlightened hero with blue eyes and blonde hair who takes on organized religion and their grubby,money worshipping Shylock nosed haredi Jewish villains.
    How’s that for supremacism, Eric Glare?

    Any comparison between Judiasm and Islamic fundamentalism and the practice of circumcision to female circumcision is dim witted and morally repugnant at best. but then what can one expect from the readers of this primitive hate blog?

  • David says:

    The supposed health benefits of circumcision are negligible if not nonexistent and are a poor justification for an unnecessary medical procedure that is conducted without a child’s consent. I hope that we can eventually have a mature discussion as to whether we as Jews should continue the ritual in this day and age, but it doesn’t seem likely.

    But, putting aside the rather large issue of performing an unnecessary medical procedure on a child without their consent, I do see what the author is getting at with the not-entirely-serious point about Nobel prizes. Circumcision, if performed under proper conditions, is not a harmful procedure. Very few men are aggrieved about having been circumcised, possibly on account of not knowing what they are missing out on. And we should also remember that a circumcision at the age where one can consent to the procedure is a much more serious undertaking than one performed on a newborn.

    So it is ultimately a morally indefensible yet not particularly harmful ritual. In a perfect world, the law would intervene. But, given that the practice is tolerated in most places, its undeniable yet regrettable importance to Jewish identity as well as its relative harmlessness, I am somewhat doubtful of the desirability or even likelihood of any judicial or legislative intervention. There are probably only a few countries that would ever consider doing so (in Northern European/Scandinavia), but wouldn’t actually follow through with it since they have growing Muslim populations that they wouldn’t want to upset.

    The discussion really has to begin with us.

  • Only slightly off topic yet fascinating that the anti-gay-marriage lobby have adopted (no pun intended) the “rights of the child” argument to help their case http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/political-news/the-case-against-legalising-samesex-marriage-20120714-2236g.html

  • Daniel Levy says:

    I find it fascinating that people like David Werdiger can still be so bigoted in the 21st century as to deny people their equal rights.

    That’s -much- more fascinating.

  • letters in the age says:

    Here”s the contrarian view, ducks for cover #

    The churches also have their right of reply in a democracy with their viewpoints as well despite what you think of their stance on this issue..

    play nice Heebsters!

    ;)

  • Levi says:

    “I find it fascinating that people like David Werdiger can still be so bigoted in the 21st century”.

    Bigoted? A very black pot calling the kettle black.

  • letters in the age says:

    Could someone kindly devise a script of the melbourne jewish community into a series like The Slap or possibly Curb your enthusiasm??

    There are too many characters and storylines including this blog that need to be told!!
    ;)

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Levi,

    You are confusing not always getting what you want with religious persecution.

  • Ilana Leeds says:

    B’H

    Oh boy, just reading some of the smug self-satisfied self righteous attacks on Dr Pakula’s article with not one really valid point raised, my hackles are up. I feel like an echidna with a toothache. Do echidnas have teeth? Let’s find out.
    @Daniel Levy
    “How nice of you to refer jokingly to cutting off the skin of a baby’s penis as a causal link to nobel prize winning. You are a morally abhorrent individual to do so.”
    Obviously your bris affected your reasoning or didn’t you have one? I think you missed the whole point of the article. Dr Pakula does not treat it lightly.
    I will be back? Now who else said that? HUMMM

  • Sheron says:

    If you believe in G-d and you believe in the covenant between G-d and the Jewish people then you give your son a Brit because G- d said so. Not because of health benefits etc. if you do not believe in the covenant between G-d and the jewish people then you are free to not circumcise your son. Later in life your son will then have the choice of participating in the covenant or not. End of story. I really do not
    understand some of the vitriol on this thread. No one is forcing anyone to circumcise their son. Just like no one is forcing anyone to keep the sabbath or keep kosher, go to the mikveh and so on. For all those who believe that the circumcision is barbaric and backward are free to excercise their enlightenment by not participating. Outlawing my right to choose whether or not my son gets circumcised is wrong. By the way the Halacha allows for certain groups not to
    Be circumcised if it poses a health risk, for example haemophiliacs.

  • Harold Zwier says:

    Daniel Levy wrote:

    “How nice of you to refer jokingly to cutting off the skin of a baby’s penis as a causal link to nobel prize winning. You are a morally abhorrent individual to do so.”

    Circumcision is, within our own cultural environment, a bizarre practice. In the Jewish setting, it inflicts pain on a small male baby who has no say in the matter and is done because the Torah says it must be done – a covenant between God and the Jewish people. There is no overt medical purpose.

    Yet voluntary adherence to the practice is very high according to a 2007 UN report. “Male circumcision continues to be almost universally practised among Jewish people. For example, almost all newborn Jewish males in Israel, an estimated 99% of Jewish men in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and 98% of Jewish men in the United States of America are circumcised.”

    http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2007/9789241596169_eng.pdf

    In the link Daniel provided to the Youtube discussion with Christopher Hitchens, Hitchens says in response to the Rabbi’s comment about Nobel prizes resulting from circumcision:

    “I can’t find the compulsory mutilation of the genitals of children as a subject for humour in that way.

    “We have the records, I can show them to you – of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds, in the US, of boy babies who’ve died or have had life threatening infections as a result of this disgusting practice. That a person as humane as yourself can sit here and think of that as a fit subject for humour shows what I mean, that religion makes morally normal people say and do disgusting and wicked things. And you’ve just proved my point. Shame on you for saying what you’ve just said. Shame on you for saying it about your own son. My God!”

    There’s the case against circumcision!

    As Daniel said, advocating it makes you a “morally abhorrent individual”. Hitchens says its “compulsory mutilation of the genitals” and a “disgusting practice” and this falls into immoral religious practice under the heading “disgusting and wicked things”. “Shame on you” for joking about it.

    There’s a lot of emotive language in these comments, but not much reflection. Why is it ok to call the practice of circumcision “morally abhorrent”, but not ok for some religious people to call concensual same gender sex “morally abhorrent” – with equal weight? And what about the deliberate infliction of pain between consenting adults in a boxing ring. Many people regard this as “morally abhorrent” independent of their religious views.

    The answer is that same gender sex, and boxing, is between consenting adults, but circumcision is performed on a healthy 8 day old child who has not consented.

    I am a circumcised male and as far as I am aware, have not suffered lasting trauma from my brit. I have no recollection of it, though I have no doubt it inflicted some pain. To project that pain onto our adult minds does not really give us a sense of what an 8 day old boy feels. But if there is lasting trauma, then there ought to be measurable psychological differences between circumcised and uncircumcised males. Anyone seen any studies?

    As has been pointed out by others, children are subjected to all sorts of trauma as part of the process of being raised. Even that term “being raised” carries with it the sense of elevation from an unconscious infant to an educated conscious being. It would be logically absurd to argue that choices about religion, language, social rules, and hygiene should be withheld from the child pending the consenting adult – there is no consenting adult on a blank page.

    But there is a much bigger question here than the pain inflicted on an 8 day old boy, with a wound that heals in a week. It is the question of competing moral frameworks. Hitchens’ comments that male circumcision is the “compulsory mutilation of the genitals” is (apparently) a conclusion he draws from Maimonides, which may be convenient to his argument but doesn’t tally with our common understanding of the word “mutilation”.

    Comments that circumcision is morally abhorrent, disgusting, shameful and wicked are pure value judgements, emotively expressed, based on the moral framework of the people making those comments. It was previously the province of religions to set down immutable rules of morality – God given and therefore absolute. Now a different morality is being pushed, based on what? In this case, on the rights of the individual.

    Circumcision isn’t an initiation right to which the parents consent as a mark of belonging to a community. It is trauma inflicted on an individual who cannot consent. The language of both sentences carries the baggage of the moral and cultural framework from which they originate.

    So how do you adjudicate on an issue about which the protagonists don’t even share a common language in which to discuss the issue rationally?

    For me, the question is one of outcomes. Since male circumcision does not result in ongoing pain, nor does it in any way prevent a male from fulfilling his role as a male or a human being, each family should be able to make its own choice.

    But make sure you use a mohel who knows what they’re doing medically.

  • Ian Grinblat says:

    Harold,
    What a pleasure to read your cool reason after wading through the virtiol.
    It raise the question, cas any uncircumscribed male every been founf to have been chemically circumcised after wading through the insulting comments passionate correspondents hurl at each other on this site?
    Does passion really have to generate this excoriating poison?

  • letters in the age says:

    Harold

    lovely riposte the penis does not care about its homeland daniel
    :)

  • Levi says:

    the nazis and the creator of Foreskin man probably used the same argument when they waged their anti circumcision campaign.

    “not getting what you want”? Does that apply to the ban on same sex marriage?

    With all the talk about lack of “consent” and “mutilation,” I’m wondering what the enlightened posters (and there are many here) view on abortion is? That’s going to be a really interesting.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Harold, you are very correct that it boils down to the rights of the child.

    In your closing reflection, you ponder about the effects which reach into adulthood. And I readily agree the vast majority of circumcised men who make it to adulthood suffer no ill effects.

    But you don’t consider the thousands of babies that die worldwide from this barbaric practice.

    How can you honestly not consider that in your reflection if you’re to be truly rational about it?

    So I disagree letters in the age, while there were some good points about subjective morality and emotive language, the conclusion fell very flat when not considering the babies that die.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Sheron, Ilana

    You write about your rights as a parent as if it is a given that they supersede the rights of your children.

    You do not have the right to mutilate your children. It’s not about you, it’s not about your rights. It’s about their rights. You don’t get to decide to permanently alter the physical body of your baby. Or at least you shouldn’t be able to. And incoming legislation permitting, you will no longer have the recourse.

  • Levi says:

    Wow, such a passionate anti abortion advocate.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Levi, if you’re wanting to turn this into an abortion debate, you’re more than welcome. However you should know that a fetus is not a baby.

    If you don’t know this, you’d do well to take an elementary course in Biology.

  • Levi says:

    Jessica Jane of Darwin – was she a little green man? Why did they have a coronial inquest into this abortion? Why did the nurse witness this little “green man” cry for eighty minutes, while it was left in a bowl? They all need a good elementary lesson in biology.

    In an enlightened society it’s all about ‘consent’ and the ‘freedom to chose,’ as many enlightened readers of this blog will tell us. No twisted logic or twisted morality and certainly no hypocrisy.

  • frosh says:

    Sadducee,

    Your wrote

    And that response above (which is not particularly unusual) to a religious topic is why people in the religious community think this site has an anti-religious bias.

    Why would they think that? It’s an article by someone from the “religious community.” Are you suggesting that the comments are more reflective of the site’s bias than the articles?

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Levi, if you’re really going to sit there and disparage consent and freedom to choose then you are much too far gone down the rabbit hole.

    Enjoy your biblical fantasies…

  • Robert Weil says:

    Frosh,
    I have not seen any comments from anyone in the religious community as full of bile, venom, and poisonous, disrespectful language as we regularly see from the likes of Daniel Levy and others on this blog, and here I would also include Nicole Phillips in her recent article. The reason the site is perceived as having an anti-religious bias is that it gives unlimited oxygen supply to this group thst get their thrills by cotinually thrashing around in the cesspool of political correctness.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Really, Robert? You’ve never seen such bile?

    It’s probably because you don’t get there in time. Ask frosh how many comments he’s had to delete on the yeshiva scandal articles that are too disgusting to fathom :)

    If you can’t handle rational inquiry into your morals then they’re not worth a dime. You can cry foul all you like, but all I’m doing is shining a spotlight on your intellectual laziness.

  • Levi says:

    I’m just exposing you for the hypocrite that you are…please forgive me.

    And if you make vile and offensive comments about Judaism and do it under the guise of attacking ‘organized religion,’ I regret to inform you that you also subscribe to a group think mentality and are therefore a member of an ‘organized’ religion. A religion which promotes abortion and ‘marriage’ equality and blond haired, blue eyed caped crusaders who save foreskins. It certainly takes more faith to believe in your religion of hypcorisy and pseudo morality.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    You have done nothing to call me a hypocrite. All you did was conflate fetuses with babies. All you did was show how poorly educated you are.

    You again reveal your lack of intelligence by claiming my secularism as a religion. It is an ideology, but it is not a religion. A religion requires a belief in the supernatural. By definition.

    There is nothing supernatural about abortion or marriage equality. But please keep being as much of a bigot as you can. It’s thoroughly entertaining.

    I just need you to start making some racist remarks about the “ayyy-rabbbsss” and I can tick off my bigot bingo card!

  • Levi says:

    Aren’t the arabs barbaric and primitive because they practice circumcision?

    You’ve totally dodged the Jessica Jane issue (you know the crying little ‘green man’)and gone straight to the subject of my education.

    In addition to ticking my ‘champion dodge ball bingo card,’ you’ve also ticked my ‘enlightened moralist bingo’ card. Killed two birds with one stone.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Levi, I originally had no idea what you were talking about as that happened well before I was keeping up with the news and current affairs. It’s interesting that you could not cite a more recent example, or more of them…

    So to me, that was the same as saying how about we talk about Bruce Baggins and the greying mammoth that couldn’t stop laughing. Had you been more clear, I would have looked it up early. To me, it just looked like another one of your unintelligible ramblings.

    But I looked up the Jessica Jane inquest and that was a 22-week abortion.

    Also known as a late-term abortion. Y’know which is at a stage of pregnancy where there is an actual grey area and a case for life could be made.

    I’m not arguing late-term abortions. I’m arguing before 20 weeks. So have fun with that strawman :)

  • Harold Zwier says:

    Daniel Levy wrote:

    “You do not have the right to mutilate your children. It’s not about you, it’s not about your rights. It’s about their rights. You don’t get to decide to permanently alter the physical body of your baby. Or at least you shouldn’t be able to. And incoming legislation permitting, you will no longer have the recourse.”

    If we accept that the word “mutilate” carries the implication of permanent disfigurement, degradation and damage, then you have not made the case that male circumcision is a form of mutilation. In fact, however strange you find the practice, it is not mutilation.

    In arguing the case about whose rights need to be protected, whether those of the family to raise their child in the rituals of a community, or to limit the rights of the family in accordance with a different moral code, you have not said why your moral code should prevail.

    Your argument that “You don’t get to decide to permanently alter the physical body of your baby” is not true since feeding a baby and encouraging him (we are talking about male babies) to learn to crawl and walk all permanently alter his physical body.

    But your argument, and that of Christopher Hitchens is that religious rituals that wound an infant and cause him pain are abhorrent and part of the irrational edicts of religions that should be banned. Not only that, but some children are permanently damaged when the ritual is botched. If only one child could be spared being damaged, we should have a blanket ban.

    If you want to carry that argument further then we should prevent children from playing sport, walking on the street, travelling in motor cars, camping, swimming or joining the boy scouts. In fact with “incoming legislation permitting” we could prevent thousands of injuries and deaths.

    Do I hear you arguing that each of those activities (playing sport, travelling in cars, swimming, etc.) has a benefit – helping to raise healthy children; aiding the mobility of the community, whereas ritual circumcision does not have any tangible benefit?

    Ritual circumcision is intimately tied up with the continuity of a community. How do you know that banning ritual circumcision won’t have a detrimental effect on its continuity? And if you don’t see that as a bad thing (Hitchens would have had no problem), how do you reconcile your support for the rights of individuals to associate in their community of choice with actively imposing your own views onto others?

    The point is that in a pluralistic society such as ours, there needs to be a set of background rules which form a common bond for all of us, and rules that apply within a community – without coercion.

    However much you and others dislike the practice of male circumcision, it demonstrably does not cause great discomfort to the baby, causes no permanent damage (when performed properly) nor seems to be detremental to the adult.

    Unless you can find an objective reason for arguing that your moral view of this issue is more compelling than that of the communities which support this practice, you should leave families to make their own choice – as they have always done.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Harold, you have an almost neatly packaged up point.

    Except that you attach a worth to that religious community aspect. Any community which requires its parents to endanger its babies to be a part of is not worth its salt.

    And seeing as how religious communities are, by their very nature, opposed to change, secular society must bring them kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

    Banning circumcision won’t disband the Jewish community. It will only do so if the Jewish community lets it happen. They can still keep their matrilineal definition of who is a Jew etc.

    It’s interesting you say “without coercion”. The baby is coerced. But of course, you have established that you don’t care a jot for the baby.

  • Marky says:

    Re caring for the child. A Jewish child from a religious home(and many not religious) would hold it against his parents later in life, if he was not circumcised.

  • Jonny says:

    I never read the details of the original ruling in Germany. As a patent that struggled but chose to circumcise, I like the idea that circumcission that goes so horribly wrong as to be classified as Grievous Bodily Harm should be investigated and if necessary, punished. The concept seems to protect religious freedom and expression but puts in place a limit and requiremnt for the adults involved to be responsible for the activity and the outcomes. I’m sure the judge was very careful about distinguishing careful procedures performed by loving parents from physical butchery. I’m sure that is why the doctor and parents in this case were not punished. They probably took all appropriate steps to ensure safety and well being. If they didn’t they should be seen as guilty of GBH.

  • Jonny says:

    And Daniel I have to say that again Im really demoralised by the way you represent secularist ideology on this blog. You seem to consistently and deliberately, over simplify the issues and requote words often out of context in order to attack or belittle other bloggers. I’m glad Eric and Harold disciplined you here. When you write without attacking you are very articulate.

  • Ari says:

    Whilst my question about theoretical Torah mandated female circumcision was disregarded on the whole and even called offensive my main point was missed.
    One can argue as some have that female circumcision is so morally abhorrent to make it impossible to include in the Torah to the point that Judaism with female circumcision is not Judaism – implying perhaps that that commenter would not be affiliated with such a religion.
    However my point was two fold.
    Firstly, if one could show some kind of analogy between the two the author of the piece could be hard pressed to prove why circumcision is ethical – given that many arguments were brought ‘supporting’ circumcision on the basis of its benefits.
    This brings me to my second point which is that to my mind, as a observant Jew, if female circumcision or any other procedure was mandated by Torah, the oral law and halachic codes its benefits or harms would be irrelevant except as a way to make it more digestible to a general or even halachicaly oriented audience – some thing which on the one hand is commendable but on the other hand paints the true life and mindset, as I understand it, as some kind of attempt at material gain – something which it is not.

  • Ari says:

    Correction
    ‘true life’ : true halachic life

  • Jonny says:

    Ari, lots of harmful practices have been dropped, replaced or adjusted in order to not harm people or to live within State law.

    Are you suggesting that as a culture we would continue a Torah practice that clearly and demonstably phyisically harmed our children for life without debate or
    reflection? Surely not.

  • Levi says:

    Daniel since your such a passionate advocate for children and seeing how much pride you place on education, I thought you would be aware of the Jessica Jane case? There are many, many other cases like this one, especially in Victoria. You are aware that Victoria allows late term abortions? I know that your passionately arguing and doing everything to criminalize this practice.

  • TheSadducee says:

    frosh

    I was referring to Daniel Levy’s comment – which are generally (and presumably deliberately?) gauche and offensive (though not without some intellectual merit in my opinion).

    But really they are not merely confined to him – there is a real trend of commentators here to ridicule or attack orthodoxy – why do you think that alot of people of faith just don’t bother to comment here anymore?

    I’m not religious and yet I notice it. I don’t have a problem with people disagreeing and putting forward their arguments with vigour – this is critical discussion after all, but I do have a problem when it becomes personal and rude and loses its value – something that happens regularly with certain commentators here.

  • Ittay says:

    Based on what I have read, the potential harm (such as infection) caused to a child from a brit mila may be due in some cases to metzizah be’pe (the act of sucking the blood from the circumcised penis of the infant child by direct oral contact.)

    Perhaps if our rabbis made a ruling permitting brit mila without metzizah, there would be less concern over the ritual. See this article for some examples of eminent rabbis who support this position:
    http://www.jewishjournal.com/morethodoxy/item/metzitzah_be-peh_and_protecting_jewish_infants_20120307/

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Levi, from an Age article:

    http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/clinic-will-cease-lateterm-abortion-20120125-1qhqh.html

    “The decision to cease late-term abortions at Croydon appears to leave Victorian women without access to late-term abortions for reasons other than foetal abnormalities.
    The Royal Women’s Hospital and Monash Medical Centre provide non-surgical abortions – by inducing labour – for late-term pregnancies only in such circumstances. In accordance with Victorian law, Dr Schulberg’s clinic also provided late-term abortions for ”psychosocial reasons”, which could nclude for women with intellectual disabilities, psychiatric conditions or drug addictions.”

    So, no, you can’t get a late-term abortion in Victoria unless there are serious dangers.

  • Harold Zwier says:

    Daniel Levy wrote:

    “Any community which requires its parents to endanger its babies to be a part of is not worth its salt”

    Jewish law says that while there is danger to the baby the circumcision is not carried out. All parents are aware of the background risk of a botched circumcision and yet an unbelievably high proportion of Jewish parents choose this ritual for their baby boy – religious, non-religious, people who profess a belief in the Divine and people who see the Old Testament as myths written down by our ancestors.

    These are all people who are aware of the risk, however minor, are aware of the pain inflicted (half have gone through it themselves), are aware of how “outdated” the ritual is in our modern world in the 21st century, and yet choose to identify with a distinctive community. Jewish law mandates the process, yet choosing to opt out carries no overt penalty. Whatever the path parents take to arrive at their decision, dismissing the community as “not worth its salt”
    doesn’t even scratch the surface of the issue.

    “And seeing as how religious communities are, by their very nature, opposed to change, secular society must bring them kicking and screaming into the 21st century”

    Several hundred years ago when the churches held a lot more power, there were similar voices arguing that dissenters who disobeyed God’s laws should be brought kicking and screaming back to proper society.

    In his book, “The Persistence of Faith”, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote that “the history of most religious groups at most times when they held political power” was the use of faith “to deny rights to others on the grounds of faith”. That criticism seems to be as valid for some people of secular faith today, as it ever was.

    Daniel, in his first posting provided a link to a youtube discussion about the evils of circumcision with Christopher Hitchens. There is a rabbi apparently on the panel:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4yS08N0xeU

    If you watch it you will notice that aside from an attempt by the rabbi to dismiss Hitchens’ criticism, with a joke about Nobel prizes, he is largely silent.

    Imagine if the same setting was in front of an audience of religious Jews with the rabbi talking about the importance of brit milah in Judaism. Hitchins would have made the same comments about the ritual being immoral, disgusting and wicked. The audience would not have applauded him – in fact it would have been quite hostile.

    The point is that even if Hitchens were to be as polite as the rabbi was in the youtube clip, he would not have been able to articulate his objection to circumcision in language that a religious Jewish audience would understand. It’s not that English fails. The failure is in understanding and appreciating the moral values that underpin the arguments on each side.

    In the youtube clip the rabbi was largely silent because he understood that he didn’t have the language to discuss the issue of circumcision in a way that the audience would understand. Both sides spoke English but did not share a common language of ideas.

    That failure is one of the drivers of intolerance.

  • Ittay – many Rabbis are considering this issue and how to deal with it. While no-one is suggesting that metzizah be dropped from the ritual, more mohels are using a tube rather than orally, which addresses the risk of cross infection. There have been cases of cross infection in both directions (mohel to baby; baby to mohel).

    No-one has quantified the risks associated with bris. There are risks associated with any medical procedure administered to a child – from vitamin-K injections for newborns to immunisation in general. Is anyone advocating that we ban immunization because of the rare bad reactions?

    In some third world societies, a medical cost-benefit can be assigned to being circumcized. In the West, it would not be purely in medical terms as there are social and cultural considerations. In all cases, it is essential to quantify the “cost” or risks and measure it against a benchmark that might be used for other situations, such as immunization.

    It’s also important to understand if the bad cases have happened just because of poor practice, in which case the remedy is to improve the practice, not ban it.

  • letters in the age says:

    Daniel,

    I like your analogies that are cheeky

    bigoted bingo scorecard for example

    i often wonder how facetious you are with some of your remarks??

    Food for thought…..

  • Daniel Levy says:

    letters, did you just accuse me of coating my remarks in faeces???

  • Ittay says:

    I agree David. I am against banning circumcision. But I do think it could be done in a safer way by doing the things you suggest, and perhaps requiring mohelim to use a tube rather than doing metzizah directly.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Harold, once more you talk of adults who profess a belief in the divine. And adults making the decision.

    You’ve still not adequately countered my point that it is not their deicison to make.

    You made some ridiculous metaphors which I shot down before.

    And now you’re going off tangentially preaching about how it’s all a failure of communication.

    Well I call down your bs, and I’m saying you have not in any meaningful way rebuffed my earlier arguments. You’ve brought it back to the right of the adults, but you have not established that they have that right to decide for their child.

    You made an argument from history (a logical fallacy) and an argument ad populum (another logical fallacy). Let’s have something with actual substance, please, Harold.

  • letters in the age says:

    Daniel

    lol

    youre quick!!

    ;)

  • ariel says:

    Daniel Levy,

    please provide concrete proof one Jewish or Muslim child who is traumatised by their circumcision.

  • ariel says:

    The only relevant comment here has been by Sheron.

    I thought I’d spice this up a bit:

    One of the (myriad of) reasons for brit milah is to teach that it is the woman’s orgasm which is of primary importance, not the man’s sexual pleasure.

    If (BIG IF) studies are right that a man gets more pleasure with a foreskin attached, then this emphasises it more: men are to sacrifice some of their pleasure so that sex becomes about the man pleasing the woman and not about the man getting off.

    The ketuba explicitly states that the husband is obliged to give the wife sexual pleasure and if he fails to do so, it is grounds for divorce. The gemara says that the wife must achieve orgasm before the husband!

    There are ethical discussions to be had in the realm of rights of the child. However, the fact is that circucision of a newborn causes a negligible amount of trauma in a negligible number of cases. A child is probably more traumatised by doctors’ injections, being grounded or having their self esteem broken by an insensitive parent/grandparent. Yet we continue to do “inflict” these “harms” upon our children without a moment’s thought.

    On another note, the German Greens (!) are supporting a law to explicitly declare circumcision legal:
    http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/german-jewish-community-leader-doctor-call-for-law-sanctioning-circumcision-1.451262

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Ariel:

    http://www.circumstitions.com/death-exsang.html

    This baby was so traumatised he literally died

  • Mandi Katz says:

    On dismissive and insulting comments  – seems to me they come from both sides of the religious divide. And either way, I don’t see how you can hold the editors responsible for the fact that there are more of one or the other types of comments. The editors publish  articles which comprise locally written opinion  of interest to Jews from a cross a broad spectrum religiously and politically, which is what makes this publication important  and unusual.

    So you can just ignore the offensive comments, or the offensive part of the comment, if there is something interesting or worth addressing in an otherwise offensive comment.

    As to the subject of bris.

    There is an assumption that bris is dangerous, and non specific reference is made to reports which catalogue the risks, deaths and injuries.

    But the most relevant studies would be about brissim done by a mohel on infants.

    As Harold has noted, most Jews (even those who don’t see themselves bound by Jewish law in almost any other way) continue to subject their infants to bris and do I suspect, with a sense based on experience and observation that the procedure carries very little risk.

    So either the Jewish world is engaged in an enormous conspiracy of silence and denial, or bris as performed by a capable mohel is not very risky.

    On the question of pain and trauma parents make decision about their infant children’s health and development all the time- I am quite convinced that other decisions made about my infant children involved greater likelihood of trauma and of damage to their development than the 90 seconds it took to bris my babies – who didn’t cry or show any sign of distress during or after their brissim – anecdotal I know, but still true.

    People leave babies to cry in order to teach them to self settle, even though this is clearly distressing and difficult for some babies and despite the fact that some researchers advise against it, people leave babies alone in cots and rooms in spite of compelling evidence that generally babies are less distressed  sharing a bed or room, people feed their new born babies artificial food and with bottles in spite of the risks, people use drugs to ‘treat’ teething even though it a normal part of development – and these are done sometimes several times a day for months and even years.

    And in western society many people leave infants in institutionalised care often for many more hours a week than is ideal according to most researchers on this subject.

    So parents make decisions which cause short and medium term distress to their babies for all sorts of social, economic, and lifestyle reasons and expectations, where there is no direct benefit to the infant and where there is real risk and often, real distress.

    In absence of evidence about risk to infants of bris, as performed by a mohel, I see bris as in the same category.

  • Levi says:

    Daniel Levy, you’re obviously aren’t aware of the abortions law reform act 2008 which legalizes late term abortions in victoria. unsurprisingly late term abortions dramatically increased.

    Simply Google – “seven news late term abortions” to watch the YouTube clip.

    In one case a woman requested an abortion after 32 weeks because the child apparently had a cleft lip. a woman can request a late term aboriton up to 9 months purely on social/financial issues etc. Hows that for child mutilation and abuse?

    Worth noting – a late term abortion under Victorian law is defined as being at after 24 weeks. Jessica Jane – the crying “fetus” – was 22 weeks old. But then again, it’s back to elementary biology.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Levi,

    And still, at every week up until a baby is born, the baby is literally a part of its mother’s body. Given full rights of autonomy of the mother, it is a far more grey area than circumcision (where there are two wholly separate entities). It’s an entirely separate debate with wildly different issues.

    And it is a debate you’re trying to make because you are clearly bereft of any meaningful rebuttal to the circumcision debate. In this case, jamming the square peg in the round hole works in your favour because of the increase in magnitude of the situation. But you also don’t do due diligence to the fact that the particulars of the situation have changed, picking and choosing only that which furthers your argument.

    So back to the point, Levi, what right do parents have to cut off a part of their baby’s body?

  • Levi says:

    murder of a child is a grey area. A crying 22 week old “fetus” isn’t human and is a part of it’s mother, therefore you can kill it. No problem. Circumcision- practiced by jews for thousands of years- is a barbaric form of mutilation and child abuse. I like your logic.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Loving how you quotemark fetus but not baby, when in fact it -really- should be “baby” because it’s not actually a baby until it is born. And good that you acknowledge that it is part of the mother. And I never said it wasn’t a morally ambiguous situation. In my ideal world, no abortions would need to happen. But it’s not an ideal world and in finding solutions which maximise the safety of everyone it is the rights of the individual that must trump all. My logic is perfectly consistent. The mother is an individual, her fetus is not.

    Once the baby is born, it is an individual and it has rights.

    Finally:

    “Circumcision- practiced by jews for thousands of years”

    Here we go, back to the history argument.

    SLAVES were kept for thousands of years. Is that a good argument for keeping slaves?

  • Ilana Leeds says:

    B’H
    Oh really a twenty two week fetus is not an individual in its own right. Have you ever carried a child?
    How do you know? From conception, the developing fetus has a G-Dly spark.
    One of the most painful and distressing things I have ever watched was the termination of a 12 week pregnancy. The fetus actually tries to move away from the instrument and opens its tiny mouth as if it is screaming in fear and pain.
    Abortion is wrong and the child is both a part of the mother and an individual if you can get your head around that. Abortion is wrong and it is murder what ever anyone says.

  • Steven says:

    I know a guy who is not circumcised as his two brothers, who were bleeders, died after their bris and the Halacha is that you don’t need to circumcise the third child.

  • Levi says:

    No illana, abortion is about the right to chose.As a woman what would you know? You saw the terminatiation of a 12 week pregnancy? Thats a grey area. Obviously, you have never been to an elementary biology class.

    Circumcision on the other hand is barbaric subjugation, mutilation and abuse of children. As a victim and survivor, I can give you a first hand account of the horrors.

    Consistent logic?

  • Ilana Leeds says:

    B’H
    At my son’s bris I was crying more at the thought of my precious little scrap have anything on his body being touched let alone lopped off, than my son who had the procedure done. He did not cry and it was healed in about three days. He loved the taste of kiddush wine though and still does to this day Competent mohel = minimum trauma for all concerned particularly baby. The benefits of a bris for the boy are many and the ideal time is around eight days. My nephew was not circumcised because his mother is a doctor. Poor kid ended up having it done at eight years of age because of constant infections and a tight foreskin.I think if I was a guy, I know when I would rather have it done. Comparing slavery and an ency wency bit of skin being skimmed off a bit of your anatomy, now really, that is a bit far fetched.
    Please do not compare it to female circumcision which is far more invasive and damaging to a woman’s sexuality and child bearing.

  • Ilana Leeds says:

    B’H
    Abortion is not choice, it is murder. Plain simple murder. You did not choose to come here. How would you feel if I said to you now, ‘I don’t like. You should not exist so I am going to terminate you. I know that you are a part of the community and just like me, a Jew, but I am going to abort you and get rid of you because I do not want to be responsible for you. I am going to take away your right to live.’ That is abortion.

    We are talking about life and it can not be boiled down to an anatomy class. That is over simplification and ignorance of another kind. By your reasoning I think you would be better off without your arm or leg. Let’s chop it off. It is simply a piece of your body. simple anatomy, that’s all? Or is it? :-)

  • Ilana Leeds says:

    B’H
    Levi there are so many contradictions in what you say.

    Circumcision on the other hand is barbaric subjugation, mutilation and abuse of children. As a victim and survivor, I can give you a first hand account of the horrors.

    So you remember your bris?

    No illana, abortion is about the right to chose.As a woman what would you know?
    That is ironic. As a woman I think I know and have experienced more than you with regard to pregnancy. So ironic that you are against circumcision yet PRO abortion. I am still shaking my head in disbelief.

  • Levi says:

    Illana if you scroll back to my previous posts, you will see that not only are you driving my exact point home, but also exposing someones else’s hypocrisy and twisted sense of logic/ morality…

  • Harold Zwier says:

    Daniel Levy wrote:

    “You’ve still not adequately countered my point that it is not their deicison to make”

    Do you suppose that a “deicison” is a decision influenced by a deity?

    “You’ve brought it back to the right of the adults, but you have not established that they have that right to decide for their child”

    Daniel, I have carefully, methodically and repeatedly validated your argument that in a moral framework in which the individual and independent rights of babies take precedence over the rights and responsibilities of parents to make decisions for their babies, parents would not have the right to subject their babies to procedures which are independently determined to be detremental or
    serve no good purpose.

    I have also said that there is no single moral framework in our pluralistic society and that in other moral frameworks it is acceptable for parents to make decisions for their babies, even to wound them in a minor way as part of a process of initiating them into a community, provided the babies suffer no major trauma and suffer no long term ill.

    Your refusal to accept that there are competing valid perspectives only reinforces the point I made, that in this debate there is a failure to understand and appreciate the moral values that underpin the arguments on each side – or as you so clearly put it:

    “And now you’re going off tangentially preaching about how it’s all a failure of communication”

    You assert that your moral framework is superior:

    “And seeing as how religious communities are, by their very nature, opposed to change, secular society must bring them kicking and screaming into the 21st century”

    “And incoming legislation permitting, you will no longer have the recourse”

    So your solution to this issue is to get the state to impose its own moral framework via legislation. Maybe it’s time to re-read “Brave New World”.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Harold, my solution tot his issue is to get the state to do its job and protect the rights of the child.

    That is most certainly a morally superior framework. I can think of no better defensible morality than to protect the rights of the child. Can you?

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Levi, once again, you overlook the fact that I am arguing from the perspective of rights of the individual.

    But this obviously does not matter to you in your small, sheltered and fantastical world where imaginary sky fairies part the sea…

  • ariel says:

    Daniel Levy,

    Your simplistic reply to my request to prove trauma of a (Jewish) male because they were circumcised proves everyone’s point about your arguments fueled by hatred of your own heritage rather than rational logic and a delving into ethics.

    The baby in the coroner’s report clearly died from loss of blood.

    My question was to prove psychological trauma suffered in later life.

    Also, what do you have to say about the Greens in Deutschland disagreeing with you?

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Ariel, I never claimed psychological trauma was the reason for my opposition to circumcision. I have always claimed that it is the unnecessary physical risk.

    The baby never would have died from loss of blood if he hadn’t had the circumcision. That’s like me slitting your throat and saying to the court “WHAT?! I DIDN’T KILL HIM! HE DIED FROM A LOSS OF BLOOD!”

    Re: the greens, so what? You mean a political party disagrees with me? Stop the presses I suppose I’ll have to change all of my views.

    It may surprise you to know that I’m not a card-carrying greens voter. Granted, I’m in a safe liberal electorate so it doesn’t even matter where my vote goes.

  • Great article examining the essence of faith and liberalism in the context of the circumcision debate. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2012/jul/17/german-circumcision-affront-jewish-muslim-identity

  • ariel says:

    Daniel, you’re exhausting.

  • Harold Zwier says:

    David, I read the Guardian article with interest. Maimonides Guide for the Perplexed (Part 3, Chap. 49) gives his view of circumcision and its rationale. It invites speculation about the prevailing conditions of the people who lived in those times.

    Daniel, to assert that your position “is most certainly a morally superior framework” displays a disappointing lack of imagination and lack of curiosity. It’s not that your position on circumcision is wrong – people bring different perspectives to any issue – it’s just that you give no hint that your perspective is informed by the cultural and historical depth of the issue. On the contrary, your attitude is crude and superficial, and proudly articulated:

    “And seeing as how religious communities are, by their very nature, opposed to change, secular society must bring them kicking and screaming into the 21st century”

    All you seem to want to do is impose your own “morally superior” position onto a community – which is exactly the complaint you make about parents imposing ritual circumcision on their baby boys.

    Not all moral frameworks are equally valid or of equal value, but on this issue your concern for the rights of the baby also carry with it an intolerance of the rights of the parents and community to which they belong.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    “Not all moral frameworks are equally valid or of equal value”

    Now who’s deciding the value of moral frameworks? :)

    I value the rights to physical safety of a baby far more highly than the claimed right of a parent to impose its cultural and moral will on its baby.

    I never said my position was objectively that it was better, although I do see how my first sentence may have implied that. I qualified it, however, with “I can think of no better…”

    That is, this is my value judgment that the physical safety of a baby far outweighs the selfish needs of the parents to impose their religion on their baby.

    That is why I view it as morally abhorrent because on the part of the parents, to my mind, it is a weak selfish desire rather than a selfless want for their children to be safe.

    People are certainly going to disagree, but that has been my contention throughout :)

    Re: your continued haranging about “And seeing as how religious communities are, by their very nature, opposed to change, secular society must bring them kicking and screaming into the 21st century”

    “All you seem to want to do is impose your own “morally superior” position onto a community – which is exactly the complaint you make about parents imposing ritual circumcision on their baby boys.”

    In fact, all I am asking is that the parents do not impose on their children. They can do whatever they should so like to their own bodies. If they want a circumcision, hallelujah. If they want to believe in sky fairies hallelujah. But to corrupt the mind of an innocent child in the selfish pursuit of the continuation of your ideology is a violation of the child’s rights.

    And the parent’s claimed right (which really is NOT a right) to be able to indoctrinate their children however they so please falls miserably by the wayside when considering the right of the child to be free from physical abuse and psychological brainwashing.

  • ariel says:

    Daniel,
    I get the feeling that your parents imposed on you how to speak, eat, interact, etc.

    If only they’d just “let you be” so you could live in the jungle and be raised by lion cubs…

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Ariel, the act of speaking and eating is not a value system.

    How you interact is a value system and also up for debate. :)

  • Mandi Katz says:

    how you eat and speak aren’t shaped by values. really?

  • Daniel Levy says:

    No, I said the ACT of eating and speaking.

    Knowing how to speak a language isn’t a moral value. Procuring and eating food is not a moral value either. You’re right however about the types of food.

    You are also correct that there are values that can accompany speaking (but this deals more with interaction, as I qualified later in the original comment).

    The point I was making is that there are many things children should be taught by parents that are devoid of bias, such as empirically based facts and the native language of their country.

    Ariel was flippantly saying that OH EM GEE everything we teach our children is biased and imposing our morals on them!!!!!!!!!!111

    Patently false and plain stupid.

  • Jonny says:

    Re: Daniel Levy – Seriously everyone!!?! WTF!!?! Enough.

    I have been reading Galus for year and Daniel Levy has made his position on all things Jewish very very clear and he has done so consistently on every issues.

    Daniel believes there is no value in faith and no value in culture. Simple.

    Why do you all persist in debating endlessly with him? It is incredibly painful to witness and you invite him the scope to endlessly repeat his same dogma.

    Let him write his views.Then…
    Let him be.

    Move on and offer this community something interesting to discuss.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    “and no value in culture”

    Well now that is patently false

  • Jonny says:

    LOL…
    Look forward to reading your positive pieces about culture mate.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Culture is wildly different to faith. It can be negative, it can also be positive. For example, the cuisines that arise from cultures, and the music are what makes any multicultural society an eclectic mix and a wonderful place to live in.

    A culture of viewing women as inferior is an awful thing. A culture of harming children is an awful thing.

    A culture of prizing education and family are positive ones. I find many positives in the Jewish culture. The prizing of education is actually one of the reasons why religious Judaism is one of the most rapidly declining faiths in the world. Young jews are now on the internet with that same thirst for learning that has been instilled in their formative years, and they tend to find out the truth that nobody really knows the answers to the big questions. Faced with that, they see through their religion’s lies and distortions and BAM 75% secular.

    Ask where the children are in your synagogues. The truth is, they have no desire to be bound by your archaic faith that’s full of lies.

  • Jonny says:

    I stand corrected. You love Jewish culture.

  • Jonny says:

    Sorry Dan, I didn’t mean to stop you blogging. Keep up the great work. I think you’re really making progress with these dumb people.

    I just wanted everyone to stop bothering you. I promise to be on your side from now on.

    Tell us more about how my kids will be inspired by your faithless, traditionless and purposeless culture of Kreplach and Klezma music.

    I must say it’s an inspiring vision that I think we can all hold on to for a lifetime of belonging, questions, comfort and purpose.

    Sorry hope I haven’t offended … maybe Klezma is brainwashing?

    I await your enlightened instruction with excitement.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Jonny, wasn’t it you who was instructing everyone to stop engaging with me and giving me a voice?

    Just because you are far too unimaginative and intelligent to imagine raising a child with traditions and cultures that aren’t steeped in religious dogma does not mean that I can’t, or won’t.

    You also don’t understand what existential purpose means. Instead of allowing somebody else to tell me my purpose, I make my own.

    Raising my children (if I should have them) would be an exercise in growing them into good global citizens who do not infring on others, and nurturing their interests to find a path in life that makes them happy.

    None of this requires kreplach. None of this requires any 2000 year old traditions.

    It is a false-dichotomy that you present.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    unintelligent* whoops, what a typo to make!

  • Daniel Levy says:

    and infringe*

    All over the shop today, Jonny, next thing you know you’ll have made a good argument!

  • Jonny says:

    Engaging… no no no… I’m supporting you… totally convinced!

    Culture, religion, belief, by you, for you, accountable to you, you you you you you… great… Amazing. I’m in.

    Global citizen, imaginative, fantastic thinking… Deep and wonderful. Far beyond what my tiny little mind could have ever conceived.

    I can’t beleieve I didn’t see the genius till now. Consider me your Acolyte!

    I’m waiting for all those dumb people to argue with your genius… We’ll get them mate! The dumbasses who think that learning and faith have a role in identity. Behind you all the way buddy.

    My kids are already saying that they have no interest in exploring their heritage and thinking beyond their own parameters. Brilliant.

    You are way too special and smart. Clever little man.

    Good luck with that child rearing thing you know so much about. Let me know how it goes…

    Good shabbos… oops sorry did it again. Me falling into my brainwashed ways… you’ll really have to look out for me.

  • Jonny says:

    Sorry, you’re right Dan… I’m just completely over your simplistic crap. I’ll just unsubsrcribe on anything you comment on for a while so that your drivvel doesn’t land insultingly in my inbox. When your voice breaks we can talk again.

    Happy meaningless Saturday where you create your own purpose based on meeting your own interests and making everyone happy by not infringing on them… or whatever you wrote…LOL. Remember… think global… act local good citizen. Oh please…. Cheers all.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    “The dumbasses who think that learning and faith have a role in identity.”

    What a hilarious strawman, that you think learning has no place in a rationalist household.

    I suppose you don’t see learning which isn’t symptomatic of brainwashing as learning, however. I understand why you’ve made this mistake, but it’s pretty stupid.

    At least you admit you’re brainwashed, that’s the first step: admitting the problem :)

  • Daniel Levy says:

    “Happy meaningless Saturday where you create your own purpose based on meeting your own interests”

    I love that you actually detest the fact that I create my own meaning based on my own interests. It shows how shackled you are to your caveman faith.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Also Jonny, oh no! You’ve been posting at 6 PM. That means you’ve missed shabbat candle lighting and you’re using electricity outside the sabbath! QUICK, you should repent before the almighty strikes you down. AAAAAAH NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

  • Jonny says:

    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/158063
    Sorry for that digression everyone…
    Back to the topic which is an important one… Interesting update and reaction from Germany’s parliament. It seems that the judge in the case didn’t distinguish between diligent and negligent approaches to circumcision. That is was more like a blanket ban. I would have thought that all surgical procedures are subject to negligence law including Brit Mila. It seems that is the path being reinforced by the German Parliament which makes good sense to me.

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