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Jewish activists call circumcision ban superhero anti-Semitic

June 3, 2011 |  3:38 pm

A ballot measure to ban circumcision in San Francisco has taken a strange twist with the publication, by the measure’s sponsors, of a comic book in which an anti-circumcision superhero -– blond, buff and handsome -– battles evil Jewish characters who recall the stereotypical images of classic anti-Semitism.

"Foreskin Man" was written and created by Matthew Hess, one of the leaders behind the initiative to ban circumcision, the ritual cutting of foreskin on a baby's penis that, in the Jewish religion, is considered central to the covenant between the Jewish people and God. Opponents consider it painful and barbaric, akin to female circumcision rites in Africa that have attracted international condemnation.

The measure will be on the ballot in San Francisco in November. Hess is with a San Diego group, MGM Bill, which is also seeking signatures to put a similar measure on the ballot in Santa Monica.

In the book, the blond superhero takes on "Monster Mohel" -– a bearded, black-hatted man with bloody scissors. In the traditional Jewish community, a mohel is a person trained to perform circumcisions.

The publication of the comic book was first reported Thursday in the San Francisco Chronicle, which asked Hess if he considered it to be anti-Semitic. "A lot of people have said that, but we're not trying to be anti-Semitic," he said. "We're trying to be pro-human rights."

The Anti-Defamation League, which was organized to fight anti-Semitism, issued a statement Friday sharply attacking the publication, which it called "an advocacy campaign taken to a new low."

"This is a sensitive, serious issue where good people can disagree," the ADL statement said. "It is one thing to debate it, is another thing to degrade it.  'Foreskin Man,' with its grotesque anti-Semitic imagery and themes, reaches a new low and is disrespectful and deeply offensive."

Hess did not immediately return a phone call seeking further comment Friday.


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-- Mitchell Landsberg