Anti-Circumcision Activists Flood New York Times Comments Section
Anti-circumcision activists have pounced on a New York Times feature article about female mohels, flocking to the comments section to describe Jewish ritual circumcision as “barbaric,” “primitive,” “child abuse,” and “mutilation.”
The Times awarded its gold medal “Times Pick” stamp to 12 of the 428 comments received about the article. Six of those 12 comments were hostile to the practice.
The most popular “Times Pick” comment, with upvotes from 356 Times readers, came from “AL” with a location listed as “US.” It said, “We’re Jewish (and doctors). And we made the decision NOT to perform this irreversible, elective, and non-therapeutic cosmetic surgical procedure on our newborn son last year, despite a lot of family pressure to do so.”
More than 300 Times readers upvoted another “Times Pick” comment that said, “Let’s be absolutely clear about something. what were [sic] talking about here is ritual genital mutilation. can you imagine an article praising the entry of men into the field of forced clitoral removal?”
“It’s beyond time to do away with this barbaric physical mutilation. My son is still intact, I was not so lucky,” wrote Times reader J Darby, of Woodinville, Washington, in another “Times Pick” gold medal comment.
Activists in Europe and San Francisco have attempted in recent years, without much success, to ban the bris, a ritual described in Genesis as the sign of the covenant between God and Abraham.
A “reader pick,” not awarded the Times gold medal but nonetheless winning upvote recommendations from 204 Times readers, was Mark Bau’s contention, “It is child abuse/mutilation, pure and simple. No parent has the right to decide which body parts their child can and cannot keep. This practice belongs in the dark ages.”
The Times news article itself warned that for mohels, “The job these days does come with occasional harassment, Dr. Blake said. It’s ‘antisemitism merged with anti-circumcision,’ she explained.”
That description, accurate as it is, particularly stuck in the craw of many of the Times commenters. “Circumcision should be a choice, not a default practice performed on infants, whether as part of a religious ceremony or for cosmetic reasons. I resent the suggestion that this opinion is antisemitic,” wrote “Jen” of Charlotte, North Carolina, in a comment awarded a “Times Pick” label.
If Dr. Blake is correct that antisemitism characterizes some of the vehement opposition to circumcision, one wonders why the Times comment section is lending such a platform to it, and even legitimizing it with gold medals and “Times Pick” accolades.
Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. More of his media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.