Mondoweiss Online Newsletter


Circumcision deaths are a legalized non-scandal
Jun 24, 2012
Matthew Taylor

Sucking circumcision
Circumcision that involves sucking the blood

Kudos to the Times for reporting on the recent ultra-Orthodox sex abuse scandal. Here’s the NYT‘s latest:

The district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, alleged that the [four] men were part of an effort to protect a prominent member of the Satmar Hasidic community, Nechemya Weberman, who has been accused of 88 counts of sexual misconduct, including oral sex with a child younger than 13 years old.

It’s a travesty if the allegations are true. And yet, a routine violation of children inside the ultra-Orthodox community slides by with zero accountability. In the Daily Beast, Kent Sepkowitz writes, “Circumcision’s Deadly Fault Line: Rationality vs. the Metzitzah B’Peh” (emphasis mine):

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just reported a fatal transmission of herpes from an infected ritual circumciser, or mohel, to an eight-day-old baby apparently related to a practice performed in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community called metzitzah b’peh.
What, you ask, is metzitzah b’peh? According to the CDC, it refers to the ritual when a mohel “places his mouth directly on the newly circumcised penis and sucks blood away from the circumcision wound (direct orogenital suction).”
The transmission of herpes is thought to occur when the mohel, with or without a visible oral herpes sore (herpes is well-known to be transmissible even in the absence of a visible sore), touches his lips to the infant’s newly cut skin—a golden and tragic opportunity for herpes or any infection to enter the bloodstream. The immune system of the infant is far too immature to handle much of anything and some babies are quickly overwhelmed. In the CDC series, infants in two of 11 cases gathered over the last decade died and others were left with long-term neurologic disabilities.

This is legal, repeat, legal to perform in this country.
Let’s review the relevant legal principles:
– The only body part of a child that may be legally amputated without medical necessity and without the consent of the child is the foreskin of the male;
– The one and only time it is legally permissible to perform oral-genital contact on a non-consenting minor is immediately after amputating a male’s foreskin;
– If anyone were to even prick a drop of blood from a non-consenting female minor’s genitalia (much less amputate part of the genitalia) – or put his/her mouth onto the female minor’s genitalia – they would face felony charges.
The NYT previously reported on the metzitzah b’peh-related deaths two weeks ago:

New York City health officials proposed on Tuesday that Orthodox Jewish parents be required to sign a consent waiver before they can take part in a circumcision ritual that is believed to have led to the deaths of at least two babies in the city over the past decade….
Among the more than 250,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews in the New York area, the ritual remains commonplace. In its study, the C.D.C. estimated that roughly 3,600 newborn boys a year in New York had circumcisions that included the procedure…. Ultra-Orthodox authorities have strongly defended the practice as a religious right. Some rabbis argue that there is not enough evidence to show that the procedure causes infection, while others say the practice is important enough that it should be continued anyway.

Here’s how the New York public health department reacted to the metzitzah b’peh-related deaths:

The city’s health department issued a statement last week strongly urging that direct oral-genital suction not be performed during circumcision.

A statement? Strongly urging? That and $12 will buy you a Manischewitz bottle to drink yourself into oblivion at the next Bris.
Here’s what the Canadian Children’s Rights Council has to say about circumcision:

It is the position of the Canadian Children’s Rights Council that “circumcision” of male or female children is genital mutilation… There is no medical benefit to the routine genital mutilation (circumcision) of any children. Further, all Canadian children, both male and female, should be protected by the criminal laws of Canada with regards to this aggravated assault. Currently, the protection provided by the Criminal Code of Canada includes only genital mutilation (circumcision) of female children.

Not only is metzitzah b’peh a violation, so is forced circumcision of any kind. Should not all unnecessary, harmful amputation of genitalia be illegal regardless of gender? Do not males deserveequal protection?
On the question of religious freedom, Sepkowitz writes:

Perhaps the only thing more intensely held than a person’s religious beliefs is a guy’s thoughts about his [penis]. It is just about all we think about. Given this, how completely and bizarrely ridiculous it is that men, millions and millions of men, that brutal tribe that spends all day thinking about it, worrying about it, protecting it, comparing it, agree to give up their foreskin and even that of their sons to the cold blade. That’s the point though—it is the ultimate leap of faith. The church-and-state issue remains unresolved…

If a consenting adult wishes to give up his foreskin to the cold blade, let him; this is indeed his right. If a consenting adult wishes to allow someone to then suck blood out of the wound, let him; this is also his right.
But the aforementioned adult’s religious rights should end where his child’s body begins. It’s my body, it’s my foreskin, shouldn’t the choice have been mine?
For parents who wish to practice a religious form of welcoming a child into the world without harming him, try Brit Shalom. See more on Jewish opposition to circumcision here and here, and secular opposition here and here.

Jewish Federation branch cancels Pamela Geller event after interfaith outcry
Jun 24, 2012
Alex Kane

FedScreenshot of the Jewish Federations site advertising the Pamela Geller event. The page has apparently been scrubbed.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has canceled an event this afternoon that was set to feature anti-Muslim activist and blogger Pamela Geller.
The event attracted attention last night when an interfaith coalition of activists sent out a press release denouncing the decision by “a mainstream Jewish organization” to host “one of the nation’s leading Islamophobes.” The LA branch is part of the Jewish Federations of North America, an establishment Jewish organization that has 155 branches across the country.
Geller promptly took to her blog to denounce the “craven capitulation of the Jewish Federation to Islamic supremacist Jew-haters.”
Geller posted what the Zionist Organization of America, which organized the event, announced to supporters this afternoon:

Unfortunately, with just a few hours notice, the Jewish Federation has backed down on its agreement to let us host Ms. Geller in their conference room. The topic: “Islamic Jew Hatred as the Root Cause of Failure to Achieve Peace.” As tenants of the Jewish Federation, the ZOA has the privilege of using the conference room with advanced notice, which the ZOA has with secured with the management weeks in advance.
While the Jewish Federation has expressed security concerns (which in and of itself bespeaks the intimidation tactics of Muslim groups), we believe that the Jewish Federation has succumbed to political pressure by Muslim and Left-wing Jewish groups not to let a rational voice of criticism of Islam and its war against Israel be heard on its premises. These Muslim and Jewish groups have blown up the blogosphere with lies about Ms. Geller and harsh criticism of the ZOA for hosting her at the Jewish Federation.

Geller and the ZOA are now encouraging people to protest outside the Federation building.
It would have been the second time a Jewish Federations branch has hosted Geller. In March of this year, Geller spoke in Philadelphia at the Jewish Community Services Building. The building is owned by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, according to the Jewish Exponent, which reported that Geller was “shocked Federation was allowing her to speak in this space and that she is usually shunned by Jewish groups.”
As the Electronic Intifada‘s Ali Abunimah notes, the events are an “example of the marriage between pro-Israel advocacy and open incitement against Muslims.”
Geller’s event was on “Islamic Jew-Hatred: The Root Cause of the Failure to Achieve Peace.”Mondoweiss last reported on Geller when she helped scuttle the naming of a day to celebrate Palestine in Oakland’s Alameda County.
Her group Stop Islamization of America has been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and she was a main force behind the anti-Muslim fervor over Park 51, the planned Islamic community center in lower Manhattan. As the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) noted in a press release, Geller

once bragged that she uses a Quran, Islam’s holy text, as a doorstop. She also called for the demolition of a mosque in Florida, and she will be speaking along with the violent racist group English Defence League’s Tommy Robinson at an international event later this summer.

Geller is also an ardent right-wing Zionist. She told the New York Times that the “prism of Israel” is a “very good guide…because, like I said, in the war between the civilized man and the savage, you side with the civilized man.”
Here’s the statement from the coalition denouncing the Geller event. The groups include Jewish Voice for Peace, CAIR, American Muslims for Palestine and more:

We are extremely shocked and alarmed to see a mainstream Jewish organization associating itself with one of the nation’s leading Islamophobes who doesn’t hesitate to share the podium with European racists and whose admirers apparently include Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik. Religious leaders and institutions have an increased and urgent responsibility to promote tolerance and mutual understanding among all Americans, instead of giving aid and comfort to fear-mongers like Geller. Imagine how hurt Jewish community members would be, and rightly so, if they discovered American Muslims hosting an anti-Semitic speaker.

Military dictatorships are good for Israel
Jun 24, 2012
Jim Harris
That’s what the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), an international news agency serving Jewish community newspaper and media around the world seem to be promoting.  The headline was clear:
“Egyptian military’s anti-democratic moves may benefit Israel”
The article by JTA staffer Uriel Heilman went on to say “Egypt’s military coup is now nearly complete. That may be distressing for Egyptian democracy, but it could help the Israel-Egypt relationship.”
This may also be distressing for millions of Egyptians and the cause of freedom and human rights, but there is no mention of that in the article, of course.  No, the only focus here is that what is “good for Israel.”
What do they mean by the phrase “good for Israel”? I suggest that they have not the good of the Israeli people at heart, but it is good for the preservation of an unjust status quo that enables Israel to oppress Palestinians without consequence, while still enjoying “normal” relations with a neighboring state (that just happens to be under a military dictatorship, for now).
If the editors at JTA really had the good of the Israeli people as their prime objective, or if they really cared about Israel’s international status, it would work tirelessly to end all oppression and support full freedom for all people, including Palestinians and Egyptians.
It is tragic that they instead chose to declare beneficial moves toward continued oppression of the Egyptian people because it is politically expedient to preserve Israel’s apartheid rule over Palestinians.
What makes this cheering for military dictatorship even more ironic and even irrational is that they seem oblivious to the fact that this move by the Egyptian military is quite possibly a very temporary arrangement that may be overthrown by the collective will of the Egyptian people.  Tens of thousands are on the streets in Egypt and are not taking this military coup lightly. The people of Egypt do not seem they are going to throw away the hard-won gains from earlier this year without a massive struggle. Even if the military wins in the short-term this is clearly not sustainable.
Finally, have the editors at JTA not given any thought to the millions of Americans, especially young people, Jewish and non-Jewish, who will ponder why stalwart supporters of Israel find it so necessary to support all sorts of oppression, not only of Palestinians, but also now clearly, and without apology, of Egyptians?  What kind of system are they supporting that it can be so indifferent to, indeed, even dependent on, the suffering of others? Don’t be surprised if the answers many come up with are not so beneficial to the status quo.

Rally ’round the flag
Jun 24, 2012
Philip Weiss

Great Neck
Great Neck

I got this photo from a friend. It is of a private Jewish day school in Great Neck, N.Y. He wrote to me: What kind of message does this send to the kids, and outsiders for that matter?
As an answer, let me quote Douglas Rushkoff, writing of his youth going to Larchmont Temple in NY, in “Rally Round the Flag” (an essay in this great book edited by Alisa Solomon and Tony Kushner):

“The flag on the left was American, and the one on the right was Israeli. Which one was I suppose to be looking at when I worshiped? Which one deserved our allegiance? Why were they even in the temple, to begin with?… I figured the one we Jews really believed in was the Israeli flag. The one with the Jewish star… But then why did we have an American flag up there, too? This, I concluded, was a precaution in case a gentile walked in during the middle of services and wanted to know why we were all worshipping a Jewish flag. Weren’t we Americans?”

Pursuing the question into his adult life, and a critical stance toward Israel, Rushkoff concluded on a very hopeful note:

“If I had to pick a flag that best represented the spirit and law of my Torah, it’d be the one on the left.

NYT dares to answer a vital question: ‘What does Adelson want?’
Jun 24, 2012
Philip Weiss
There is a beautiful editorial in the New York Times today called, “What Sheldon Adelson Wants.” It is beautiful because this has been a crushing political issue for our country since 2000 at the very least, when Adelson, one of the richest men in the world, set out to scuttle the Camp David “peace process” and pack the next administration with neoconservatives, and achieved both ends; and for years our journalists have avoided the question, but now they’re not avoiding it. The Times says Adelson’s Israel agenda is “wildly at odds with” the country’s needs. Bravo:

No American is dedicating as much of his money to defeat President Obama as Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who also happens to have made more money in the last three years than any other American. He is the perfect illustration of the squalid state of political money, spending sums greater than any political donation in history to advance his personal, ideological and financial agenda, which is wildly at odds with the nation’s needs….
[What does he want?] The first answer is clearly his disgust for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, supported by President Obama and most Israelis. He considers a Palestinian state “a steppingstone for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people,” and has called the Palestinian prime minister a terrorist. He is even further to the right than the main pro-Israeli lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which he broke with in 2007 when it supported economic aid to the Palestinians.
Mr. Romney is only slightly better, saying the Israelis want a two-state solution but the Palestinians do not, accusing them of wanting to eliminate Israel. The eight-figure checks are not paying for a more enlightened answer.

Writes a wise friend:

I think this editorial in today’s NYT about Sheldon Adelson is powerful evidence of the extent to which the discourse on Israel is changing. The fact that they say he is having a major influence on the campaign — probably more than any other individual — and that his main concern is Israel is quite amazing. And, they are also subtly making the point: it’s really all about money.
I don’t know whether my mind is playing tricks on me or what, but I am struck these days by how out of touch with reality Israel’s staunchest defenders seem to be and how rational-legal its critics appear. I read stuff by Foxman and Dershowitz and I just shake my head. They seem delusional. And contrast Robert Wright with Jeffrey Goldberg. One operates in our world; the other outside it. And it is not because I agree with Wright and disagree with Goldberg on most issues; no, Goldberg is operating in another universe. I can’t help but think lots of people understand this, as reflected in the transformation of Sullivan’s and Wright’s thinking over time.

So, three cheers for the Times. The newspaper also speaks of Adelson’s financial interests in a Republican regime but emphasizes his Israel agenda. I don’t find the financial interest significant because a, this guy is going to make money regardless, and b, he is a dual loyalty case who says he regrets wearing an American uniform and wants his son to be an Israeli sniper. I.e., he’s a zealot. And now the Times is opening the door on his motivation.

Why did the Israeli military kill 13-year-old Ma’moun al-Dam?
Jun 24, 2012
Hama Waqum

Blood-stained pieces of Ma’moun’s clothes were splayed
across the olive grove (Photo: Hama Waqum)

Shreds of black and blue cloth stained in red lay scattered across an olive grove on the outskirts of Gaza City.
The remains of 13-year-old Ma’moun al-Dam’s t-shirt lay hooked into an olive bush and his sandals flung five meters away from where he was killed.
Nobody is talking about what happened at 2.30pm on Wednesday afternoon, and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), as usual, are not being questioned bout their actions.

An untouched picnic and bloodstained cushion.
(Photo: Hama Waqum)

Ma’moun was killed by a bomb dropped by the IDF while he was having a picnic with his parents in a garden in the area between Zeitoun and Tal Elhawwa neighbourhoods.
One of Ma’moun’s neighbors- a man in his 20s who didn’t want to be identified- recalled the events, “I heard a scream and came to the olive grove. I could see black smoke. I froze when I arrived- I couldn’t do anything for five minutes. I saw a young mother screaming over her son’s body.”

A pock marked fence thrown back by the force of the blast. (Photo: Hama Waqum)

The hole where the bomb fell was shallow, and Ma’moun was around a meter and a half away when it landed. His right arm was cooked to a crisp and his body riddled with small holes. His clothes were burnt and lay in shreds in the bushes, sprawled across the olive grove and into neighboring land.  The force of the bomb sent the nearby metal fence flying two meters. The metal is riddled with tiny pea-sized holes.  Ma’moun’s neighbors believe that the bomb held metal pellets, which exploded in a cluster, causing his torso to be dotted with waves of small wounds.

Pellet-sized holes damaged both Ma’moun’s body and
the surrounding area. (Photo: Hama Waqum)

Ma’moun’s school tests and notes were scattered around the picnic site, out of reach of the explosion, which melted the olive grove’s plastic fence. The neighbor recalled, “Ma’moun always likes to write, he brings papers with him everywhere.”
The olive grove has barely been touched in 24 hours. The family’s picnic lies untouched on a plastic table. Next to the dried pickles are a mattress and cushion- both now stained in blood as Ma’moun’s mother moved her son into the shade, laying him in front of his father, who is blind and was injured in the head during the attack. Shrapnel hangs in the bushes and Ma’moun’s phone split into three pieces, intertwined in the brambles.
The neighbor explained that Ma’moun’s mother “put his body down in front of her husband and said to her husband, who cannot see, “Say mashallah; you have a martyr for a son.”
Ma’moun’s death is one of 16 since escalations began on Monday. The 13-year-old’s death has gone largely unreported and the IDF have made no official statement on his death, except by responding to tweets asking for an explanation with a deflection. :

.@welshingaza@sarahcarr Why does Hamas use teenagers on picnics as human shields?
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) June 22, 2012

Neighbors have said that no missiles were launched from the area and if they had, the family would certainly have left their picnic, especially during an escalation.
No proof of a rocket launch has been offered by the IDF and nobody is asking questions about why a 13-year-old was killed.
Put pressure on the IDF to explain why they killed Ma’moun al-Dam.
Contact them here
Tweet the IDFSpokesperson

Muhammed al-Dam grieves over the body of his son, Ma’moun.
(Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA images via Electronic Intifada)

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