Flawed Circumcision Defense: Harold Witkov

When I first read this essay by Harold Witkov, I assumed it was just an offensive smear without research. On my second reading, it has to be a satire of how a non-thinking conservative views opposition to non-therapeutic child circumcision. I know it’s the former, but it’s also accidentally the latter.

After a brief description of a bris he attended recently, he writes:

Just prior to the blessed ritual, the Rabbi got everyone’s attention with a joke. He began, “We Jews are a team. Once you make the first cut you are on the team for life!”

Sad to say, there are some misguided Americans who would love to break up the Jewish team. They are the intactivists (as in keep the penis intact), a generic term for the activist opposition to infant circumcision. They have succeeded in getting a proposed ban on male circumcision on the San Francisco ballot this November, and are working hard to get similar ban proposals across the nation.

I do not wish to “break up the Jewish team”. Although I do not refer to myself as an “intactivist”, I advocate for the principle that all children have a right to be free from non-therapeutic genital cutting to which they do not consent. It’s a principle that everyone respects for female children. There is no justification sufficient to overrule that for healthy males. If a male reaches an age of consent (not necessarily the age of consent) and wishes to be circumcised for any non-therapeutic reason, he should be able to do so. I expect an overwhelming majority of males raised in Judaism would undergo the procedure. Wonderful, nothing would stop them. But the elective rate would not be 100 percent. That is why this individual right to reject the surgery must be protected.

So far, Mr. Witkov is wrong, but he’s barely dancing on the border of ridiculous. From this point forward, he’s abandoned logic in favor of the absurd and ad hominem.

Intactivists are twisted-minded do-gooders who are trying to convince the masses that a law to ban circumcision is as commonsense as a law that mandates car seats for infants. They are dangerous thinkers who have organized. While grossly exaggerating medical risks and denying the medical benefits of circumcision, the intactivists oppose male circumcision, citing it as an unnecessary cruelty and mutilation imposed upon an unwilling baby. While they hide behind their false front of grave concerns, I have figured out who they are and what makes them tick.

“Twisted-minded” is interesting. In what way? By demanding equal protection of existing law for male minors under the same principle? That’s not twisted, unless one ignores the reality of circumcision. Again, it’s non-therapeutic genital cutting on a non-consenting individual. There is nothing twisted in suggesting that no one should have normal, healthy, functional body parts removed without their consent. If protecting that right is pejoratively “doing good”, so be it.

A law to ban circumcision is common sense because circumcision is a form of harm inflicted on children. Think of it this way. A law mandating car seats is designed to protect children from harm. But how many infants are involved in accidents? Most infants would be fine if their parents didn’t use car seats because their parents don’t get into accidents. They would never be harmed by riding unsecured in a car. Yet, we know that illogical approach is flawed. The harm to all infants from being a passenger without being in safety restraints is the risk of harm from an accident. They probably won’t be in an accident, but they might be. We don’t know who will be the unlucky victims, so we protect every infant from the harm, to the extent possible.

The same applies to circumcision. Every circumcision involves objective harm, of course, which is neither an exaggeration nor a denial of potential benefits. But for the comparison to car seats, every circumcision involves the risk of harm beyond what is inevitable from the surgery. These include excessive bleeding, infection, skin bridges, meatal stenosis, partial or complete amputation, and death. Thankfully the more extreme complications are rare, but they occur. Any individual infant could be affected by such an outcome. So, yes, it’s common sense to protect all children from unnecessary, non-therapeutic surgery and the permanence and risks it involves.

Now, for Mr. Witkov’s ad hominem:

First and foremost, intactivists are anti-Semites. I do not use this accusation lightly. But what better term can be used for a group that advocates fines and imprisonment for those who follow one of the most important precepts of their Jewish faith? Intactivists have no respect for the covenant of Abraham and his descendants. By seeking to outlaw it, they have meddled with the primal forces of Judaism and declared war on it.

Is someone who opposes in civil law other actions prescribed in religious texts anti-religion? Of course not. There is a principle involved. The burden to prove anything about circumcision should rest with those who wish to impose it. Our society is flawed, so the burden is on me to prove that my position is stronger. I can and will. But to accuse all who advocate against child circumcision of being anti-Semites is an attempt to shut down the conversation. The language of the law is generally applicable and promotes a legitimate state interest. Any advocacy will attract its share of people on the fringes who hold offensive, incorrect beliefs. The anti-Semitic actions of a few are not useful as a blanket description of those who advocate against non-therapeutic child circumcision on principle.

Intactivists are a bunch of hypocrites. They see nothing wrong with a pregnant woman choosing to annihilate her fetus. Yet, they feel compelled to ban infant circumcision due to the suffering it inflicts. I wonder if they would be agreeable to circumcision in the womb?

Mr. Witkov is conflating opposition to non-therapeutic child circumcision with adherence to liberal politics. That’s incorrect. I am not a liberal/progressive. I have not stated my opinion on abortion here, so his sweeping claim can’t be proven. He does not know whether I’m a “hypocrite” or not. Regardless of one’s position on abortion, though, it’s clear that children, once born, have rights. That is the focus here. Abortion is a red-herring that distracts from the discussion. (I’m sensing a trend in Mr. Witkov’s non-rigorous methodology.)

Intactivist men and women are part of the far-left movement and are a threat to the American system designed by our founding fathers. Their mission is a big brother government that removes individual choice and imposes the will of their self-anointed elitism. Leftists, in most cases, love government-imposed regulations, are anti-Israel, are pro-abortion, and pine for the day the United Nations can regulate every human activity on the planet. Leftists believe in uniformity. They have no room for the individual, for non-Jewish parents who want circumcision for their sons, or for Jewish religious exemptions. Intactivistits [sic] are far leftists who embrace uniformity to such an extreme they want to regulate penises!

Again, I’m not a liberal/progressive. As a defender and promoter of individual rights, including the rights of children, I’m hardly a “threat” to the American system designed by our founding fathers. I don’t seek a big brother government that removes individual choice. The only ones in this debate who remove individual choice are those who remove their sons’ foreskins without his consent. In my view, every individual retains his choice, even if he chooses what I wouldn’t. In Mr. Witkov’s view, every individual male gets the choice of his parents. Unlike Mr. Witkov I don’t pretend to know what is appropriate for other individuals, which is why I want the decision left to each individual to choose – or reject – for himself. Mr. Witkov is defending individual choice over another, permanently.

His last two paragraphs are comedic proof of his accidental satire of a non-thinking conservative, with a nod to Godwin thrown in. I won’t bother highlighting them further. But in doing a moment of research, which is more than Mr. Witkov apparently did, I encountered this essay he wrote about being dismissed over his fear of a one-nation Islamic Middle East in the future. I am bemused that he opened with this:

Because I am a conservative, as far as the left is concerned, I am assumed guilty of several psychological disorders. I am, just to name a few, a sexist, a racist, and a homophobe.

Because I’m an intactivist, as far as the right is concerned, I am assumed guilty of several psychological disorders. I am, just to name a few, an anti-Semite, an elitist, and a hypocrite.


3 thoughts on “Flawed Circumcision Defense: Harold Witkov”

  1. Thanks for sharing. Beliefs like Mr. Witkov’s demonstrate the danger in wrapping circumcision in with other issues. If people get the belief that they have to do a, b, c, d … to not circumcise, they may skip it all. I’d rather someone (possibly incorrectly) deem that they can’t breastfeed, but that they’ll respect their son’s genital integrity regardless.

    That’s the important fact here. There is no ideological or partisan test over whether one should support genital integrity. There may be tendencies that favor one side or the other, although I’m skeptical. But this issue is simple to understand and demands no additional beliefs for acceptance.

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