Two Guevaras

David Goldberg

Riding To Fame On A Wave Of Envy And Hatred

Let me admit a fair measure of shock about the fact that my friend David Goldberg is being criminalized as a Jewish mohel or circumciser. Now I start wondering what has a pediatrician from Giessen to bother about a Jewish mohel, who has done him no harm whatsoever and whom he does not even know - accusing him of mutilating babies. Don’t hold your breath by thinking of the frightening low birth rate in Germany. By contrast two weeks ago one of the most influential orthodox Rabbis of Israel died in Jerusalem at the biblical age of 102 years, leaving behind the amazing number of one thousand living offspring over five generations. The circumcised orthodox Israelis have on average of ten children, not least a delight to any good natured pediatrician. 

The name of the German detractor of Jewish life in the country of the Holocaust is the pediatrician Dr. Sebastian Kamm if you google Doctor Kamm he emerges as nobody. Nearly all the Google hits he gets are about the cause of Rabbi Goldberg. However if you had googled him a month ago you would have got just one linkedIn hit. Two days ago he got 1200 hits today its 26000, growing by the hour. So it appears he at least has got his brief Andy Warhol moment of fame - nothing less and nothing more, but who knows? Compare this to his impact on the Jewish community in Germany and beyond which is devastating and utterly painful. This political asymmetry is breathtaking and conjures up pictures of the 1930ies when the Nazis set off. 

In addition as in 1933 Germany seems to be taking a lead again today with the cause of anti-Semitism. With the Holocaust in living memory 700 doctors and lawyers signed a letter to chancellor Merkel demanding a ban on the time honored Jewish ritual, which is the whole point of the story: no blushes, no embarrassment anymore. However to the subtle observer it’s been for quite some time that secular unease has been piling up in the West against Jewish and Muslim religious rituals such as houses of worship, kosher slaughter and circumcision, mostly in Europe, particularly Scandinavia but also in crisis torn California. In Sweden, for example, only persons certified by the National Board of Health are allowed to circumcise infants. The procedure must also be carried out under anesthetic, and a doctor or nurse must be present. Though the law, enacted in 2001, met with objections from Swedish Jews and Muslims, the Scandinavian country has continued to maintain it. Since 2007, most public hospitals in Australia stopped the practice of non-therapeutic male circumcision. However, the procedure is still performed in private hospitals. In the United States, circumcision has remained a gray legal area due to an absence of definitive legislation. 

But the witch hunt against Rabbi Goldberg triggered by Dr. Kamm is special, proving Germany’s role as the most radical secular country in the West, second only to Russia. The only thing that comes close is the recent campaign of the gay community of San Francisco which somehow has been a forerunner in this matter. There last year gay groups launched a “Stuermer”- like public campaign against ritual circumcision depicting bloodthirsty ugly Jews with hook noses brandishing sharp daggers over baby penises. Anti-Semitism and hatred of the traditional core family have rarely been linked so obviously for quite some time. It can be assumed that with the anti-circumcision campaign the gay community aggressively retaliated to their defeat in a previous poll for legal recognition of gay marriage in California. They perpetrated lots of violent actions targeting individual opponents whom they identified just like the infamous SA did in Germany during the 1930ies. The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office interfered arguing in its press release the malign comic book endorsed by the gay organization seeking the ban were “darkly evocative of Nazi propaganda of the 1930s and 1940s.”  

The publicity might not have escaped the notice of the Cologne judge who sensed the Zeitgeist which is the opportunistic and malleable urban mind set of always giving blind progress and fun preference over scrutinizing anything. What went badly in California is due to a remaining sense of decency in the American public which in turn is conspicuously absent in Germany these days if you look at the ground swell of hatred in countless readers’ commentaries on the Web or the e-mails and phone calls Rabbi Goldberg received. 

Germany has a strong motive of deflecting negative media coverage in the rest of Europe for its present role of being Europe’s lender of last resort for ailing economies. It does not surprise then that some have the guts to take on the issue of ritual circumcision for it is the perfect outlet for their unease with spendthrift and licentious Jewish-Anglo-Americans. Anti-Semitism and Anti-Americanism stay always close on the German mind. For not only most of the tiny number of post-Holocaust Jews in Germany are circumcised but most Anglo-Americans too: according to a 2007 (US-CDC) survey, 79 percent of adult men in the U.S. have been circumcised and the majority of those procedures were carried out with babies. That’s the big issue. For this happened in the country which remains the paragon of Western liberty. 

Add to this that circumcision is very often wrongly regarded as enhancing sexual performance and then you come to understand why philistine German common sense might have kicked in and informed the Cologne judge. Another uncomfortable fact to be introduced here regards the frightening number of male rape, estimated well between 30 or 40%, in family settings or beyond which gives you a sense of the pressure. The irony is that circumcision is religiously firmly considered, despite some confusion about it with regard to the opposite effect, to decrease the sexual male appetite. To be sure the notion of sexual restraint pores out of the covenant between Abraham - the founder of Judaism and in effect monotheism - and God at the times of Sodom & Gomorrah.     

Now Dr Sebastian Kamm in search of fame at the misery of others has of course a very telling second name, not for nothing proudly presented on the web. His parents, obviously of a radical left persuasion, chose for him the very ambitious last name of the Bolivian doctor and revolutionary Che Guevara. Having not quite lived up yet to his parents high expectations if we trust in Google, Guevara Kamm seems now determined with his Google hits growing by the day, to make good on this. But accomplishing this by denunciation of an innocent Rabbi whom he not even knows personally but must have clipped from the papers is a remarkable feat. The way he chose his target indicates that his name “Guevara” must finally have percolated on his personality. 

Now Dr Kamms name sake Ernesto Che Guevare was also a doctor, albeit one who left the ethics of Hippocrates far behind, becoming a mass murderer after joining the dictator Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolution. Nevertheless Guevara is still an adored international icon on the Left regardless of evidence that on his orders dozens of his innocent opponents had been executed without trial in the manner of the German Gestapo. 

Former Cuban prisoner Armando Valladares remembered Che as "a man full of hatred" while accusing him of executing dozens who never stood trial. Alvaro Vargas Llosa of “The Independent Institute” has hypothesized that Guevara’s contemporary followers "delude themselves by clinging to a myth", while describing Guevara as "Marxist Puritan" who employed his rigid power to suppress dissent, while also operating as a "cold-blooded killing machine”.

Now cool Guevara Kamm seems to be following this “Marxist puritan” lead when stating, according to German press reports, that the charge of anti-Semitism was a “typical reflex” reaction and that he was not anti-Semitic. He seems to need not bother for it is by now well established, as we saw in San Francisco, that anti-Semitism has travelled from the political Right to the Left after the Holocaust. Therefore Goldberg is probably right, when he told the Jerusalem Post, “Of course it’s anti-Semitism…What does this doctor care about our children or what we do, or do not practice?” Guevara Kamm could not even wait for state regulation already well underway in the German Bundestag and went ahead with his invidious legal action. 

Goldberg relates that he has received emails and telephone calls labeling the practice of “brit mila” or circumcision primitive and saying that if Jews do not like the law of the land “they can go back to where they came from.” Well here we are again, just one more deja vue.  Officials at the international Simon Wiesenthal Center expressed “shock and anger” over the incident. “Historically, attempts to stop the Jewish people from performing this core Jewish rite, dating back to our patriarch Abraham, were associated with ancient Greek and Roman rulers and modern-day tyrants like Stalin and Hitler, not democracies,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the center. Question is, what kind of democracy does Germany want to be?

on circumcision


This issue is much too interesting to be treated in such a hallucinating way, as Mr Hansen offers in his weird essay. The decision of the Cologne tribunal rose many controversial discussions, at last, we are talking about Human Rights, the mental and physical inviolability of children, the parents' right to education and the liberty of religious believes.

How can we join these different juridical claims and treat their inherent conflicts? These are complicated questions with empirical, ethical and juridical implications worth to debate. Though it is surprising that most authors, including Mr Hansen, use the sound of aggression and cultural fighting.

It should be discussed, which value has religion in a secular society, the range and limits of accepted plurality, the association of minorities and the liberty of religion in the totality of Human Rights. Polemic comparison, for instance against other minorities, with 'circumcised fertility' or with the Nazi-regime, have a blocking impact, are factual nonsense and contribute to a blunt banalisation of the national-socialist crimes committed in Europe.

Liberty of religion includes the liberty to cherish traditions as well as critique of traditions, the critique of religion, countercritique, and other aspects. The respect is not owed to religious tradition, but to Man, for whom such traditions are important, identifying and formative for his life. Dummy slogans like “Do you still believe or are you already thinking?” document an aggressive approach, as well as the Nazi and Guevara (who was Argentinian, by the way) comparison of Mr Hansen.

Ambitious illumination in the Kantian sense is more than simple rationalism. In a critical reflection on the limits of our understandings, it composes a comprehension of multidimensionality of human reason, experience and concept of senses. Rationality, without that sensibility, works recklessly. Such a tendency we find in the juridical writings giving the basis for the tribunal's decision.

Of course, the circumcision of boys' (or babys') penises is a irreversible act, juridically an act of criminal assault. The question is, whether such an act can be justified, not by medical indication, but by religious motives accompanied by the consent of the parents. Now we speak about religious liberty – including the parents' right to religious education. But religious liberty is no charter to cancel Human Rights or other res justitiae. Discriminating slogans as 'barbaric practice', 'mutilation', or 'assault against defenceless children' rose resentment in the Muslim and Jewish communities.


dear Mr Hansen

I can guarantee you that there is no new Ché Guevara in Germany. I would know!