A Jewish Writer Blames Circumcision for His Pain, When He Should Be Blaming the Soviet Union

The novelist Gary Shteyngart recently published a lengthy article in the New Yorker detailing the suffering he has gone through after a botched circumcision performed when he was seven years old. Born to a Jewish family in the USSR, Shteyngart did not received a brit milah (ritual circumcision) at the traditional age of eight days, meaning that the procedure would have been much more painful than normal even if it had been conducted properly. Not content merely to discuss his own experience, he launched a broader attack on the practice, at a time when an “intactivist” movement is growing in strength, and some European countries are considering bans on circumcision. The rabbi and mohel Hayim Leiter notes that the essay makes numerous inaccurate or misleading claims:

When it comes to the issue of how many children actually die from circumcision, Shteyngart’s numbers may be a bit skewed. On a statistical level, . . . there are studies reporting that there are two deaths in every million boys circumcised per year; there are also studies which report zero deaths in 100,000 boys circumcised per year.

But on a practical level, the numbers seem much clearer. . . . I have spent my career mining the news for stories about brit milah. In my entire career, there has never been a single story of an infant’s death due to circumcision. If a baby had died from the procedure, it would certainly have made headlines.

Shteyngart also makes the claim that circumcision has a very high rate of complications, but the data only reflect that point when the procedure is done later in life. The rate of procedure-related complications during and after circumcision in the neonate is approximately 2 to 6 per 1,000. This rate increases twentyfold for boys who are circumcised between one and nine years of age, and tenfold for those circumcised after ten years of age. An important fact to note here is that the complications this study speaks of could be as minimal as excess bleeding, which is easily remedied with no long-lasting effects.

No one wants Gary Shteyngart to suffer another moment. And, in truth, I commend him for sharing his experience so candidly. But his grievances are not with brit milah itself, but rather with the Soviet government. His struggles most likely resulted from his family’s inability to circumcise him at eight days when the recovery is quickest and easiest. I am sure that is no consolation to him, but his experience should not be taken as evidence that neonatal circumcision is a dangerous procedure that regularly leads to lifelong complications.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: American Jewish literature, Circumcision, Judaism, Soviet Jewry

Why the White House’s Plan to Prevent an Israel-Hizballah War Won’t Work

On Monday, Hizballah downed an Israeli drone, leading the IDF to retaliate with airstrikes that killed one of the terrorist group’s commanders in southern Lebanon, and two more of its members in the northeast. The latter strike marks an escalation by the IDF, which normally confines its activities to the southern part of the country. Hizballah responded by firing two barrages of rockets into northern Israel on Tuesday, while Hamas operatives in Lebanon fired another barrage yesterday.

According to the Iran-backed militia, 219 of its fighters have been killed since October; six Israeli civilians and ten soldiers have lost their lives in the north. The Biden administration has meanwhile been involved in ongoing negotiations to prevent these skirmishes from turning into an all-out war. The administration’s plan, however, requires carrots for Hizballah in exchange for unenforceable guarantees, as Richard Goldberg explains:

Israel and Hizballah last went to war in 2006. That summer, Hizballah crossed the border, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two others. Israel responded with furious airstrikes, a naval blockade, and eventually a ground operation that met stiff resistance and mixed results. A UN-endorsed ceasefire went into effect after 34 days of war, accompanied by a Security Council Resolution that ordered the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in disarming Hizballah in southern Lebanon—from the Israeli border up to the Litani River, some 30 kilometers away.

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer support over the last seventeen years, the LAF made no requests to UNIFIL, which then never disarmed Hizballah. Instead, Iran accelerated delivering weapons to the terrorist group—building up its forces to a threat level that dwarfs the one Israel faced in 2006. The politics of Lebanon shifted over time as well, with Hizballah taking effective control of the Lebanese government and exerting its influence (and sometimes even control) over the LAF and its U.S.-funded systems.

Now the U.S. is offering Lebanon an economic bailout in exchange for a promise to keep Hizballah forces from coming within a mere ten kilometers of the border, essentially abrogating the Security Council resolution. Goldberg continues:

Who would be responsible for keeping the peace? The LAF and UNIFIL—the same pair that has spent seventeen years helping Hizballah become the threat it is today. That would guarantee that Hizballah’s commitments will never be verified or enforced.

It’s a win-win for [Hizballah’s chief Hassan] Nasrallah. Many of his fighters live and keep their missiles hidden within ten kilometers of Israel’s border. They will blend into the civilian population without any mechanism to force their departure. And even if the U.S. or France could verify a movement of weapons to the north, Nasrallah’s arsenal is more than capable of terrorizing Israeli cities from ten kilometers away. Meanwhile, a bailout of Lebanon will increase Hizballah’s popularity—demonstrating its tactics against Israel work.

Read more at The Dispatch

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden