Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

The Crown Jew

If Prince Harry’s parents bucked the royal tradition of using mohels, will it inflame the circumcision war?

Print Email
Prince Harry at the London Olympics on Aug. 12, 2012. (Neon Neal/AFP/GettyImages)

Wa wa WEE wa. Sure, as an expression, it’s a little 2006. But every so often a situation comes along that is so exceptional, so shocking, so deliciously titillating that the nonsense string of syllables made famous as the mating call of Borat Sagdiyev—not to mention Israeli comedian Dov Glickman before him—is the only possible response.

In case you don’t follow me on Twitter, I am speaking of course of the recent photographs leaked of His Royal Highness Prince Harry, epically wasted and splendiferously nude on his post-Olympic Hangover-style romp in Las Vegas. I’m sure you’ve seen them by now, so I’ll refrain from describing them here out of deference to the Palace and in particular, Prince Philip, whose bladder probably can’t stand any more excitement this year, except to say that out of the current crop of “glamorous young royals,” Harry, as far as I’m concerned, is the only one giving anyone their money’s worth. (If I was a British taxpayer, I’d insist on seeing naked pictures of all of them, a la those strange “anatomical” photos the admissions board used to take of incoming freshmen at Ivy League universities. Brutal and archaic, yes, but so is the hereditary principle.)

Yet the story doesn’t end there! Recent reports suggest that even more photos, testimony, and perhaps video footage from that raucous game of “strip billiards” (itself further proof that the rich are different than you and me) are being quietly shopped to leading media outlets. Which means, of course, that the world may finally have the answer to the long-burning question of just what might be concealed behind Harry’s demurely cupped hands: Roundhead, or Cavalier.

The British Royal Family have traditionally been Roundheads. The practice seems to have been instituted by Queen Victoria, partly out of a prevailing 19th-century gush of British Israelism (the belief that the House of what-would-become Windsor is directly descended from the line of King David), as well as the widespread belief that circumcision would discourage masturbation. (Gentlemen, please let us know in the comments if you’ve found this to be the case.) From there, the unkindest cut—or kindest, depending on your point of view—trickled into the British upper classes until petering out in the mid 1950s.

Queen Elizabeth, however, proudly continued the covenant of her Hanoverian ancestress, having each of her three sons, including the Prince of Wales, circumcised not by the royal physician, but by Rabbi Jacob Snowman, the official mohel of London’s Jewish community. From what I understand from my British relatives, he did good work. Why not go with the best? (No word on whether he got to emblazon his business cards with the royal warrant, a la Gordon’s gin or those really expensive rain boots I like.)

When it comes to William and Harry, things become less clear. Prevailing opinion seems to have it that the young Diana blanched, breaking with over 150 years of royal tradition, but only Kate Middleton, Chelsy Davy, Tiggy Legge-Bourke, a handful of Vegas cocktail waitresses, and about a hundred leggy blondes in Belgravia know for sure. (There is a scurrilous, and certainly false, Internet rumor that Charles forced both boys to undergo the procedure immediately following their mother’s death, which sounds like something that obsessive penis weirdo who did Foreskin Man might have made up. Also: Worst. Shiva. Ever.)

But what is certainly clear is that, to paraphrase Perchik from Fiddler On the Roof (the movie, not the play), the winds of foreskins are beginning to blow, all over Europe. Sweden enacted a law in 2001 allowing only those certified by the National Board of Health to perform circumcisions and recommends, but does not require, hospitals to offer them; the Norwegian Center Party has proposed legislation banning them altogether on males under the age of 18. In May of this year a court in Cologne, Germany, ruled that “non-therapeutic circumcision amounted to bodily injury and is a criminal offense under its jurisdiction”; and on Aug. 21, Rabbi David Goldberg was indicted for performing a circumcision in Bavaria. This week, a court in Berlin made circumcision officially legal but extended the authority to perform them only to doctors, which some say remains an impingement on the most elemental of Jewish rites in a country where that’s all still a pretty touchy subject.

Tempting as it is to psychoanalyze probably the most classically psychoanalytic conflict of the 21st century, I can’t. I don’t know if it’s primarily motivated by an odd phallocentrism, or an admirable—if arguably misguided—concern for children and their health, or good old-fashioned Euro-style xenophobia. (Let’s not forget that Muslim practice requires circumcision too, so for bigots this one is a twofer.) Whatever it is, something so tribal, something that cuts (The puns. So many puns.) so deeply to the heart of who we are, is ripe for the worst kind of cultural politicization; the kind of us-vs.-them where everybody loses. Seen through this lens, the decision of the House of Windsor’s sexiest member to cover his, ah, member might be a little more diplomatic than it seems at first glance. The Royal Family distinguishes itself with its complete neutrality. Perhaps Harry, even in his drunken Vegas haze, was alert enough to know that whatever the state of le petit prince, it would only add fuel to the fire.

Or maybe they just had the air-conditioning turned up too high. It is the desert, after all.

***

Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.

Print Email

Being Gay, I Know A Thing Or Two About This Matter. I would be vexed if my Dad did not have it done. Yes, It prolongs foreplay, big time!

Dr Driesen says:

As it is happening in Europe, it is both antisemitic (Jews) and xenophobic (Muslims). To have expected anything else from Europe would have been a mindless hope.
They alsways have been antisemites, and nothing makes more sense to such types, than stripping from Jews their connection to God.
For shame for not admitting that such thoughts still haunt the subconsciouses and even some conscious minds in Europe!
There are so many arguments on both sides that are good ones, especially good health in circumcised males, that it would take a strange mind to advocate such historically damning events as are now happening.
Why not leave these decisions to parents. Since when were governments in Europe appointed the religious police (much like Germany in the 30′s and 40′s)?
By the way, the circumcision sutgery is much more painful in grown men. After the surgery it hurts quite a bit, and the pain lasts much longer than in a newborn.
Ignorance of medicine is no reason to establish religious persecution – which is what this is!

Oluvai. How does circumcision – a ritual act for Jews and Muslims suddenly become the domain of the government – any government.

I believe that in other cultures (that we have information about) many things are done to the collective penisses of youth – like a mountain – it’s there – why not climb it. For some faiths it a sacred act. Believe me Jesus was circumsized; so were his 12 BBFs.
I have no idea about squeamish Diana – but it seems that her sons would have been part of a Hanoverian, royal tradition. It would surprise me if pain was added to her sons’ loss if their father insisted they be circumsized after she died. Vicious rumours? Probably.
Frankly I sympathize with uncircumsized fathers who do not want their sons to look different.
My only son was circumsized at the hospital by a doctor – I requested a bris – but his Jewish father did not agree with this Jewish mother.

I think it is a private choice and should remain just that – at the discretion of the parents. I have no problem with a mohel – their experience goes back thousands of years.

If these laws are to subjugate observance of disliked religion – then I tend to agree with Dr. Driesen. Just admit it has nothing to do with pain or some health concern. Truth truly seems to work out best in the long haul.

Ridiculous, childish, puerile, and not journalism. A shonder.

Actually, the claim that Charles had the boys circumcised after Diana’s death comes out of the circumfetishist community, which you ought to look into. The Foreskin Man comic has been overtaken by events in New York – in fact it mentioned metzitzah b’peh before everyone knew what that was: Nature imitates art.

A Frankfurt doctor thought he would clarify matters to the local Ethics Board by showing them this video of a Brit Milah: http://youtu.be/xTxD6l-8ppw (foreskin torn from the glans at 3:09, sliced off at 3:24, metzitzah b’pen at 3:40) They didn’t react as he hoped at all (even though he showed an edited version), fainting, being sick, shouting at him. Opposition to circumcision is not about Judaism (the child in the Cologne case had Muslim parents), it’s about protecting children (and hence men) from having part of their genitals cut off.

And when you’re old it prolongs it till you go to sleep….

“until petering out in the mid 1950s” Ha! another funny!

It’s been well-documented that the Royal Family used to circumcise its boys – the Queen had Charles, Edward & Andrew circumcised by a mohel, and this was recently discussed on BBC Radio. However, it does appear that Princess Diana was against having it practiced on her boys, and so William and Harry were left intact. Naked photos of William at a polo match a few years ago confirmed he is uncut, so presumably Harry is too.

Umish Katani says:

Dont you think what the parents of Harry do to his peter is private family busines since there wasnt a bris party to celebrate his undoing…. Who cares if he is cut uncut and who did it…. A prick by any other name is still a prick

Everything is on its way to being the Domain of Government

Beatrix17 says:

I agree. Who cares what the royals do or don’t do.

Salomon says:

In fact, “the New Europe”, ruled by the european bureaucracy (a kind of neo-bolchevism) wants to get rid of old inheritances, beginning (that is easier, due to the docility of the jews) by jewish practices (the muslims…huuu… too dangerous to mess with them), then probably they will try to weaken the catholic church… Europe wants to construct the New EuroPerson, a laic, rational and religioussless individuals.

Joseph Kelsall says:

But a ‘prick with a hood’ is usually a mugger!

jcarpenter says:

Hilarious, Rachel. Mine was done at birth by a physician, Dr. Peter Brachman, who also performed a hernia surgery when I was 4 years old. Subsequent doctors have all commented on his excellent work.

Dick Stanley says:

Religious police, indeed. Interestingly, perhaps, as late as 1944 newborn male Gentiles in the U.S. were being routinely circumcised in hospitals without parents even being notified. Poor Queen Victoria. It not only doesn’t discourage Onanism. It actually encourages it.

Adilah Raphael Dolaiano says:

Sounds like a God less prince to me.

u ppl wasting time here, better u ask ur moms which one feel good, she will definately say circumcised if not than she lies, go & find her dildo. it will be a circumcised dildo.

Tom Potter says:

The patriarch of the three major Western religions

Abraham, was a starving guy who went to Egypt with nothing.

He made a lot of money pimping his wife Sara to Egyptian leaders
and
was exposed to the Egyptian concept of one God.

( “was taken into Pharaoh’s house.
And he entreated Abram
well for her sake: and he had sheep, and
oxen, and he asses, and menservants,
and maidservants..”)

After Abraham was kicked out of Egypt

because his wife Sara gave the Egyptians V.D.

he reluctantly left Egypt with his wife Sara,
and the slaves he bought
with the pimping money.

He was so distraught over losing the
Johns
that made him rich, that he mutilated his penis,
the penis of his 13
year old son,
and forced his slaves to also mutilate the penises,
thus
establishing a religious tradition that exists to this day.

Abraham was also kicked out of Gerar

for cauing a V.D. epidemic in that country.

(“For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of
Abimelech,
because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife..”)

It is strange that the three major Western religions,
and a host of
religious customs,

came about because Abraham was pimping his wife

and she gave V.D to Egyptians and the people of Gerar.

Tom Potter says:

The patriarch of the three major Western religions Abraham, was a starving guy who went to Egypt with nothing.

He made a lot of money pimping his wife Sara to Egyptian leaders and was exposed to the Egyptian concept of one God.

( “was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants..”)

After Abraham was kicked out of Egypt because his wife Sara gave the Egyptians V.D. he reluctantly left Egypt with his wife Sara, and the slaves he bought with the pimping money.

He was so distraught over losing the Johns that made him rich, that he mutilated his penis, the penis of his 13 year old son, and forced his slaves to also mutilate the penises, thus establishing a religious tradition that exists to this day.

Abraham was also kicked out of Gerar for causing a V.D. epedemic in that country.

(“For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife..”)

It is strange that the three major Western religions, and a host of religious customs, came about because Abraham was pimping his wife and she gave V.D to Egyptians and the people of Gerar.

ALLEN ROTH says:

It sounds like Charles was genuinely pussy-whipped by Diana. Having been circumcised himself, following the tradition of the House of Windsor, he apparently surrendered to Princess Diana’s objection to the circumcision of their sons, with the result (among other things) that William and Harry do not look like their father when they’re in the shower (one of the reasons for circumcising being the desire of a [circumcised] father to have his sons resemble him). Considering that he will (possibly) be the King of England, it must have taken brass balls for Diana to override his (presumed) will. The medical evidence is all over the board on this vexing issue; I did research on it three years ago. There is significant evidence in favor of both positions.

Michael Cohen says:

My grandson recently had a brit milah here in Jerusalem, safe with a mohel.

Here are some videos on circumcision I made here in Israel.
Two methods of oral suction: http://youtu.be/7DdknKq915g
Also:
Traditional brit milah ceremony (includes metzitzah b’peh – direct suction):

http://youtu.be/xTxD6l-8ppw
People-on-the-street interviews in Jerusalem, discussing whether circumcision should be banned or not:
http://youtu.be/3nmJqkbRn1w “Huna” http://youtu.be/o_YuQLs44Ck “Rocio”

Where in the world did you get the VD thing? If there’s a source somewhere I’d love to see it.

It should be a private choice for the owner of the penis. Religious freedom does not allow people to abuse their children and mutilate them. Forcing kids into the religion of the parents’ choosing is already wrong, but amputating body parts off of them is simply barbaric.

Whatever evidence in favour of amputating healthy tissue off of nonconsenting individuals you found, it has all been debunked. Google “circumcision myths”. Doctors only push for it because it generates massive profit. The foreskin contains 70% of the penile nerves. The point of amputating it is to reduce sensation tremendously, so that there is no more masturbation and sex is only for procreation, not recreation. It works for some, sadly for them.

Religious people are free to have themselves circumcised. The penis of their child does not belong to them. It shouldn’t be legal for parents to have cosmetic, destructive amputations performed on an unconsenting child. It’s not legal for any other body part, or for any body part of a girl. Do you think banning female excision is religious persecution as well?

Do you think banning female excision is religious persecution as well?

Lowell says:

It isn’t mutilation and it isn’t amputation and it isn’t abise. Were it so, Jewish men would never have been able to sire offspring. And personally, I think I have had a pretty healthy sex life and feel nothing is missing.

Lowell says:

Well, showers or not, privates or not, Harry looks nothing like his parents – but he sure does look like Diana’s red-headed riding instructor, with whom she was having very intimate riding lessons while Charles was perchance showing off his Roundhead pedigree to Mrs. Camilla P-B.

Lowell says:

Then according to your stats, I can be happy because my 30% has had a pretty good run…

John Acoma says:

I have no use for any kind of organized religion. At times I have made this crystal clear to those that felt the need to “save” me.
However, never have descended, nor will I ever descend, to the lower than low level the way you did in your disgustingly vulgar comment.

Smell the BS says:

Pederasty and incestuous rape also ‘go back thousands of years’

Smell the BS says:

In the secular state, citizens have human rights. For a baby to have a part of its penis sliced off and sucked by a “Mohel” at an age when it has no capacity go give consent for such a useless and sadistic ritual is a fundamental violation of the right to be free from torture or inhuman and degrading treatment found in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, to which all modern Western democracies are adherent. Therefore, it is imperative for the Government to involve itself when certain batshit ‘communities’ engage in such despicable behaviours and try to dress it up in ‘tradition’ and ‘freedom of religion’.

Everyone who holds dear the sanctity of the human being should be in ABSOLUTE OUTRRAGE that every single Mohel and Rabbi that has presided over and every ‘parent’ that has given their consent to such a vile ritual are not all BEHIND BARS right now.

I was the subject of an adult circumcision under insufficient anaesthetic so I think I am qualified to speak on the topic, albeit nobody sucked the blood out of my cock afterwards!

Smell the BS says:

I’m all for it. Religious people will have to exist within the boundaries of acceptable behaviour established by the secular state, not vice versa. Not the secular state having to carve out exceptions to the Rule of Law for every batshit ‘tradition’ still in existence.

redranger07 says:

Let me guess, Seymour… you probably staunchly believe a “woman should have the right to choose to have an abortion or not.”" LOL. You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. There are hundreds of millions of Christians, in North America, Africa, Canada and Philippines as well as hundreds of millions of muslims and Jews around the world who are happily and proudly circumcised and prove you to be ignorant. MAYO Clinic reports circumcised boys have 10 times lower rates of Urinary tract infections than uncircumcised boys, and HIV rates are significantly lower as well.

I wonder if the author of this incredibly sexist piece also thinks it’s “misguided” that it is illegal for parents to have their daughter’s clitoral hoods cut off. What a load of crap.

Mutilate your genitalia all you want — but do it as a consenting adult.

Grantman says:

Apples and oranges.

Steve O'Leary says:

No doubt it was because she knew sex with an uncircumcised man is better.

Rodrigo_Girao says:

“Why not go with the best?”

The best mutilator is still a mutilator.

Rodrigo_Girao says:

“Why not go with the best?”

The best mutilator is still a mutilator.

Rodrigo_Girao says:

Hint: the “antisemitism card” doesn’t work anymore. Present some actual arguments or get out. Not that it matters, because the only valid argument for circumcision is this: it may be necessary in extremely rare situations.

Now, why not do as you imply, do it to everyone and play safe? I’ll tell you why that’s stupid:

Circumcision is pointless. Preventive surgery is a good idea only if a serious problem is very likely, and impossible to prevent by other means. And it is very dubious that circumcision can prevent anything.

Circumcision is traumatic. Babies are as sensitive to pain as adults. You know those babies that “sleep” through a bris? No, that’s an acute stress reaction. They are in such extreme pain, their brains can’t process it.

Circumcision is harmful. It’s been linked to sexual issues like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, anorgasmic ejaculation, and dyspareunia; as well as mental issues like body dysmorphic disorder, alexithymia, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Circumcision can kill. You bet most cases are swept under the rug, but a study suggested at least a hundred baby deaths per year in the US alone.

Rodrigo_Girao says:

Mutilated women have babies. Your argument is invalid.

Rodrigo_Girao says:

I wonder if those Christians know they are in violation of their own religion (see: Galatians 5).

Rodrigo_Girao says:

Hey, if you’re going to use Jesus & pals as a reference, you have to mention the fact that Christianity is strongly opposed to circumcision (Galatians 5).

Barry Nuechterlein says:

Touché!

Stephen Moreton says:

Fact check:
“Pointless”? Circumcision does protect against a whole range of problems, most famously HIV in Africa. The debate is whether the benefits outweigh the risks in low-HIV countries. The AAP thinks so, other bodies disagree.
“Traumatic”? So insist on local anaesthetic.
“Harmful”? All your claims have been discredited. It make no significant difference to male sexual function see the recent meta-analysis by Tian et al in Asian J Androl “Effects of circumcision on male sexual functions: a systematic review and meta-analysis”.
“Can kill”? Incredibly rarely. The 100 deaths figure has been discredited. Foreskins kill far more through infections, HIV and cancers.

Rodrigo_Girao says:

I was going to write a detailed answer, but while looking for that study you mentioned, I happened to come across a post by you… in which you make reference to articles by notorious circumfetishists Brian Morris and Jake Waskett.

Seeing those two names, I deem your argument invalid. Automatically and irrevocably. As soon as you take those depraved beasts as a serious reference, you’ve fouled out. You’re disqualified from the discussion. Go away.

Rodrigo_Girao says:

More like “double standard” or “hypocrisy”.

Stephen Moreton says:

Thank you for a fine example of the “ad hominem” logical fallacy. It is so much easier to dismiss something on the basis that you don’t like a source, than to actually address the technical issues, isn’t it? I am aware that the two gentlemen you refer to have been subject to hysterical smear-campaigns and abuse. Unlike you I can recognise innuendo and character-assassination when I see it, and I don’t fall for it. If anything it puts me off the people resorting to such behaviour. If that is the level they stoop to then clearly they are scientifically bankrupt. Besides there are things I could say about some prominent intactivists that are less than complimentary, and better supported by evidence. But I prefer to go by evidence published in the peer-reviewed literature, most of which I find by searching PubMed, not biased intactivist websites that cherry-pick what their readers see, ignore critiques of their favourite claims, and pass off speculation as fact. Like it or not, Morris and Waskett are as much in that literature as any of your heroes, so it is perfectly legitimate of me to cite them (although if you’d bother to check you’d see I cite many others too). If you have a problem with that then address it on TECHNICAL grounds and spare me the ad hominem dismissals, and personal attacks. If the last is all you are capable of then you have nothing to contribute and you are the one who should go away.

Rodrigo_Girao says:

Are you still there? Shoo, shoo.

Stephen Moreton says:

Such a powerful, logical argument. So rich on detailed reasoning, and strong, peer-reviewed, scientific evidence. About what I have come to expect of intactivists. Perhaps the reason you resort to ad hominems and personal attacks is because your critics’ arguments are too strong for you to refute.

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

The Crown Jew

If Prince Harry’s parents bucked the royal tradition of using mohels, will it inflame the circumcision war?

More on Tablet:

In San Francisco and in Palestine, It’s Time To Grow Up and Take Responsibility

By Liel Leibovitz — From smashing Google Glasses to rejecting peace talks, failing to understand natural rights is leading to some very dark places