“The Slaughterman’s Daughter” Is an Unabashedly Zionist Novel of Jewish Eastern Europe

Set in 19th-century Poland, the Israeli writer Yaniv Iczkovits’s 2015 novel has as its protagonist Fanny Keismann, who joins up with a motley crew of shtetl outcasts to hunt for her deadbeat brother-in-law. Recently published in English as The Slaughterman’s Daughter, the book gets its title from the profession of Fanny’s father, who has taught her the art of killing beasts in the kosher fashion. Adam Kirsch, in his review, describes it as a “picaresque tale” that “combines martial-arts bloodbath and Gogolian satire, feminist fantasy, and Zionist parable.”

There are no Zionists in Iczkovits’s tale, and the movement is spoken of in dismissive terms: “Those who dream of Palestine inevitably end up dying of malaria,” observes one character, a tsarist secret policeman. But the novel reprises, in an antic key, one of the central ideas of early Zionism: that Diaspora Jewry suffered from its physical passivity, its unwillingness to take up arms and fight. Among the surprising achievements of the state of Israel was to transform the world’s image of Jews from hapless victims to brave and resourceful warriors—though the world doesn’t necessarily like the new version any better. In this sense, Iczkovits’s adventurous Jews are Zionists whether they realize it or not.

[Thus], when Fanny steals away from home in the middle of the night, headed for Minsk, it’s a good thing she has a trusty blade strapped to her thigh. Before long she has to use it to defend herself from bandits, leaving three of them dead on the road with their esophagus and trachea neatly sliced: “Pleased with the kosher slaughter she has just performed, she returns the knife to its sheath,” Iczkovits writes.

Suddenly we are in a [Quentin] Tarantino movie, with Fanny as a Yiddish version of the Bride, Uma Thurman’s sword-wielding avenger in the Kill Bill movies. There’s no room in a traditional Jewish community for such martial prowess, Iczkovits observes—“not due to their being spineless or faint-hearted, but rather by virtue of their reason and pragmatism.” As a hated, outnumbered minority, East European Jews developed an ethos of meekness and minding their own business. . . . But Fanny’s transformation suggests that there’s a potential warrior lurking inside every docile Jew.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hebrew literature, Israeli literature, Shtetl, Zionism

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University