“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

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy