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

June 11 2021

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

The U.S. Is Trying to Seduce Israel into Accepting a Bad Deal with Iran. Israel Should Say No

Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its quarterly report on the Iranian nuclear program. According to an analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security, the Islamic Republic can now produce enough weapons-grade uranium to manufacture “five nuclear weapons in one month, seven in two months, and a total of eight in three months.” The IAEA also has reason to believe that Tehran has further nuclear capabilities that it has successfully hidden from inspectors. David M. Weinberg is concerned about Washington’s response:

Believe it or not, the Biden administration apparently is once again offering the mullahs of Tehran a sweetheart deal: the release of $10 billion or more in frozen Iranian assets and clemency for Iran’s near-breakout nuclear advances of recent years, in exchange for Iranian release of American hostages and warmed-over pious Iranian pledges to freeze the Shiite atomic-bomb program.

This month, intelligence photos showed Iran again digging tunnels at its Natanz nuclear site—supposedly deep enough to withstand an American or Israeli military strike. This tells us that Iran has something to hide, a clear sign that it has not given up on its quest for a nuclear bomb.

Meanwhile, Antony Blinken today completes a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, where he is reportedly pressing the kingdom to enter the Abraham Accords. This is no coincidence, for reasons Weinberg explains:

Washington expects Israeli acquiescence in the emerging U.S. surrender to Iran in exchange for a series of other things important to Israel. These include U.S. backing for Israel against escalated Palestinian assaults expected this fall in UN forums, toning down U.S. criticism regarding settlement and security matters (at a time when the IDF is going to have to intensify its anti-terrorist operations in Judea and Samaria), an easing of U.S. pressures on Israel in connection with domestic matters (like judicial reform), a warm Washington visit for Prime Minister Netanyahu (which is not just a political concession but is rather critical to Israel’s overall deterrent posture), and most of all, significant American moves towards reconciliation with Saudi Arabia (which is critical to driving a breakthrough in Israeli-Saudi ties).

[But] even an expensive package of U.S. “concessions” to Saudi Arabia will not truly compensate for U.S. capitulation to Iran (something we know from experience will only embolden the hegemonic ambitions of the mullahs). And this capitulation will make it more difficult for the Saudis to embrace Israel publicly.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Antony Blinken, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship