Your RDA of Irony

Would the Irish Have Liked Latkes?

For a politician, Arthur Balfour was surprisingly sincere. Whether he had amusing memories of Benjamin Disraeli or had enjoyed a luxurious weekend at the Rothschilds, he really thought that the Jewish people were entitled to a homeland. On this day in 1917, as the Foreign Secretary of Britain, Balfour issued a declaration expressing the government’s official sympathy with the idea of a Jewish haven in Palestine.

Of course, Britain could afford to be so generous. The land was still under Turkish control. Furthermore, drained by the carnage of the ongoing Great War, Britain would have promised anything to anyone for any support. It would have offered Damascus to the Quakers if that would have added an extra brigade on the Western Front.

And the British Home Office might have a recommended a more practical site for a Jewish homeland: Ireland. The Jews could have served as a buffer between the Catholics and the Protestants. Connacht could have been the land of the Cohens. There was the risk that the Jews would be attacked by both sides, but the Irish were still more charming than Cossacks.

Indeed, who is to say that the Jews wouldn’t have quickly ingratiated themselves? They are nearly as loquacious as the Irish and without imperiling the liquor supply. Even more remarkable, they are the only people who read James Joyce–or at least try to.

Brendan Behan said, “Most people have nationalities. The Jews and the Irish have psychoses.” If only Behan had said it to Arthur Balfour….

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