Your RDA of Irony

Aaron Go Bragh

November 2, 1917:  If Only Arthur Balfour Had Hired a Realtor

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. The declaration was sent as a letter to Lord Rothschild who, at least in Balfour’s circle, seemed the most prominent Jew in the world.  (Albert Einstein, Leon Trotsky and Louis B. Mayer may have felt slighted.)

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.

(The Turks failed to make a counter offer to an Austrian Rothschild.)

But the British Home Office might have  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….

  1. Michele says:

    I always thought that the Jewish homeland should have been Italy, which was pretty much going to waste until recent decades and would have made a perfect multidenominational theme park.

    • Eugene Finerman says:

      Dear Michele,

      So you don’t want to share Ireland with me? In fact, I love Italy and I certainly can claim Roman citizenship. (It was forced on my ancestors; they did not appreciate Italian food or anticipate Verdi.)


  2. Mike says:

    Actually, I have long believed that the Jews should have offered the entire state of Utah, being as it has its own dead sea and sacred mountains and a desert they could make bloom. There is the problem of a hemidemisemi-native sect having established there, but I think they could have been successfully relocated (and out-West Americans have a great deal of experience in this regard) to Palestine, with probably better results all the way around.

    • Eugene Finerman says:

      Dear Mike,

      But would my tribe have to cede Hollywood and Broadway to the Mormons? I am having terrifying thoughts of Mitt Romney on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing in “Fiddler on the Roof”.


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