|Arthur and the Acetone|
|Written by||George Bernard Shaw|
|Subject||Chaim Weizmann gets Arthur Balfour to give him Jerusalem|
Arthur and the Acetone (1936) is a satirical playlet by George Bernard Shaw which dramatises an imaginary conversation between the Zionist Chaim Weizmann and the British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, which Shaw presents as the "true" story of how the Balfour Declaration came into being.
In 1936 a Special Commission created by the left-wing group the "Independent Labour Forty" had written a report about the 1917 Balfour declaration, which had committed the British government to bring about a Jewish homeland in Palestine after World War I. The Special Commission concluded that the plan was part of an Imperialist strategy to control the Middle East by promoting support for the British Empire among Jews and obtaining "Jewish finance" for the war effort, with a long term purpose of securing access to India and to Middle Eastern oil.
Shaw thought that this explanation attributed far too much Machiavellian brilliance to Balfour, and proposed his own alternative account, represented in the playlet. Shaw says that the declaration was extracted by Weizmann for his contribution to the war effort, in particular his help as a chemist in finding new ways to manufacture acetone cheaply. This claim was in circulation at the time, as it had been expressed by David Lloyd George in his Memoirs, published in 1933.
Act 1: Balfour is appalled by the cost of the war, especially the need for acetone to make cordite. His attache says that there is a chemist who might be able to help, but unfortunately he is a Jew — and from Manchester. Balfour says that prejudice must be put to one side.
Act 2: Weizmann arrives. Balfour says they need more acetone. Weizmann says he can get it, if Balfour gives him Jerusalem. Balfour agrees, while insisting that the Holy Land as a whole "belongs to the Church of England".
Act 3: Shaw reads about the Balfour declaration, and predicts it will create "another Belfast".
The playlet was published in The New Leader on 29 November 1936.Shaw later wrote a similar playlet about the origin of party politics entitled The British Party System . A Jewish chemist based on Weizmann is portrayed in similar terms in Shaw's later play Farfetched Fables .
The Balfour Declaration was a public statement issued by the British government in 1917 during the First World War announcing support for the establishment of a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine, then an Ottoman region with a small minority Jewish population. The declaration was contained in a letter dated 2 November 1917 from the United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. The text of the declaration was published in the press on 9 November 1917.
Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour was a British Conservative statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1902 to 1905. As Foreign Secretary in the Lloyd George ministry, he issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917 on behalf of the cabinet.
Chaim Azriel Weizmann was a Zionist leader and Israeli statesman who served as president of the Zionist Organization and later as the first president of Israel. He was elected on 16 February 1949, and served until his death in 1952. It was Weizmann who convinced the United States government to recognize the newly formed state of Israel.
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The Faisal–Weizmann Agreement was a 3 January 1919 agreement between Emir Faisal, the third son of Hussein ibn Ali al-Hashimi, King of the short-lived Kingdom of Hejaz, and Chaim Weizmann, a Zionist leader who had negotiated the 1917 Balfour Declaration with the British Government, signed two weeks before the start of the Paris Peace Conference. Together with a letter written by T. E. Lawrence in Faisal's name to Felix Frankfurter in March 1919, it was one of two documents used by the Zionist delegation at the Peace Conference to argue that the Zionist plans for Palestine had prior approval of Arabs.
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The White Paper of 1939 was a policy paper issued by the British government, led by Neville Chamberlain, in response to the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine. After its formal approval in the House of Commons on 23 May 1939, it acted as the governing policy for Mandatory Palestine from 1939 to the 1948 British departure. After the war, the Mandate was referred to the United Nations.
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L. J. Greenberg, born Leopold Jacob Greenberg (1861–1931), was a British journalist. He had become an energetic propagandist of the new Zionism in England by the Third Zionist Congress in 1899, at which he and Jacob de Haas were elected as members of the ZO's Propaganda Committee. His frequent dialectical debates were conducted as editor of The Jewish Chronicle, the leading paper in Britain for the Jewish community. Greenberg called for decency and humanity towards World Jewry.
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Farfetched Fables (1948) is a collection of six short plays by George Bernard Shaw in which he outlines several of his most idiosyncratic personal ideas. The fables are preceded by a long preface. The ideas in the plays and the preface have been called the "violent unabashed prejudices of an eccentric".
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