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Arthur and the Acetone

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Arthur and the Acetone
written by George Bernard Shaw
Written and published in 1936.
THE NEW LEADER sent Shaw a copy of the Report of thie Special Commission of the Independent labour forty on the situation in Palestine and asked whether he would care to make a comment upon it. The historical paragraphs in the Report to which Mr. Shaw refers are as follows:
"The decision of the British Government to establish a National Jewish Home in Palestine was made for Imperialist purposes. Its object was to secure the support of Jewish populations and Jewish finance during the War, and to provide an excuse for the British annexation of Palestine after the War.
"The British annexation of Palestine was carried out by the method of a mandate. The British mandate was an Imperialist move to protect the route to India, to control the Eastern Mediterranean, and to guard the oil of Mosul which flows through the pipe line to Haifa."

All nonsense, the historical part of it. Why will people persist in attributing to our Old School Ties a Machiavellian sagacity and foresight of which they are utterly incapable? The British Cabinet never sees as far as the end of its nose until somebody pulls it very hard. Let me dramatize the true story of Arthur Balfour and the Zionists:

1917. Scene: The Foreign Secretary's room at the Foreign Office. Arthur is contemplating with dismay a document-which has been handed to him by an attaché.

ARTHUR. Boy: this is awful. Are you sure your figures are correct?

ATTACHE. They have been checked three times over,Sir.

ARTHUR. This is really what the war is costing us?

ATTACHE. Under the mark, if anything, sir.

ARTHUR. Young man, do you realize—but no. Only a Scot can feel as I feel about it. Look at this one item alone. £5,038 l5s. 9 7/8d. for cordite enough to kill a single German. How can any country stand such a strain?

ATTACHE. It's not the cordite, sir. It's the acetone that is so expensive. Cordite cannot be made without acetone.

ARTHUR. I don't know what acetone is; and I don't care. All I know is that if we go on like this we shall have to give an order to cease killing Germans. Dead Germans cost too much Are our chemists trying how to find something cheaper?

ATTACHE. They are doing their best; but nothing has come of it so far. There's a chemist in Manchester who has a microbe that makes acetone for next to nothing.

ARTHUR. Send him here instantly. Why hasn't he been sent here before?

ATTACHE. Impossible, sir, unfortunately.

ARTHUR. Nothing is impossible when we are at war.Why is it impossible?

ATTACHE. He is a Jew, sir.

ARTHUR. Is his microbe a Jew?

ATTACHE. I suppose not, sir.

ARTHUR. Is Sir Herbert Samuel a Jew or is he not? Is he in the Cabinet or is he not?

ATTACHE. But it is a coalition Government, sir. All sorts of people are let in.

ARTHUR. Any other objection?

ATTACHE. Well, Manchester, you know, sir. Provincial. And Owens College! If it were Cambridge, now, we might stretch a point.

ARTHUR. If this Jewish gentleman is not in this room in three hours, you go to the trenches.

ATTACHE. Oh, if you make a point of it, of course. But we shall lose tone.

ARTHUR [roaring] Get out!

The attaché shrugs his shoulders and goes out.

ARTHUR [clutching his temples as he again pores over the sheet of figures] Five thousand and thirty eight golden pounds to put one Boche out of action! And we have to exterminate the lot of them!

As before, three hours later, but with Dr. Chaim Weizmann instead of the attaché.

ARTHUR. Doctor Weizmann, we must have that microbe at your own price. Name it. We shall not hesitate at six figures.

DR. WEIZMANN. I do not ask for money.

ARTHUR. There must be some misunderstanding. I was informed that you are a Jew.

WEIZMANN. You were informed correctly. I am a Jew.

ARTHUR. Butmdash;pardon memdash;you said you did not ask for money.

WEIZMANN. Precisely. I do not want money.

ARTHUR. A title, perhaps? Baron? Viscount? Do not hesitate.

WEIZMANN. Nothing would induce me to accept a title. I should have to pay more for everything.

ARTHUR. Then may I ask, without offence, since you want none of the things that everybody wants, what the devil do you want?

WEIZMANN. I want Jerusalem.

ARTHUR. It's yours. I only regret that we cannot throw in Madagascar as well. Unfortunately it belongs to the French Government. The Holy Land belongs naturally to the Church of England; and to it you are most welcome. And now will you be so good as to hand over the microbe.

Mr. Bernard Shaw in his sumptuously furnished study reading the announcement of the Balfour Declaration.

MR. B. S. Another Ulster! As if one were not enough.


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