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Er, Sorry: Banksy holds Balfour 'apology party' for Palestinians

The event involved children dressed as Queen Elizabeth II for a British-style tea party [Getty]

Date of publication: 1 November, 2017

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Thursday marks the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, when the British government said it viewed 'with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people'.
Secretive British street artist Banksy held an event to apologise for the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration on Wednesday outside his hotel in the occupied West Bank.

The typically surreal event involved 50 children hosted by an actor dressed as Queen Elizabeth II for a British-style tea party.

Their party hats were bullet-riddled helmets with British flags on them, while tattered British flags were flown.

The queen revealed a plaque carved in concrete saying "Er, Sorry," playing on the common initials for Elizabeth Royal.

The apology was etched into Israel's controversial separation wall, which in many areas cuts through Palestinian territory.

Thursday marks the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, when the British government said it viewed "with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people".

One hundred years ago on 2 November, 1917, then British Foreign Secretary James Balfour wrote a signed letter to Walter Rothschild, a committed British Zionist peer and aristocrat.

The document, a mere 124 words in total, was to have far-reaching consequences for the Middle East:

Dear Lord Rothschild,
 
I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet:
 
His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
 
I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.
 
Yours,
Arthur James Balfour

Read also: 
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Written by the world's foremost empire, the letter transformed the trajectory of the nascent Zionist movement, legitimising its political aspirations for the ultimate goal of establishing a Jewish state in Mandate Palestine.

For Palestinians, who formed more than 90 percent of the British Mandate of Palestine's population at the time, the letter was an act of betrayal, promising their land to others at the stroke of a colonial pen.

While the letter did not create the State of Israel, it was the first significant declaration by a global superpower in favour of Zionism's goals.

"This conflict has brought so much suffering to people on all sides. It didn't feel appropriate to 'celebrate' the British role in it," Banksy said in a statement.

"The British didn't handle things well here – when you organise a wedding, it's best to make sure the bride isn't already married."

Palestinian children from al-Aida refugee camp attend the event in occupied West Bank [Getty]


A plaque carved in stone saying 'Er, Sorry,' was revealed playing on the common initials for Elizabeth Royal [Getty]

Israel and its supporters remember the Balfour Declaration as an historic gesture of support towards the Zionist narrative of return from exile. The Israeli prime minister's official residence in Jerusalem is today located on Balfour Street.

For Palestinians, still stateless 100 years later, the letter is an historic mark of colonial duplicity, reflected in the present day reality of settlement building, exile and dispossession amid an ongoing struggle for statehood.

The British government has said it will mark Thursday's anniversary "with pride", with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to attend a dinner in London with his British counterpart Theresa May.

Banksy opened the Walled-Off Hotel near Bethlehem in March, with all the rooms facing directly onto Israel's separation wall.

The artist closely protects his identity and was not said to be in attendance Wednesday.


Agencies contributed to this report 

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