Pro-Palestine Activists Slash Painting of Former British Prime Minister

Members of the activist group Palestine Action spray-painted and slashed a portrait of former British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour on view at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. The protest action was documented in a video posted to Instagram today, March 8, by the organizing group along with other pro-Palestine accounts. 

In the video, a brown-haired individual wearing a dark blue puffer jacket sprays what appears to be red aerosol paint on the work, a 1914 painting by Anglo-Hungarian artist Philip de László, before proceeding to tear into its canvas with some type of blade or boxcutter.

“Trinity College regrets the damage caused to a portrait of Arthur James Balfour during public opening hours,” the school told Hyperallergic in a statement, adding that “police have been informed.”

The 1914 portrait of former British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour was created by Anglo-Hungarian artist Philip de László. (image via Wikimedia)

The caption of the post takes aim at Balfour, who served as Prime Minister from 1902 to 1905 and penned the 1917 Balfour Declaration during his time as Britain’s foreign secretary — a statement that has been criticized for setting a colonialist precedent by establishing Britain’s support of “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” effectively leading to the forced displacement of Palestinians.

The declaration was first included in a letter from Balfour to British Jewish leader Lionel Walter Rothschild and later incorporated into the British Mandate for Palestine following the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I.

“Written in 1917, Balfour’s declaration began the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by promising the land away — which the British never had the right to do,” reads the caption of the activists’ Instagram video.

“The British paved the way for the Nakba and trained the Zionist militia to ethnically cleanse over 750,000 Palestinians, destroy over 500 villages and massacre many families,” the caption continued, adding that the “Nakba never stopped and the genocide today is rooted and supported by British complicity.”

Tagged with the hashtag #BritainIsGuilty, the post concluded by scrutinizing Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems, which has manufacturing outposts scattered across the United Kingdom. 

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