Palestine Action deface portrait of Arthur Balfour in Gaza protest

Palestine Action deface portrait of Arthur Balfour in Gaza protest
Palestine Action have defaced a painting of Arthur Balfour, the controversial British politician whose declaration was pivotal in Israel's foundation.
2 min read
09 March, 2024
Until this day, Palestinians hold contempt for Balfour for agreeing to give away their native land in 1917 [Getty]

A pro-Palestine protester on Thursday slashed and spray-painted a portrait of former British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, who was pivotal in the creation of the State of Israel. 

Palestine Action, known for their use of direct action tactics in support of the Palestinian cause, said one of its activists “ruined” the 1914 painting of Arthur Balfour at Trinity College, which is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge.

Balfour was the Conservative prime minister of the UK at the turn of the 20th century, but it was during his later time in government that he paved the way for the future creation of the State of Israel.

In 1917, as foreign minister, he signed the Balfour Declaration, which infamously stated that the British government viewed “with favour the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine”.

Accompanying pictures of the activist defacing Balfour’s portrait, Palestine Action  justified the defacing of the painting on social media:

“Normally our direct action campaign is focused on Israel's weapons trade in Britain," they wrote on X.

“However, it's necessary to highlight Britain's historic and current role in the colonisation of Palestine which roots back to the Balfour declaration.”

On Instagram, the group further explained their actions, writing:

“After the Declaration, until 1948, the British burnt down indigenous villages to prepare the way; with this came arbitrary killings, arrests, torture and sexual violence including rape.

“The British paved the way for the Nakba and trained the Zionist militia to ethnically cleanse over 750,000 Palestinians … The Nakba never stopped, and the genocide today is rooted and supported by British complicity.”

The portrait was painted in 1914 by the Anglo-Hungarian artist Philip Alexius de Laszlo. Balfour was a student at Trinity College, Cambridge from 1866-1869.

Cambridgeshire Police have launched an investigation after the college informed them of the incident, though no arrests have yet been made.

UK Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said on X he was “appalled by the moronic act of wanton vandalism".

“Perpetrators should face the full force of the law,” he added.