Theresa May has been sent up by renowned British street artist Banksy. Because while May toasted a 100-year-old letter that paved the way for the occupation in Palestine, Banksy had an actor dress up as Queen Elizabeth II and offer an apology on Britain’s behalf instead.
The fake Queen ceremoniously unveiled a piece of ‘the wall’ – a security barrier between the West Bank and Israel – which was engraved with the words:
Meanwhile, a mock English-style street party took place around her.
The inscription used a play on E.R. (Elizabeth Regina – i.e. ‘Queen Elizabeth’).
Banksy pulled off the stunt next to The Walled Off Hotel in occupied Bethlehem, which he owns.
The celebration Britain actually had
The mock apology comes after Palestinians called on the UK to apologise for the Balfour Declaration of 1917. But instead, May celebrated the declaration.
At a dinner attended by Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu on 2 November, May said that she was proud of Britain’s relationship with Israel. But she also said that both sides needed to make “compromises“, “including an end to the building of new settlements”, in order for there to be peace in the region.
However, she insisted that “there can never be any excuses for boycotts, divestment or sanctions: they are unacceptable and this government will have no truck with those who subscribe to them”. Boycotts, divestment or sanctions (BDS) is a way of putting non-violent pressure on Israel to comply with international law.
Netanyahu also addressed guests, saying:
A hundred years after Balfour, the Palestinians should finally accept a Jewish national home and finally accept a Jewish state. And when they do, the road to peace will be infinitely closer. In my opinion, peace will be achievable.
What’s all this fuss about?
In 1917, during World War I, then British foreign minister Arthur Balfour wrote a letter to Lord Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community.
In it, he wrote:
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.
While this document did not establish Israel as an independent state, it laid the foundation for Western support for the cause. This eventually led to its creation in 1948.
Arab leaders saw Balfour’s letter as a betrayal, as Britain had promised them autonomy over the land in exchange for their help in World War I. And some perceived the declaration as Britain selling out the Palestinians to get Jewish support for the war effort.
But while the second half of Balfour’s declaration seeks the full rights of “existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”, this is still not a reality.
100 years on, Palestinians are living on occupied land, which affects almost every part of their lives. This is while Israel pledges to build even more illegal settlements on Palestinian land. And even though Netanyahu seems to believe it’s Palestine that won’t accept Israel, its allies like the UK still refuse to recognise Palestinian statehood. Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry is just one person, for example, who has insisted that: “the most important way of marking [the centenary of the Balfour Declaration] is to recognise Palestine”.
At the very least, Banksy’s stunt serves as food for thought. Maybe the UK’s representatives should be apologising for its blunder 100 years ago. That is, instead of raising a glass to Palestinian dispossession.
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Featured image via video screengrab