Palestinians protesting the 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration have been attacked by Israeli authorities during a demonstration in Bethlehem. The controversial 1917 document promised the soon-to-be British Mandate Palestine to the Jews of Europe, paving the way for the Israeli settler-colonial state.
Protesters from various factions marched from the southern end of the city to the north, stopping at Israel's separation or “apartheid” wall. There, they erected an effigy of the document's author, Arthur Balfour, beating and throwing shoes at it before burning a copy of the declaration.
Israeli forces quickly deployed live ammunition and tear gas to quell the protest, injuring several protesters in the process.
At the same time, British graffiti artist Banksy staged a Bethlehem street "apology party" hosted by a Queen Elizabeth II lookalike. The monarch, played by an actress, unveiled a new artwork etched by the artist into the West Bank separation barrier beneath a Tudor crown. The engraving reads simply: “Er... Sorry.”
Children from nearby Palestinian refugee camps attended Banksy's tea party, wearing plastic helmets adorned with the British flag and riddled with mock bullet holes.
"This conflict has brought so much suffering to people on all sides," said Banksy. "It didn't feel appropriate to 'celebrate' the British role in it. The British didn't handle things well here – when you organize a wedding, it's best to make sure the bride isn't already married."
Palestinians have long condemned the Balfour Declaration – named after then British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour – as a promise by Britain to hand over land that it did not own. Israelis, however, celebrate it as one of the key moments in creating the modern “Jewish State” of Israel.
Britain had just been formally given the League of Nations mandate over Palestine. Following World War II and a concerted terrorist campaign by Ashkenazi Jewish settler groups such as the Irgun and Stern Gang, British forces withdrew from Palestine and left it in the hands of the newly created United Nations, which favored partition.
By 1948, the Jewish settlers were at war with Palestinian locals and neighboring Arab states, culminating in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. More than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes withing Palestine's borders, an event known as the 'Nakba.'