Secretive British street artist Banksy organized a special event on the 1st of November to apologize to the Palestinians for the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.
This apology tea party held at the artist's Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, commemorated the Balfour agreement by hosting Palestinian children from nearby refugee camps whose grandparents were displaced as a result of the events Lord Balfour set in motion a hundred years ago.
Aside from marking the anniversary of Balfour Declaration which paved the way for the establishment of Israel, Banksy also presented new street artworks. The entire event was spurred by the fact UK's politicians planned to mark the anniversary as a cheerful celebration, so Banksy intended to satirize what he saw as shameful happenings:
This conflict has brought so much suffering to people on all sides, it didn’t feel appropriate to celebrate.
Historically speaking, the Balfour declaration was the result of discussions between British Zionist leaders seeking political recognition of their goals for Jewish statehood and British politicians embroiled in the World War I.
The declaration, which promised British assistance to create a Jewish homeland, served as the basis for the British Mandate of Palestine which was approved in 1920 by the League of Nations. Needless to say, Banksy is far from impressed with what UK's officials managed to pull off:
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.
A special tea party was put into motion as a response to politicians insisting the marking of the 100th Balfour declaration anniversary should have a strong positive note. Banksy commissioned a professional stone carver to inscribe the central motif of the party - a British royal crest and an apology simply stating Er... Sorry.
Editors’ Tip: Wall and Piece
Banksy, Britain's now-legendary "guerilla" street artist, has painted the walls, streets, and bridges of towns and cities throughout the world.
This ironic expression of regret was etched into Israel's controversial separation wall which in many areas cuts directly through Palestinian territory. Several dozen Palestinian children had been invited to the uncompromising event that featured scorched bunting and flags, cakes and helmets painted with union flags. The surreal event involved about fifty children hosted by an actor dressed as Queen Elizabeth II.
However, although it may seem logical that Palestinians are united behind the party's cause, they have actually been divided over Banksy’s activities. Although some tensions can be traced to a time the British street artist started to make his Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, it seems that this ironic tea party sparked a lot of debate in the local community.
Some Palestinians feel as if their voices are eclipsed by the publicity of the Bristol-based street artist, believing the event is trivializing and ridiculing their struggle.
In fact, there were protestors that crashed the street tea party. They objected to the way the Banksy's gathering was using Palestinian children as the centerpiece of the performance. Still, these activists did not cause too much of a concern as they kept the tension quite civil, but they did plant a large Palestinian flag in the middle of the party's cake.
A hundred years ago, the issue behind this protest started to initially unravel as Israelis and Palestinians began marking the declaration on the 2nd of November in starkly different ways.
Since then, at least according to Banksy, the British government did not live up to its part of the bargain despite the Balfour declaration clearly stating that the rights of the Palestinian people will always be taken into account.
Whether you might agree or disagree with this point of view, Banksy still managed to yet again prove why he is a leading name of contemporary art.
This British-style tea party set at a table beneath the looming presence of a concrete separation wall is yet another brilliant indicator of how the Bristol-based artist is capable of finding brilliant, unpredictable and dramatic ways of getting the message across to the audience.
Featured images: Er... Sorry, via theguardian.com; A Tattered Union Jack Flutters Outside Banksy's Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, via KITV.com. All images used for illustrative purposes only.