Lord Balfour’s Portrait Slashed by Pro-Palestine Activists

Lord Balfour's Portrait, at the University of Cambridge's Trinity College, Suffered Harm From Pro-Palestine Activists.

Mar 9, 2024By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Lord Balfour
The protest group Palestine Action slashed a painting of Lord Balfour housed at the University of Cambridge’s Trinity College. Photo courtesy of Palestine Action.


Lord Balfour’s portrait, at the University of Cambridge’s Trinity College, suffered harm from pro-Palestine activists. Overall, the members of the protest group Palestine Action slashed the painting. Protesters chose this piece for its target because of its connections and the sitter’s dubious support of Zionism.


Lord Balfour As a Key Person in Establishing Israel

The Second Jewish Temple, model in the Israel Museum. Source: Wikimedia Commons


Zionism is a political ideology and a nationalist movement that emerged in the 19th century. Its goal was to enable the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine. Following the establishment of the modern state of Israel, Zionism became an ideology that supports the development and protection of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.


Lord Arthur James Balfour played an important role in the founding of the state of Israel. This is due to his position as the British Foreign Secretary. In 1917, Balfour addressed a letter to Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild, the head of the Zionist cause in Britain. He also affirmed the British government’s backing of the formation of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, the region’s known name during the Ottoman Empire.


Balfour early in his career. Via Wikipedia


The Balfour Declaration appears as a watershed moment in the long-running conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. It was the first time a major world power acknowledged the goal of creating a Jewish nation in Palestine. This also boosted global backing for Zionism and laid the groundwork for the formation of Israel in 1948.

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Still No Arrests

Balfour in Mandatory Palestine with Vera and Chaim Weizmann, Nahum Sokolow and others in 1925. Via Wikipedia


Philip Alexius de László created the painting of Lord Balfour in Trinity College in 1914. The Palestinian Action group intentionally went after the Lord Balfour artwork. They also described his declaration as the beginning of “ethnic cleansing of Palestine by promising the land away—which the British never had the right to do”. “After the declaration, until 1948, the British burnt down indigenous villages to prepare the way; with this came arbitrary killings, arrests, torture, sexual violence…”.


The group went on: “This also included rape against women and men, the use of human shields, and the introduction of home demolitions as collective punishment to repress Palestinian resistance”. The Nakba refers to the violence perpetrated by British and Jewish people in Palestine during the formation of Israel. More than 750,000 people were compelled to flee at the time.


The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Via Olga Levin.


The Cambridgeshire Constabulary, the local police force, said in a statement that it received an online report of criminal damage to a painting at the university. “Officers are attending the scene to secure evidence and progress the investigation”, police said. “No arrests have been made at this stage”.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.