New Banksy work Er… SORRY unveiled at a British style tea party for Palestinian children criticizes British imperialism and Israeli-government for the history of violence.
BETHLEHEM –It is a fact that British street artist Banksy is one artist who does not shy away from controversy. With every work he creates, he stirs up emotion in a way that often ends in contentious debates. So it is with the new Banksy work in Bethlehem. It is titled Er… SORRY.
The new Banksy work questions colonialism and British imperialism. For this new work, Banksy engraved the word Er… SORRY on the Bethlehem side of Israel’s separation wall, which cuts through Palestinian territory. The new Banksy work was created as part of the artist’s stunt marking the 100th anniversary of UK’s Balfour Declaration of 1917. During World War I, the British government issued the Balfour Declaration, announcing support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, then an Ottoman region with a minority Jewish population. The foreign secretary Arthur Balfour, endorsed the initiative that was the first step towards the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, a period when Jews were facing persecution.
To mark the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Banksy invited 50 Palestinian children from the refugee camp to a British style tea party at the occupied West Bank to apologize for the UK’s Balfour Declaration of 1917. The children came dressed for the occasion. Their hats were bullet-riddled helmets decorated with British flags. Additionally, several tatty Union Jacks were flown to bring deeper context to the event.
Together, the children who were descendants of the Palestinians forced to flee their land in the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel, joined in the commemoration of an event that shaped a violent future. Hosting the celebration was an actor who was hired to dress up as Queen Elizabeth II. It was during the party that the Queen unveiled the plaque cast in concrete saying Er… SORRY. “Er” plays on the common initials for Elizabeth Regina. According Banksy, Er… SORRY was commissioned from a professional stone carver whose previous credits include Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. The unveiling party took place outside the Banksy-owned Walled Off Hotel.
Er… SORRY is just an addition to Banksy’s criticism of the tumultuous relationship between the Palestinians and Israelis. Banksy is well-known for his works addressing the violence between the Palestinians and Israelis. Several years ago, he was in the region creating new works that address the plight of the Palestinians and the never-ending conflict. The clash, Banksy notes, has brought so much suffering to the people on both sides.
So, who is to blame for all the fighting between the Palestinians and Israelis, “The British,” notes Banksy. In a statement, Banks explained that the action of the British about a hundred years ago is at the core of the violence happening today. According to him, “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.” Hence, It didn’t feel appropriate to ‘celebrate’ the British role in it.
In spite of the unending wars attributed to the Balfour Declaration of 1917, there is a celebration in London, where the British prime minister Theresa May recently hosted her Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu. The fresh call by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president for the Britain to atone for the declaration has fallen on deaf ears.
Although Israel and Jewish communities view the Balfour Declaration as momentous, Palestinians see it as an epitome of injustices and an act of betrayal. The promise to give away their land to another people by a country that had no right to do so will forever be a source of anger.