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2 pro-Palestinian activists squirt ketchup on Balfour statue in London, are arrested

Demonstrators tarnish effigy of former PM in Parliament to mark anniversary of 1917 declaration, in which Britain backed a Jewish homeland in Palestine

Two women were arrested Saturday when pro-Palestinian protestors squirted tomato ketchup over a statute of former British prime minister Lord Arthur Balfour in the Houses of Parliament in London.

Palestine Action members used tourist passes to gain access to the Members’ Lobby of the Commons where the statue is located.

The Earl of Balfour’s memorial statue was unveiled on May 9, 1962, the UK Daily News reported. It is a tribute to Balfour who was Conservative prime minister from 1902 to 1905.

As foreign secretary in 1917, Balfour signed the eponymous Balfour Declaration that backed establishing a “national home for the Jewish people” in what was to become Mandatory Palestine. The move was seen as giving the Zionist movement official recognition and backing on the part of a major power, and has long been lamented by Palestinians.

“Palestinians have suffered for 105 years because of this man, Lord Balfour – he gave away their homeland and it wasn’t his to give,” said one of the protesters as they squirted ketchup on the limestone statue, calling the condiment “fake blood.” They also glued themselves to the statue’s plinth and pulled out a miniature Palestinian flag while shouting “Free Palestine.”

Metropolitan Police said in a statement that officers were alerted at 11:20 a.m. “to two women who had entered the Parliamentary Estate with tourist tickets.”

“They had glued themselves to a statue in the Members’ Lobby in the House of Commons and had thrown ketchup over the statue and a wall,” police said.

The pair were arrested for criminal damage.

In a statement, Palestine Action said the protest “struck at the very heart of the government.”

“The British were initiating the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, fulfilling the Zionist aim to build their ‘home’ over the top of what were Palestinian communities, towns, villages, farms and ancestral land, rich in heritage, culture and ancient archeological history,” it said.

In 1947 as the British mandate in Palestinian drew toward its end, the UN adopted a partition plan for the land which would have seen the establishment of two states, a Jewish and Arab one. Israel’s Jewish communities accepted the plan but Arab leaders rejected it and launched a war that led to the establishment of Israel in 1948. Many Arabs fled or were expelled during that war.

Palestine Action also commented against Israeli arms supplier Elbit Systems, which has locations in Britain, saying “captive Palestinians in Gaza are used as a human laboratory to develop Israeli weapons.”

On its website, Palestine Action describes itself as “a direct-action network of groups and individuals formed with the mandate of taking direct action against Elbit Systems’ British locations, calling for them all to be shut down and for the British government to end its complicity in the colonization of Palestine.”

In 2017, amid events to mark the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, a lobby group petitioned for the UK government to issue an official apology for the document.

The UK Foreign Office posted a response to the petition saying “The Balfour Declaration is a historic statement for which HMG (Her Majesty’s Government) does not intend to apologize.”

“We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel. The task now is to encourage moves towards peace,” it said.

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