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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Banksy holds 'apologetic street party' for Balfour outside his hotel overlooking Bethlehem wall

The controversial artist held a party for Palestinian refugee children 

Fifty local children were invited to Banksy's Balfour event. Mussa Qawasma / Reuters
Fifty local children were invited to Banksy's Balfour event. Mussa Qawasma / Reuters

In one of the more bizarre events leading up to the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, satirical artist Banksy held an “apologetic street party” outside his hotel near Israel’s separation barrier to mark the occasion.

Torn and burnt-out British flags and bunting were strung up across the street while 50 local children wearing bullet ridden Union Jack hats were seated along a long white table and invited to drink from colourful party cups and share a collapsed commemorative cake while being served by formally-dressed waiters.

The children live in nearby refugee camps as their grandparents were displaced as a result of the events Lord Balfour set in motion.

An actor dressed up as Queen Elizabeth and Palestinian children from the al-Aida refugee camp attend an event held by secretive British street artist Banksy to apologise for the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration on November 1, 2017 at his Walled-Off Hotel in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.
The queen revealed a plaque carved in stone saying "Er, Sorry," playing on the common initials for Elizabeth Royal. / AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI
An actor dressed up as Queen Elizabeth revealed a plaque carved in stone saying "Er, Sorry". AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI

"This conflict has brought so much suffering to people on all sides, it didn't feel appropriate to 'celebrate' the British role in it," said Banksy.

The artist commissioned a professional stone carver — whose previous credits include Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey — to inscribe a British royal crest and an apology into the separation wall itself.

"The British didn't handle things well here — when you organise a wedding, it's best to make sure the bride isn't already married," said the artist.

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The anonymous street artist opened the Walled Off Hotel earlier this year. Located 500m from the checkpoint to Jerusalem and 1.5km from the centre of Bethlehem, it is a fully functioning hotel with restaurants and a gift shop. The intention is for the hotel to be open throughout the centenary year, but may stay open if there is demand.

Although it is managed and staffed by Palestinians, the hotel’s website says there will be an “especially warm welcome to young Israelis who come with an open heart”.